Norfolk home: converted Victorian Temperance hall in Cromer
PUBLISHED: 10:54 09 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:54 09 October 2018
A converted Victorian Temperance hall in Cromer has made a spectacular family home
I love Cromer, as regular readers know, but it is a total coincidence that this is my third visit in a year. The building known as The Band of Hope Hall was one I already knew,
as I would have liked to have bought it myself if circumstances had allowed.
I was therefore delighted to receive an invitation from the new owners to look around.
So how did this building get its name? Back in the middle part of the 19th century, alcohol addiction was rife. Many a working man, after collecting his wages, would spend most of it in the pub. Societies were set up, particularly by the elders of the Methodist Church, to try and educate people to control their attitude to drink. In June 1847, Leeds Baptist minister Rev Jabez Tunnicliff proposed a society, called The Band of Hope, following the death of a young man from the effects of alcohol. In the autumn of 1847, with the help of temperance workers, the society was formed to teach children the importance of sobriety and teetotalism.
Meetings were held in churches throughout the UK, with the innovative feature of this pledge: ‘I the undersigned, do agree that I will not use intoxicating liquors as a beverage’. By 1887 the movement had over one and a half million members.
Current owner Mark Thompson says: “The Cromer branch was active by 1880 and an old farmhouse not far from the hall’s current location on Cross Street was turned into a Temperance Hotel, with a small lecture hall attached, provided by the Cromer Coffee Tavern, Reading Rooms and Public Hall Co. Ltd., which resulted in the idea of coffee bars proving an alternative to pubs.” By 1891, the Cromer Band of Hope, decided to build its own hall in Cross Street, named The Lecture Hall and opened it in June 1891.
Fast forward a century and well-known artist Vanda Harvey, who had her studio in a north London warehouse, was visiting Cromer in 2001. She spotted the hall was for sale.
She was not fazed by its condition as her father was a builder and she had done up several properties, so she bought it with the idea of turning it into a studio and home. She turned to local architect Jim Bond, whose creativity transformed the property into a fabulous home, with a gable wall of glass and the space exposed to the apex. Vanda died in 2015 and the Thompsons, Emily and Mark and children Ella, 14, and Jack, 11, bought the hall in February 2017.
Emily, originally from Dumbartonshire, was brought up in Helensburgh, the Midlands and Yorkshire. She stidied medicine at Leicester University and she met Mark on a student holiday to Turkey in 1994 while Mark was at Brunel University, studying physics.
Mark, from Haverhill in Suffolk, became operations manager for a logistics contract delivering food to Marks &Spencer. Emily is a GP in Bedford, while Marks splits his time working as an energy assessor, looking after two rented flats, the Cromer property and being with the children.
“We have known the area for years, having family in Norfolk, and have spent many holidays there. For the past five years we have been looking for a holiday home and I found one in Overstrand, but Emily thought it was a bit too near to the cliffs,” says Mark.
“When we viewed, we were both drawn by how unusual it is, with a very large open living space, a south-facing courtyard garden, the vast amount of windows making everywhere light and bright, and being close to the beach and town centre. So it was an instant decision and we bought it,” says Emily. “On the practical side, the lack of doors to the downstairs bedrooms made it a bit too open plan, so we have added internal doors and to the upstairs bathroom.
“When it came to furnishing, we felt the modern style suited the property, so several pieces have come from either Danetti or Made.com. We soon discovered, having large areas, it needed a lot of furniture to fill, but it’s been great fun sourcing and adding to this eclectic space.
“One of my favourite items is the new, very modern Morso stove, which brings a focal point to the living area. Stunning as it is, my favourite room is our mezzanine bedroom. Last thing at night, I watch the faint flashing light from Cromer lighthouse through the porthole window at the top of the gable and in the morning wake to see the sky and judge the weather,” she says.
“There is something so magical and relaxing about being by the sea and we love the town. We love, in winter, having a hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream at The Rocket House, followed by a brisk walk along the cliffs to Overstrand, maybe stopping at The White Horse pub there before walking back.
“In the summer, we enjoy being on the beach and maybe take away fish and chips from No.1 Cromer to eat on the pier. Further afield, the children used to enjoy BeWilderwood, but now it’s a trip to see the seals on a boat from Blakeney. We are also great supporters of The National Trust and frequently go to Felbrigg Hall a total gem.”
Mark adds; “We are very privileged to live in such a wonderful building and we feel very responsible to maintain the original features and its history. Our next to-do item is restoring and stabilising the painted wall mural, as soon as funds permit. Staying here we would like to think it gives people both hope and happiness. It certainly has for us.”
Emily and Mark Thompson’s Band of Hope Hall, Cromer, is available for holiday lettings
Band of hope
OWNERS: Emily and Mark Thompson, daughter Ella 14, son Jack 11 and dog Buster.
PROPERTY: Converted Temperance lecture hall
BOUGHT: February 2017
PROFESSIONS: Emily is a GP and Mark is a part-time energy assessor, and manager of their rental properties.
OTHER HOME: Period house in Bedford.
FAVOURITE ROOM: The mezzanine bedroom. Watching the faint flashing light from Cromer lighthouse through the porthole window and waking up to the light, the sky and the roof trusses.
FAVOURITE ITEM: The newly-installed Morso wood-burner. Brings a focal point to the main living area.
FAVOURITE LOCAL SHOP: Several: Farm Shop, Tucker Street, great selection, Gallery Norfolk in Cromer for paintings, Davies Fish shop Cromer for fresh crabs and Icarus Hines Cromer, butcher. We love his sausages and Buster the dog loves the bones.
FAVOURITE PART OF THE COUNTY: Besides here, a walk on Holkham beach followed by a trip to Cookies Crab Shop at Salthouse.
FAVOURITE DAY OUT: Used to be BeWilderwood when the children were younger, but is now a seal trip from Blakeney or a visit to the Norfolk Broads.
FAVOURITE WASTE OF TIME: Listening to the waves, whilst sitting on the beach, half-way through a walk.
FAVOURITE WALK: Along the cliffs to Overstrand.
FAVOURITE PUB: The Red Lion Cromer, fantastic view over beach to the Pier. Also The White Horse in Overstrand for a good pint.
FAVOURITE CAFE: The Rocket House for hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream. Also No.1 Cromer, for takeaway fish and chips to eat on the beach or pier.
HOBBIES: We both enjoy keeping fit at the gym, running and walking with our labrador Buster. Mark also coaches Jack’s football team.
MOST MAGICAL MOMENT IN THE COUNTY: When we first viewed Band of Hope Hall. What an amazing space; we fell in love with the property there and then.