The Memorial Hall was built as a Drill Hall and headquarters for the local Territorial Army unit, public subscriptions and donations from local philanthropists funded it. The foundation stone is dated 1899 and was laid by Hallam Tennyson, the poet’s son, and can still be seen in the front of the building. It is recorderd the building was dedicated to the memory of Julia Margaret Cameron who started the public subscription with a donation of £100, the building cost £900 to construct. Inside the hall are memorials to those who died fighting for their country in the two World Wars, especially the many locals who fell in the Mesopotamia campaign – a gun trail recovered by Flight Lt. Drudge is now in the bar area. Shortly after the Second World War the Drill Hall was closed and the Territorial Army was centralised in Newport.
In 1959 the Drill Hall became available to purchase. In 1960 the Parish Councils of Freshwater and Totland joined forces to investigate the purchase of the building for use as a public amenity in West Wight. The electorate of both villages was consulted and subsequently on 16th August 1960 it was agreed to purchase the Drill Hall for the sum of £2,750, this amount was raised by local philanthropists and ratepayers. Ownership was based on the relative population of the two Parishes, two thirds Freshwater and one third Totland.
The hall, now renamed the Memorial Hall, was opened to the public on 23rd September 1961. Ownership remains with the two Parish Councils and the building is now leased to a registered charity, the Memorial Hall Arts and Leisure Company. Members of the company board are Parish Councillors from the respective parishes.
Investment in the building has taken place to provide an excellent facility, the most recent being a grant from the Arts Lottery Board of £67,000. With match funding from other sources the Tennyson Suite was opened in time for the Centenary Celebrations in 1999. More recently extensive renovation to the front of the building became necessary when a survey discovered problems with the brickwork.
The Hall hosts a variety of events, from theatre productions to short-mat bowling. The meeting rooms are popular with local organisations and over seven hundred bookings are taken annually.
For enquiries about bookings please contact: The Administrator, Memorial Hall Arts & Leisure Company, Memorial Hall, Avenue Road, Freshwater, Isle of Wight, PO40 9UU