The Freemantle Trust and today’s trustee’s
The trust was created by William Freemantle. Born at Whitchurch, Hants, in 1803 Mr Freemantle came to Bexley as a young man. His obituary in the local paper says he was a Bexley resident for something like 70 years. He held some public offices, in the days when the Church was still responsible for many things now undertaken by the State. By 1833 he was the Parish Constable and later Church Rate Collector and Agent until about 1853. He continued to serve on the Vestry. In 1880 he was a member of the Bexley and Bridgend Schools Committee.
William became a shopkeeper, for he is described as such in Kelly's Directory 1859. He lived in the High Street chiefly, (although for a time in North Cray Road), and his grocery business was opposite Clapgate Cottages in the High Street. Mr Freemantle bought these cottages in 1877 and when they were demolished he gave the site for the building of a village hall to be run on certain lines.
Money was raised by public subscription, Mr Freemantle laid the foundation in 1894 and the hall was in use before he died in January 1897. His funeral and interment in the cemetery are recorded in the local paper. Old age had taken its toll of friendships. It was attended by his housekeeper, Miss May, Miss Freemantle, a niece from the north of England, and a few well-known local residents, including Sir Guilford Molesworth and Mr W. Kelsey. In all the available Census Returns he is given as unmarried. There is a grave stone dated 1847 in the old churchyard to a Mrs Sarah Freemantle (or Freemantl) aged 58, the entry in the register having been altered from 68, but it is unclear whether or not she and Mr Freemantle were related.
Mr Freemantle was a man with definite political views and his directions were that the hall should run on Conservative and Unionist principles. It has continued to serve the needs of the local community for over a century in a broad spectrum of activity. The charitable trust deeds require on dissolution of the trust for the sale proceeds to go to the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain (being created before Ireland became independent)
The recent history of the hall as regards maintenance is significant and appropriate that it is recorded. In the late 1980’s the trustees prepared a way forward for the hall to ensure it stayed as a valuable working local asset. Given the founding principles it was proposed to the Bexley Conservatives they take an interest in managing the hall with the trustees with the intention of a first floor being installed by them for their offices and a “Pepper corn” rent. This did not progress and the trustees commissioned a condition survey as the first step to preparing a strategic plan to secure the hall’s future.
Since 2004 an income of £160,000 has been invested back into the hall to ensure the hall remains vibrant for another 100Years. The Trustees are grateful to the Heritage lottery fund and the Bexley council for their building grants.
Today’s trustees are:
Andrew Ross - Chairman