A short history of the Palairet Hall
including some notes on three very sporting Palairet gentlemen.
The Palairets – an unusual name and a remarkable family
Discreetly set back from the main road at the lower end of Church Street, Norton St. Philip, The Palairet Hall has for well over 100 years provided a vitally important venue for village social events, gatherings and entertainments, its modest exterior façade belying its current excellent internal facilities. The name for the hall is an unusual one and relates to a very interesting and well positioned family, of French Huguenot origins, (originally called ‘Palayret’), a number of whose members came to live in, or formed deep attachments to, the village and its people, during the 19th century, during which time they made many valuable contributions to the life and welfare of the local community.
The hall itself and the two adjoining cottages (now combined as one - Palairet Cottage) were once the property of Mr Henry Hamilton Palairet (1845-1923), the son of Septimus Palairet, a former soldier who retired to Bradford-on-Avon in the 1840s. Septimus and his American wife, Mary Ann, are commemorated in the magnificent stained glass window behind the main altar in St Philip & St James’ church which was installed during the curacy of the Reverend Richard Palairet (Vicar of NSP between 1837-1866, and an elder brother of Septimus) as part of the 19th century restoration of the church.
It is possible that the hall itself could have started life as a barn or an outbuilding to the two original cottages, dating from around the 17th or 18th century. Under the ownership of Henry Palairet (the date he acquired the property is not known), and in its late 19th century refurbished state, which, coincided with the national celebrations accompanying Queen Victoria’s 50th year as monarch, the ‘hall’ was first known as ‘The Jubilee Hall’. Interestingly, Henry, who was the Conductor/Tower Captain of the NSP band of bell ringers at the time, celebrated Victoria’s Golden Jubilee by ringing the following peals on 21 June 1887: “6 o’clock in the morning! 6.45am, 6.45pm in the evening and 7.00pm”. [Source: ‘Village Scrapbook’, 1991, ed. by Vivian Holman; copy in the Frome Local History Library]
Following his death in 20 March 1923 (some sources give his date of death as 1922), Henry bequeathed the hall in trust to the village, handing it over, together with the two cottages, to seven trustees as an Ecclesiastical Charity. Henry’s two sons – Lionel Charles Hamilton Palairet and Richard Charles North Palairet became two of the original Trustees. Circa 1926, the Trustees changed the name of the hall to the Palairet Hall and, not long after, decided to extend the hall over the garden. A fete in 1927 raised £130 for the building and carpentry work – which, when completed, was commemorated by the plaque on the proscenium arch which bears the date ‘1927’.
The two cottages, having very basic amenities, were made available to villagers at low rents – but with the Trustees liable to provide coal, coke and the rates! Understandably finances up to 1939 were precarious, though during the war there were four years of surpluses. However, during the later 1940s expenses for the charity tended to exceed income, fund raising was required and in 1953 free fuel for the caretaker was stopped.
In the early 1960s permission was obtained from the Charity Commission to sell the cottages as they were becoming a serious drain on resources and in 1963/64 an offer of £1,000 for the pair was accepted. But the Trustees’ plans for using this income for modernising the Hall were stopped by the Charity Commission by its demanding the proceeds for investment, it being part of the original endowment.
In 1977 it was decided to create a Palairet Hall Management Committee - in accordance with the Albermarle Scheme for village halls to allow them access to public funding. In 1979 the Hall was leased to the Parish Council and a Management Committee was formed to run it as a village hall with elected members and representatives of affiliated organisations. The Management Committee is a Registered Charity and the AGM is held in public in April.
Improvements to the facilities have progressed since the first worthy steps in the 1980s – which saw the arrival of stacking chairs and folding tables, new toilets and a kitchen; the later ‘80s saw electric wall heaters replace the old worn gas fires. A general refurbishment (including repainting) took place in 2000 with the assistance of National Lottery and Parish Council grant. In 2003 a disabled toilet was installed and circa 2006 saw the introduction of a ‘Hearing Loop’ and PA system. Subsequently, post-2006, the Palairet Hall has been well maintained by the Trustees and the Management Committee, with further significant improvements – including new flooring, new, more comfortable, seating, and central heating radiators to replace the old wall-mounted electric heaters.
Thus the life of the hall continues to be intimately connected with the life and very varied creative and social activities of the village. The generosity of Henry Palairet’s bequest, and the responsible custodial interest displayed, post-1923, by his two sons as Trustees, should be remembered with pride and gratitude – as should the sporting prowess and legacy of these Palairet benefactors - for Henry and his two sons were quite remarkable gentlemen sportsmen in their own right.
The sporting Palairets
A number of years ago the great-grand-daughter of Henry Hamilton Palairet (her mother was the daughter of Lionel Charles Hamilton Palairet) visited the village and later initiated a correspondence with Geoff Clarke in his then role as Secretary to the Trustees, which included passing on to him some obituaries and appreciations of Henry and his two sons, on which the following very brief sketches are based.
Henry Hamilton Palairet set the pace, and though a keen cricketer, became famous as the Champion Archer of England. He was born 1845, in Bradford on Avon and educated at Exeter College, Oxford; played wicket keeper for the College XI. “He was a good shot, a keen fisherman, took part in rowing, cricket and hunting, and excelled at
Henry Palairet, Champion Archer
archery. Five times – in 1876, 1878,, 1880 to 1882 – he was the champion archer of England.” For those interested in pursuing Henry’s archery achievements in greater detail I recommend you access the following authoritative source: "The Theory and Practice of Archery, by Horace Ford and W. Butt, which is available free online as a Project Gutenberg EBook via this link.
On the cricketing front Henry played twice for the MCC between 1868 and 1869 and, perhaps more importantly, passed on his love for the game to his two very able sons. He invested in their sporting futures by employing two extremely talented professional cricketers to bowl at his sons during the Easter holidays to help them prepare for the upcoming cricket seasons!
Lionel Charles Hamilton Palairet (1870-1933): born 27 May 1870 (in Grange-over-Sands) – a wonderful sportsman and a particularly brilliant cricketer. A lovely pen-portrait of Lionel appeared in ‘The Cricketers of Vanity Fair (Men of the Day No.887, 1903): “He is quite a young fellow, who seems to have played the game since he was born…At Repton he captained the Eleven for two years; at Oxford he did the same. On going down he played for Shrewsbury’s Eleven against those visitors three years later. With H T Hewett he hit up a record score of 346 against Yorkshire (in 1892)…and has done many other great things with the bat. Nevertheless, he once ran three miles for Oxford against Cambridge, and he has played football (for Corinthians FC); while now (1903) he helps direct the Newton Electrical Works of Taunton. He is a beautiful player, and whether batting or fielding he is always so graceful that as a pure stylist he is quite unsurpassed. It is not, in fact possible to see a more engaging batsman when he is in form; and he specially loves the Yorkshire bowling…he is known to his friends as ‘Coo’ and he generally wears a Harlequin cap. He is a good shot and a capital billiard player.” Lionel resided in Bath, Beer and Exmouth, where he died on 27 March 1933, aged 62.
For more details of Lionel’s extensive sporting career see his Wikipedia entry, via this link:
Richard Cameron North Palairet (1871-1954): born 25 June 1871 (in Grange-over-Sands); educated at Repton, and Oxford. An unreferenced obituary offers the following insights into another instinctive and graceful ‘all rounder’: “Richard was the more consistent of the two brothers during three seasons in the Repton XI from 1888, hitting 172 against Malvern. An injury while playing inside forward at Association Football at Oxford prevented him from rivalling Lionel in more important cricket, for he was a graceful batsman, strong in forward play and possessing a fluent drive. As it was a damaged knee handicapped him in running and batting and ended his activities as an athlete at which he excelled at school. Even so, he gained his Blue in 1893 and 1894 as an opening batsman. Among his best performances was that against Lancashire when, with Briggs and Mold bowling for the county, he scored 70 out of 94 in sixty-five minutes. He also played in the Association Football match against Cambridge in 1891.
From 1889 to 1902 he appeared frequently for Somerset, his highest innings being 156 against Sussex at Taunton in 1896. In the winter of 1896-97, he formed one of the team taken to the West Indies by Sir Arthur Priestley. Soon after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 he took a commission in the Devonshire Regiment at the age 43 and rose to the rank of Staff Captain, seeing much service in India. In 1920 he became Secretary of Surrey (County Cricket Club), a post he held until 1932, and in the winter of 1932-33 he and Sir Pelham Warner were joint managers of D R Jardine’s MCC Team in Australia on what became known (infamously?) as ‘The Bodyline Tour.’ From 1937 to 1946 he was President of Somerset. After service as an Air Raid Warden in the Second World War his health steadily failed…” He died at his home at Budleigh Salterton on 11 February 1954, aged 83.
For more details of Richard’s sporting career see his Wikipedia entry via this link:
Acknowledgments: with grateful thanks to Tony Nash, David Lockley, Geoff Clarke and Clive Abbott, for their kind assistance in compiling this article.
[This article first appeared in the September 2018 issue of the Hardington Vale Parish News]
Henry Hamilton Palairet
Henry Palairet, Champion Archer