The reading room part of the Village Institute was built in 1839, although there may have been an earlier building for reading in the early 1800’s. Four local gentry, the Lords Lonsdale and Ranksborough, Sir Henry Clarke-Jervoise and. Mr Owen Smith, arranged for the building as a meeting place for recreation and further education. ‘Men only’ was the rule for The Reading Room, the ladies having their ‘Women’s Institute’ and ‘Mothers Union Meetings’ in the village hall. Mixed evenings were arranged for whist drives and concerts.An open fire in the evening welcomed up to thirty-five members in the Main Hall. Although the reading room had a fire burning all day during the winter ‘Tuppy Needham’ known as the ‘Local Dictionary’ would teach reading and read the newspapers to those who were not able - sadly in his later years he became blind but he still helped in the Reading Room. George Colbourne also taught, but having a bald head suffered the aim from teenagers catapults. The billiard table, the centre piece, was maintained by people in turn, who used one of two flat irons in the green baize. A timber cover converted the table for local ‘do’s’. Cards was the most popular of the games, as was ‘table skittles’ and ‘Devil among the tailors’, and George Ruddle organised boxing tournaments. This same gentleman was caught in a trap set by some older members, by mistake. The teenagers had been particularly annoying to their elders by tap tapping on the window in a game involving a pin and button on a string, so that their seniors hoped to catch them as they walked in to a mat held by men on either side of the door. Mr Ruddle, however, walked in and got thrown out with the mat, by mistake. All new members had to be vetted by the vicar and choirboys had the special privilege of being allowed to join before they were fourteen, this being the normal minimum age. The rooms were closed promptly at 10pm each weekday.
Langham Village History Group
The Institute (Village Hall) - Church Street - Mr Tidd outside his Bakery (background left)Photo pre 1920 - LVHG