History of the Victoria Rooms
The Victoria Rooms occupy a site next to the Avon River that was originally owned by the Hospital of St John which belonged
to the Hospital of St Cross at Winchester. Various wills and indentures enable us to trace the sale of this property
to Samuel Thompson in 1848. Samuel lived in Southampton House next to the Victoria Rooms and ran a flax business. In
1843 he invited his nephew Thomas Westlake to work for him in Fordingbridge and Thomas took over Southampton House.
Beside Southampton House was the "schoolhouse" - a building used as the British School since 1830 i.e a
school for non-conformist children. The building was acquired by Thomas Westlake in 1874 at which time he was living
in Marl Lane. The following year 1875, he built the Victoria Rooms as a mission or evangelistic hall.
In 1884 Thomas Westlake set up a trust by which the Victoria Rooms were to be run for the benefit of the inhabitants
of Fordingbridge. The trust included two cottages, Southampton House and Beach House. The rents from these properties
was to provide an income for the maintenance of the Victoria Rooms.
The Rooms were available for hire and were
well used for meetings, concerts and other functions. The County Court held sessions there and the first Civil
Parish Meeting took place there on 8th December 1894 followed by the first Parish Council Meeting on 12th January 1895.
During World War II, the Victoria Rooms and Southampton House were requisitioned by the War Office. It was used
as a canteen by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute and later by the Americans in the lead up to D-Day. It continued
in demand after the war, being used as a library, a baby and orthopaedic clinic, WI meeting place, Youth Club and many other
The use of the Rooms decreased as Fordingbridge grew and modernised. The Hospital was created in
the Bartons where clinics would now be held. The library was built and Avonway opened as a community centre with rooms
for hire closer to the town centre. The increasing cost of maintaining the cottage reduced rents meant to be used to
maintain the Victoria Rooms, and it was sold for £137,000 with the proceeds invested to provide an income for maintenance.
In 1990 a lottery grant of £50,000 enabled a modernisation of the building and the provision of a wheel chair
lift and disabled access. However money also had to be borrowed from the investment fund which is still being re-paid.
The drop in usage and increasing cost of maintenance and health and safety requirements meant a growing shortfall in revenue
and consequent deterioration of the building.
In 2008 the Trustees decided the Victoria Rooms must close
but after a public meeting showed considerable support from the residents, the trustees decided to keep it open while they
find ways to seek grants to upgrade the building. Since then a considerable amount of work has been carried out, including
constructing new windows, doors, adding thermal insulation, and the provision af a fully fitted Kitchen.
Trustees and Friends of Victoria Rooms continue to work tirelessly to keep the Rooms operating for the benefit of the people
of Fordingbridge. They need all the help they can get. If you can find the time to join us as a Friend of
the Rooms we would love to welcome you.