The Monkey Hut?

The Monkey Hut, in Alresford, was an unofficial name given to the Parish or Church Hall that was situated at the edge of the St John’s Churchyard in Station Road, alongside the footpath that is at an angle to Station Road, emerging close to the current Doctor’s surgery. It has already been mentioned in some Alresford Memories stories – see those from Pat Bentley and Gladys Ashe.

Image 1.jpg

The Monkey hut photographed from across Station Road, near the Surgery.

The hall was a wooden construction, but small, at the most 12 feet wide, shoe-horned in to a space at the top end of Station Road. It was demolished in 1981, and even older residents suggest it was built before their time, maybe in the 1920s: there is a 1930 aerial picture of Alresford town centre, where it is clearly visible. The roof was of corrugated iron, and the outside wooden walls were painted yellow (originally). It occupied a ‘waste’ patch of land between two footpaths that gave access to the Churchyard. One of these paths is still in use today, the ‘diagonal’ path, described above. The other was a path perpendicular to Station Road, which started from the same corner of the churchyard as the diagonal path. Both paths had a brick and flint wall defining the outer edge. The area covered by the waste ground between them can be seen as the red and green shaded areas on the 1980s aerial picture below, kindly supplied and marked up by Godfrey Andrews, at The original two paths are marked with the grey areas.

Gog 1980 R 035  with plan c 1980 R 035

As is indicated by these pictures, after the Monkey Hut was demolished, the land was subsequently used as a car park for the Swan Hotel, and has more recently been built on, to create Warwick Court. The Monkey Hut would have occupied the current vehicle entrance to Warwick Court.  Since the land was a triangular shape, the building itself was narrower at the churchyard end. The main entrance was on the South side, onto the diagonal footpath, through the narrowest end of a small patch of vegetation, as indicated by the green on the plan. But the opposite end of the building had to be much narrower, so that wall is angled inwards, making the whole floor-plan rather non-symmetrical.

The photo below was taken in 1968, by Simon Newman. This is taken from the churchyard, through the two pillars which frame the entrance to both of the paths: the triangle is finished off to a point by the posts and metal rails around some vegetation. The high window at the sharp end of the building was blacked out inside, at least in the 1950-60s: the hut was only a single storey.

Image 2

The Monkey hut in 1968. Picture by courtesy of Simon Newman

What was it used for?

Throughout the life of the hall, it served many purposes: Sunday Schools, Town Library, Brownies Meetings, Jumble Sales, Wedding Receptions, Dances, Parties, Whist Drives, Film Shows and Annual Dinners – many of the things a Community centre might provide. Pat Bentley remembered holding ‘Rock & Roll’ sessions for the younger townspeople there in the 1950s. Pat ‘borrowed’ the speakers for these sessions from the Cinema, located across the road, where he helped out. The Cinema building was almost opposite the Monkey Hut, on the other side of Station Road – the site is now occupied by parts of Alders Court. Both these old buildings, with their tin roofs, were very noisy when the rain or hail came down, inside it was rather like being inside a drum! Other people remember expeditions to the Monkey Hut from their primary school to attend ‘Religious Instruction’ lessons from the Vicar, in particular.

How did it get that name?

No-one actually knows the answer to this question, unless someone now tells us! But maybe the sight of all the primary school children filing into the building for RI, or the emergence of all the Brownies, in their uniforms, conjured up the image of a troop of monkeys emerging from the hut. The real ‘Monkey business’ probably was a phrase more relevant to the teenagers, who occasionally enjoyed dances and parties in there!

Please write a comment if you know anything about the origins of the name!

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