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The Building


Research by Brannon Cope 


The Social Institute, founded between 1898 and 1900, originally conducted its activities in a converted barn somewhere in, what is now called, Wood Street. After this initial period two rooms were acquired situated above the Hinckley and District Urban Council's Gas Showroom in Wood Street. (now from 2003 onward, the Age Concern Charity Shop). Late in September 1908 a group of local Industrialist in Earl Shilton decided it was time for the Social Institute to be housed in its own premises. The social club had been in operation for some time, and now it was agreed to attempt to find some ground on which to erect a dedicated building. The earliest reference to this proposed project has been found in a small booklet called 'EARL SHILTON SOCIAL INSTITUTE - Official Handbook of - GRAND BAZAAR'. (kindly loaned by Mr. P Statham) The 'Bazaar' was to be held on Monday & Tuesday, December 28th and 29th, 1908, in the High Street Schools. Also found in this early handbook is a reference to the 'broad principles' on which 'the Institute is worked'; being non-political and unsectarian. A list of the Institute and Bazaar Officials is also incorporated, however, rather than try to reproduce more of this old document here, reproduction images can be viewed from the 'Grand Bazaar'. There are many advertisements placed by local businesses - Cycles ranging from £5-5s to £12-12s - Trap and Landau for hire to meet trains at Elmesthorpe.


Extract of entitlements to the site.    
An extract from the title deeds, to the land that these industrialists had their eyes on, shows the earlier tenancy to be in the possession of Wm Smith, a farmer in Earl Shilton, in Nov 1808. The Court Roll of the Manor of Earl Shilton shows that Wm Smith held the tenancy of the land commonly known as the Home Close in 1808. Wm bequeathed this land tenancy, which included the site on which the Institute's future building would be erected, in his will of 1850, to his eldest daughter Ann, the wife of Wm Cufflin a farmer in Earl Shilton. William died in April 1850 and was followed by his daughter Ann shortly after in July 1850. As all the disbursements of William's will had been made the land tenancy passed to Ann's heir, her eldest son William Smith Cufflin. The entitlement of Wm S Cufflin was confirmed in October 1854 when he paid to the Lady of the Manor the customary Silver Penny, and agreed to the annual rent of 5 shillings. In May 1884 the tenancy was sold for £160 to Thomas Edward Allen, a Miller from Barwell. This transaction mentions the inclusion of 'the stable buildings yard garden orchard and appurtenances' and refers to the location as being at 'the corner of the Town Street of Earl Shilton and Bown's Lane'. Also included was 'all that close of land situated in Earl Shilton near or adjoining to the said messuage or tenancy and known by the name of the Home Close.' Further inclusions refer to 4 more premises 'fronting onto the Town Street of Earl Shilton with the appurtenances thereto belonging (formerly one house and a barn then in the occupation of Thos Toon, Geo' West, Thomas Chamberlain & Thos Wileman and two of which houses were formerly in the occupation of George Coley & Elizth Colver (To which premises the said W S Cufflin was admitted tenant on the 21st Oct 1854)'. In Sep 1908 it was confirmed that all the legacies and due payments had been made according to the will of W S Cufflin and therefore the tenancy had passed to T E Allen. The annual rent agreed was now 4 shillings and 11 pence.

Purchase of the land.    


In February 1909 a parcel of land, approximately 763 square yards, was purchased from Albert Cufflin of Bull Pit Farm, Earl Shilton, by Thomas Whitmore, Albert Victor Hopcroft, William Henry Cotton, Thomas Colver, Thomas Josiah Bellamy and William Hodson Abbott all of Earl Shilton Boot & Shoe Manufacturers and Isaac Abbott (Tailor) and Edwin Harry Gilbert (Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages) also both of Earl Shilton. Albert Cufflin was the son of W S Cufflin and owned this plot as a legacy from his father. The site was purchased for £77-16s-3d. The site was now described as; 'bounded on the East by Station Road, to which it has a frontage of sixty feet, on the North partly by property recently sold to Parker Herbert, and partly by property belonging to John Edward Cotton. On the West by property belonging to the Wesleyan Chapel and on the South by property recently sold to William Henry Cotton. The site fronted onto Station Road which had become known as such since the road, earlier commonly known as Bown's Lane, had been extended in 1862-1863 to meet the road that ran from the outskirts of Earl Shilton, near Barwell, to Elmesthorpe. A Map of 1770 shows the road, or lane as it then was, as a track serving the outlying Breach and Huit farms only. By 1835 the track, now called Breach or Huit Lane, had been extended North-easterly to meet the main thoroughfare, now called Hinckley Road. It was finally entered into the Court Roll of the Manor that the eight men described above and their successors held this 763 Sq Yds of land as 'Trustees for the time being of the Earl Shilton Social Institute' after paying the customary silver penny and, the further reduced annual rent of four pence.


Declaration of Trust.    
The first Deed of Trust for the site was duly drawn up and dated 23rd February 1909 and held in the names of the same eight men, making them the first registered Trustees. The document sets out in eight clauses the 'presents' under which the land is held. These clauses being much like those of the present constitution and thereby functioning as the first constitution of The Institute. *The deeds and mortgage documents for the building were lost sometime during the 1960's or more precisely they couldn't be found when a search was instigated in 1971 when a new deed of trust was require due to the passing of incumbent trustees.


The New Billiard Saloon.    
The decision to build a new 'Billiard Saloon' was taken during 1934. The minute book for the period is missing, however, a copy of the relevant minute was sent to 'The Earl Shilton Permanent Benefit Building Society' together with an application for a mortgage to the value of £1,250-0s-0d. A lengthy mortgage document of nine clauses and many sub-clauses was drawn up and the parcel of land, the Institute and dwelling house, and all the appurtenances were held as collateral. W H Cotton, T J Bellamy and E H Gilbert signed for and on behalf of the Institute, and the extension was duly added. 
The redemption of the mortgage was finalised on 15th Mar 1961. (A report on the opening of the extension as it appeared in the 'Hinckley Times' newspaper) 

Opening of the New Billiards Hall. Another milestone in the long and honourable history of the Earl Shilton Social Institute was passed on Saturday, when the president (Mr. W. H. Cotton), in the presence of a large and enthusiastic gathering, declared open the new billiard room. Several months ago it was found that the popularity of the game of billiards among the members was such that the needs of the players were not being catered for sufficiently by the old room, which was big enough to hold two tables. As the affairs of the Institute are in the hands of men to whom it is near to the heart, and who are competent and businesslike, there was no dilly-dallying. The committee had a plan submitted to them, approved it, and the work was put in hand with the lease possible delay. Now they have to raise the money to pay for it, and this they will do with the same verve that has characterised all their previous enterprises. The foundation stone of the new building was laid in April by the M. P. for Bosworth Division, Sir William Edge, who journeyed specially from Lytham, with Lady Edge. 

The Institute, which is entirely non-sectarian and non-political, has a membership of over 250, and although at the present time it is for men, efforts are being made to accommodate ladies. It was felt that it was essential that ladies should have a place where they could meet. The old billiards hall may supply this, but Mr. T. J. Bellamy announced during the afternoon that it may be let out to help the finances. The Institute was founded over 31 years ago. It had its beginning in two rooms on the other side of The Hollow on the same spot where the Hinckley Urban District Council now have their gas showrooms. The foundation stones of the present building were laid in 1909, and since then it has never looked back. Since its inception the Institute has been self-supporting, and with the exception of one or two special efforts they have paid for the building out of revenue. 

The new hall had been erected at a cost of over £1,000, and of this sum approximately a third had already been subscribed. The hall is beautifully decorated, and holds five full sized tables. In the words of J. H. Beetham, the amateur champion of Midland Counties, "it is the best of its size in the county." To celebrate the opening an attractive programme had been arranged. The opening ceremony was presided over by Mr. T. J. Bellamy, who, in his opening remarks said that their opener really needed no introduction, but the committee and he felt that if any credit for the erecting of such a fine building was going it was their president, Mr. W. H. Cotton, who should have it, for nobody had done more in collecting the subscriptions than he had. (Applause). Mr. Cotton, in the course of a characteristically witty speech referred to the great progress the Institute had made since its inception, and the work for good it was doing in the town. There was, he said, a feeling of brotherhood and fellowship among the members, and he personally was proud to belong to it, because he felt it was doing a great work among the youth of the town. A vote of thanks to Mr. Cotton was proposed by Mr. H. O. Mason. 

The ceremony was followed by an exhibition billiards match between Reg. Wright, of Earl Shilton, the winner of the Notts section of the England Amateur Championship, 1933, and J. H. Beetham, amateur champion of the Midlands, 1933. There was a public tea later, and a grand concert at night. The artistes were Mrs. G. Smith (soprano), Miss. E. Brown (contralto), Mr. T. Mason (humorist), Mr. G. Smith (baritone), Mr. E. Minard (musical saw) and Mr. A. Henson (conjuror). Mr Edwin Briggs accompanied at the piano.


* The Reconstitution.    
During its long history the Institute has had many ups and downs; one of the lowest points was reached in the late 1970's. Sometime in 1971 the then Treasurer took possession of the Title Deeds and passed them to the then Secretary. The Secretary, while possessed of these deeds, died and a subsequent and exhaustive search was carried out, amongst all the papers and documents then in the possession of his widow, but the deeds could not be found. A sworn affidavit to this loss was registered by the Trustees. The Law of Property Act 1922 had enfranchised and vested in the original Trustees for an estate in free simple according to the Trust dated 23rd Feb 1909. Following the deaths of the original Trustees it was now necessary to appoint replacements. This was put into effect on the 11th Mar 1971. Towards the end of the 70's decade the fortunes of The Institute had reached a very low ebb, although solvent, activities had sunk to a very low level and the fabric and fittings were in desperate need of renovation. 

Following a visit by members of the Earl Shilton Carnival Committee in 1977 it was decided to temporally close the Institute in an attempt to gauge the feelings of the members, and the general public, should the loss of the Institute become realised. Consequently a restoration committee was formed and a fund raising campaign began. After a few weeks sufficient interest and funds were raised to undertake a planned restoration program. During this time an application for registration as a charity was lodged with the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales. 
A new constitution, agreeable to the Charity Commissioners and the new Management Committee, recently formed from the fund raising group, was adopted. There then followed, for a decade or more, a programme of continuous improvement, restoration and innovation under the new charity status and control of the new Management Committee. Since that period of restoration the Institute has been re-established as a focal point for social activities in the area despite the closure of many other similar establishments.


The Snooker Tables.    
The game of billiards, and more lately snooker, has been the main attraction at the Institute since its foundation. The whole of the Institute's history revolves around these two games and the ups and downs of their popularity. Many other activities have been associated with the society, reading, card games, darts, table tennis, dancing, garden parties, in-door as well as out-door, keep fit in all its permutations, skittles, badminton, gymnastics, shooting and many more. Throughout the past 100 years these varied activities have wonted and weaned with local tastes, but the click of the 'ivories' has permeated the establishment throughout its long life. 
At the Committee meeting held on 6th January 1916 it was proposed that 'an extra Billiard Table be purchased'. After receiving quotations regarding the costs it was decided to purchase a table, from Messrs Ormes, at a cost of '59 guineas less 10% for cash'. That is £61.95 in today's (2008) values, whereas a new full sized table purchased now would cost between £5,000 and £10,000. 
A third table was purchased some time between 1916 and 1926. 
When Charles W. Wright became Manager in 1926 these three billiard tables had been taken upstairs, to the largest room, and occupied this room, that ran the full depth of the building, front wall to rear wall, until 1934 when the new 'Billiard Saloon' was added. At that time a small printers business occupied part of the rear garden of the Institute in a building that stretched eastwards as far as Wood St. This old building was sold, half of it demolished to make room for the new 'Saloon', and the rest subsequently became the Earl Shilton Library. In its turn this second half, now the library, was demolished together with a large private dwelling and the public air-raid shelter when the current library was erected. 
The five billiard tables now occupying this dedicated room at the rear, consist of the three original tables, brought down from the concert room on the first floor and which were initially installed in the double room immediately to the right of the entrance, and two new ones, bought sometime shortly before the second world war. The high grade No3 table, as it is now designated, has solicited many offers of purchase over the years, these have always been resisted and many high quality competitions, exhibitions and demonstrations have been played on it. 
There was a sixth; this was bought from the house clearance of George Ward's and occupied the front room during the late 40's and 50's when demand for play was very high, however, being isolated from the general hub-bub of the others it was never very popular. Its remote location also brought some disciplinary problems and it was removed in the early 70's. 
A comparatively recent addition is the pool table now occupying the old reading room, considered by some to be an amusement arcade type affair popular in the more cramped accommodation of a public house. 
For completeness of this history of the billiard tables one last puzzle remains. When were the fourth and fifth tables purchased?

* In September 2020 a gentleman called Mr Michele Paduano contacted the Stute Manager John Iddon to tell him he had acquired a box of ephemera at an auction house in Leicestershire which contained several velum items related to The Stute. These items included:- 

The original title of land 1908

Admission of Trustees 1909

Declaration of trust 1909

Mortgage document dated 1931

Managerial agreement appointing a manager dated 1926

2x deeds of appointment approving trustees dated 1976 &1970

There was also many photographs of members especially Reg & Jack Wright. Whilst this did not clear up 100% where the missing documents went, they have now been repatriated back to The Stute, with many thanks going to Mr Michele Paduano for helping resolve a nearly 50 year old mystery of where the missing documents were. They are now safely locked away and hopefully not to be taken out of the building again.

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