The history of Goldsmid Hall

In 1895 the local Kent newspapers were full of articles on the Agricultural Depression and the plight of the rural unemployed.  However, in the Tudeley area, Sir Julian Goldsmid, owner of Somerhill House and Estate, was providing employment for his workers by building a hall. The building was designed in the Arts and Crafts style so fashionable at the time, and was constructed with local materials – timber from the estate, bricks from Castle Hill brickyard and locally made nails. An adjacent house for a caretaker was also built. 

Sir Julian came from a wealthy merchant and banking family and was a well-respected MP and philanthropist.  Unfortunately he died in January 1896 before the Hall was completed and the estate passed to his young cousin, Osmond d’Avigdor, who took the additional name of Goldsmid.   

Goldsmid Hall was officially opened in April 1897 by the local MP, A.G. Boscawen. In August of that year, all the estate’s employees were invited to a ball there to celebrate the wedding of Osmond’s sister, Estelle, to George Nathan, one of Osmond’s university friends. It was Estelle and George who were responsible for painting the original mural at the far end of the Hall, which depicted a local pastoral scene and featured various villagers of the time. 

In the early days at the Hall, the d’Avigdor  Goldsmids, as well as other local families, took an active part in concerts and plays, mainly to raise money for the Parish Sick Relief Fund.  At that time there was a high stage at the mural end of the room, the outline of which can still be seen on the floor and wall.  The Hall was also used as a Working Men’s Club, Sunday School and as a library.  In the 1930s it also became the venue for a very active youth group with such activities as billiards, darts, sing-songs and dancing.  The Tudeley Scouts also started life here around that time.   

Sir Osmond d’Avigdor Goldsmid died in 1940 and the estate passed to his son, Henry.  With the influx of evacuee children to the area during the war, the Hall was used as additional classrooms by local schools as well as becoming the drill hall for the local Home Guard unit in the evenings.  Dances to raise funds towards the purchase of a Spitfire were also very popular at this time. At the end of the war the Hall fell into a state of disrepair though it was still used as a Polling Station, as a church during the hopping season and for the occasional social event.  The caretaker’s house was split into two for the use of workers from the Somerhill Estate. 

By the 1960s a few groups were beginning to use the Hall again on a regular basis and Sir Henry d’Avigdor Goldsmid passed control over to a management committee of local residents and users of the Hall.  Societies and clubs such as Capel Country Friends, Capel Sports and Social Club, Capel Gardeners’ Society and various badminton clubs were all based here. In the 1970s the stage was removed as it restricted the playing of badminton and a car park was created on the land opposite.  Once again it started to become a popular venue for wedding receptions, children’s parties, christenings and a centre for the social life of the community. 

Following the death of Lady d’Avigdor Goldsmid in 1997, the future of the Hall as a community facility was brought into doubt and in 1999 the property was advertised for sale on the open market. However, in March 2000 a public meeting was called and attended by about 150 villagers.  They agreed overwhelmingly that an attempt should be made to retain the Hall for the benefit of the community, and a steering committee was set up to try and achieve this. The owners suggested a full repairing rental agreement, but the committee considered it impossible to produce sufficient affordable letting income for this. Their preferred option was to aim for the purchase of a 99-year lease. As a first step, the Goldsmid Hall Trust was formed in April 2001 as a registered charity. 

Local fundraising events were organised and grants obtained from KCC, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, the Community Fund of the National Lottery, WREN (Waste Management Company) and other bodies.  By April 2003 the funding was in place to cover the cost of the lease, refurbishment of the existing building and the construction and fitting out of an extension.

The building of the extension was completed later that year, and the formal opening was made by local MP, Archie Norman, on 4th March 2004.  The following year the Goldsmid Hall Trust was able to raise additional funds to pay for the re-roofing of the property and then attention was given to the deteriorating condition of the mural.  Advice from experts revealed that the cost of restoration was too expensive, so a decision was made to commission an updated version as a replacement.  Early in 2007 Cecile Boswell-Brown, a local Tonbridge artist, started work on the new mural and three months later it was unveiled to villagers, hall users and the local press.