Tavistock Guide Hall at threat of being sold if no help comes forward

By Jake Chown  
Monday 19th July 2021 2:30 pm
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Tavistock’s historic Guide Hall could be at threat of being sold if volunteers can’t be found to join its committee.

Lack of volunteers on the Guide Hall committee could mean the loss of a ‘valuable asset’ for the Tavy Division of Girlguiding and the many groups that use the hall.

‘Tavistock Girlguiding is experiencing serious difficulties with getting volunteers to join their Guide Hall committee,’ said Rica Olver, chair of the Tavistock Guide Hall Management Committee.

‘Without these volunteers we will have to face selling our Girlguiding HQ in Tavistock.

‘Girlguiding would lose a valuable asset that has provided many happy hours for Rainbows and Brownies and young women to explore new challenges and friendships in a safe space.’

The Grade II Listed hall next the Bedford Carpark is thought to have originally been a granary 200 years ago and was gifted to the Tavy Division, which covers Tavistock, Yelverton, Bere Alston, Mary Tavy and other outlying villages in West Devon, in 1937.

Rica said: ‘Whilst Guide Hall is still our HQ for West Devon Girlguiding, we have a Brownie unit meeting there. The loss of volunteers and ultimately units has meant that there are fewer units for girls to attend. However, Tavistock Guide Hall was used daily pre-Covid, hired by a diverse set of local community groups.

‘If we had to sell Guide Hall we would lose so much of the guiding history locked up in that building. Many women living in Tavistock with families of their own now will remember meeting in this charming old hall. It would be a significant loss to those community groups too, as affordable space to rent.’

Since the building was gifted to the Tavy Division more than 80 years ago volunteers have overseen the day-to-day running of it through a management committee. Rica said over the past five years it had been difficult to find people to join this committee and they were now approaching the situation where the hall could not function.

‘We would like three new committee members. It would suit someone with an interest in the history of Tavistock. Possibly someone retired who wanted to help a worthwhile charity like local girlguiding. There are three meetings a year with an annual open meeting. We already have a treasurer, booking secretary and secretary. The volunteers would help with occasionally showing potential hirers around the premises, updating inventories and health and safety policies and risk assessments — so basic admin. Also someone who enjoys looking at what maintenance jobs require doing and bringing recommendations to the committee for decision making.’

The Guide Hall was thought to have originally been a warehouse or granary and its structure, which straddles the canal, has remained mostly unchanged.

The hall suffered an incident of arson 20 years ago but the ensuing repairs presented the opportunity to view the below floor structure of the hall.

Rica said: ‘It was fascinating to stand on the original, worn, granite steps, inches from the canal water gently flowing by past your feet. It is now all safely covered and preserved again.’

Tavistock Guide Hall owes its existence to the transportation of mining, industrial and agricultural produce in the West Devon area in the 19th Century. This activity necessitated the construction of the Tavistock Canal in 1803 and the buildings now clustering the entrance to today’s main Bedford Car Park were then used as offices, warehouses and stables supporting this busy commercial area. Tavistock Guide Hall was one of those buildings.

‘Please consider helping local Girlguiding to retain this grand part of Tavistock’s canal history. If you think you might like to help, please contact me and I can give you more information about what is needed.’

Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming a Guide Hall committee member or leader/helper can contact Rica on 01822 612743 or email [email protected]

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