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Hall murals bring back memories
MURALS of villagers painted in their village hall are 80 years old this year – and some of the children in the pictures are gathering to celebrate.
Large murals were painted on the walls of Woodgreen Village Hall in 1933, depicting the quintessentially British hamlet – a Sunday cricket match, the winding lanes, the fields and apple trees and wisteria draped around cottage windows.
From the flower show to Castle Hill and from cider pressing to the country competition, the pictures depict village life through the seasons and feature about 50 villagers.
Former resident Vaughan Nash, who was once private secretary to the former Liberal Prime Minister Lord Asquith, came up with the idea for the murals.
His friend Sir William Rothenstein, the former principal of the Royal College of Art, secured a grant from the Carnegie Trust of £100 for the artists.
They were painted in diluted oils giving a watercolour effect by graduate art students Robert Baker and Edward Payne, who can be seen relaxing under the tree on the north wall.
And after 80 years, the paintings boast a hazy yet beautiful pastel appearance.
Now plans are afoot to mark the big anniversary with fundraising events this summer.
On Monday, cousins Ellen Weeks, 88, and Irene Crook, 86, who featured in the murals when they were just seven, were taken on a journey down memory lane with the chairman of the hall Jackie Wilkie.
Mrs Weeks, known then as Nellie Brewer, and Mrs Crooks, who was Irene Anton, both are featured in the Methodist Sunday school scene.
Mrs Weeks, who now lives in Salisbury, said: “I remember feeling really special when we were painted on the walls and I was very excited.
“Other members of my family were also featured in the painting; my brother Alfred Brewer plays cricket and my father was a market gardener and can be seen collecting apples.
“The village hall was used for needlework classes, the WI would meet there and we used to do country dancing in it.
“When the war came and Irene and I became land girls, it would be used for dances.
“My first husband was in the air force and was based at Ibsley and my second husband John Weeks, was the first person to have a heart transplant at Salisbury Hospital in 1987.”
Mrs Weeks added: “My childhood days in the village were very precious and to see ourselves and my family on the walls brings so many happy memories back to me.”
Mrs Crooks said: “I went to school with Ellen at Breamore and lived in Woodgreen all my life until last year when I moved in with my daughter Carol.
“I loved life in Woodgreen and was very excited when they painted me and my family on the walls.
“The murals are still so beautiful.”
From the 50 or so villagers painted, it is believed that just five are still alive, having been traced by Mrs Wilkie.
She said: “Our murals are unique and we are very proud of them. We want to share the history of these paintings to everyone.”
Two cream tea afternoons are being held on Sunday, June 2 and Sunday, August 11 and every Tuesday afternoon from July 23 until August 13 the hall will be open to the public to view the paintings.