Sunday, 14 January 2018

138 The Vivian Hall

138 The Vivian Hall
A village or church hall should be a centre for a community, where various clubs, meetings and activities can take place.  2018 is the centenary of Blackpill’s Vivian Hall, which stands on the Mumbles Road opposite the Lido, and also serves Derwen Fawr and Mayals residents.  It was originally known as the Blackpill Village Institute, built on land owned by the Vivians.
What we know as Clyne Castle was built as Woodlands in 1791, before purchase in 1860 by Graham Vivian, second son of copper master John Henry Vivian.  He transformed it into opulent Clyne Castle, and built up the surrounding estate.
After he died in 1912, his youngest sister, 73-year-old Miss Dulcie Vivian inherited the estate as a life tenant.  She built the Blackpill Village Institute alongside the Village School in 1918, as a meeting place for workers on the estate.
At first the Institute was two separate halls, one behind the other, which were not joined until 1933.  The rear or minor hall was used for billiards, for the village had teams for billiards as well as for darts, football and cricket.  Before the Second World War the Institute was popular for Saturday evening dances, and was also used by the school next door and by Clyne Chapel, opened in 1908.   During the last war the Home Guard was based at the Institute, which was formally renamed the Vivian Hall in March 1947.
Once hostilities ended normal hall usage recommenced, and in 1948 the Blackpill Women's Institute was formed, with a membership of 85.  But four years later the hall faced a crisis on the death of Admiral Walker-Heneage-Vivian, nephew of Graham and Dulcie Vivian, who had inherited the Clyne estate.  To meet the two-thirds death duties, Clyne and the estate, including the Vivian Hall, were to be sold by auction at the Mackworth Hotel.  Protest meetings were held, and eventually the Admiral’s widow removed the hall from sale, and conveyed it to four trustees to hold on behalf of the community.  Terms of the deed mentioned that it was to be used as a “sectarian and non-political place of recreation”, which would exclude use for political gatherings, though not from use as a polling station during elections.  After the billiards club closed in 1958 the table was sold, which with hindsight prevented it re-forming when TV programmes like “Pot Black” stimulated interest in billiards and snooker.
In the early 1970s the hall was brought to the brink of bankruptcy through some poor management, but the crisis was weathered - only for survival to be put in jeopardy through vandalism in February 1979 that caused fire damage in the passage linking the two halls.  Much of the building was out of use for a considerable time.
The turning point came when the Blackpill, Mayals and Derwen Fawr Residents’ Association took over temporary management of the hall in 1982, and Bob Cuthill with a background in local government became chairman.  He later wrote “That Tin Shack”, about the first 70 years of the Hall, in 1990.
From 1985 to 1987 necessary maintenance was undertaken as a community project by the Swansea Council for Voluntary Services, which enabled the Minor Hall to be used again after an eight-year break.
Today the Vivian Hall is on a solid footing, used for a wide range of activities - weekly meetings of St John Ambulance, Bridge and Scrabble Clubs, WEA Literature classes, twice weekly Tae Kwon Do sessions, monthly meetings of the Blackpill Local History Society, twice monthly meetings of Oystermouth Probus Club, as well as a Welsh parent/toddler group three mornings a week, weekly ladies yoga sessions and twice-weekly ladies line dancing, amongst others.  
Like the Ostreme Centre in Mumbles to the west, and the Parish Centre in Sketty to the east, the Vivian Hall, serving Blackpill, Derwen Fawr and Mayals, merits continued support as it enters its second century.

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