Oddfellows Hall - What A Stunning Transformation
The building has not always been called Oddfellows Hall, it started out life as the first Royal National Lifeboat Institution station in Sheringham in 1867. The first lifeboat housed in the station was the 'Duncan', named after the father of Agnes Duncan, who donated £350 to purchase 'a large lifeboat'. The 'Duncan' served the town from 1867 to 1886, saving 14 lives. The ground floor was a standard RNLI boathouse and then Public Funds were raised to add a second floor, reached by an outside staircase. This was used as a reading room, where fishermen could rest and be educated in their free time, it was also used as a venue for public meetings and entertainment until a larger hall was built in the 1890's.
Over the years it has had several different uses, from about 1900 the hall had been used as a store and the lifeboat kept in Beach Road due to difficulties in launching and in 1904 the RNLI lifeboat station was moved a mile to the west. Around 1905 the building was bought by Henry Morris Upcher, owner of Sheringham Hall and the Loyal Fishermen's Lodge continued to hold weekly meetings in the upstairs room, whilst the downstairs was used as a store by Fred Olley from the Windham Arms. In 1931 the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows paid £400 to become the owners of the hall they had used for 30 years.
In 1947 it was sold to Harry Scott a caterer in Great Yarmouth for £1600, he then sold it in 1948 to Edwards and Holmes Ltd, a Norwich based shoe manufacturer. In 1960 it was bought by Sheringham Urban District Council for £1250 when the shoe factory moved to the old skating rink, now the Masonic Hall. This is where I personally can remember it. In 1963 the Council bought a large model railway and installed it upstairs and in 1967 a model village was displayed downstairs. 1974 saw it taken over by NNDC who let it commercially, there was a Craft Centre on the ground floor and occasionally art exhibitions upstairs. Sadly, once the lease expired it was not used for 12 years. But this year, SheringhamPlus Community Partnership have succeeded in bringing the hall back into community use, right back where it started, a fantastic venue for our community to use. Hearty congratulations and thanks to all those who have spent their time and energy on the project, it is a credit to you all.