I sat under the vines in the garden of Perry Cottage (you may have visited it during the Laleham Open Gardens) and chatted with life time Laleham resident Mavis Duncan about the village, the residents and what is important to them. Mavis is chairman and booking secretary of the Village Hall, taking bookings at all hours of the day for all sorts of gatherings.
The Village Hall is run very much as a family affair, with her sister Eileen Kearsey, daughter Grace and husband Bruce all involved. Laleham Village Hall was built on land gifted to the community by the Lucan Estate in 1907 and is administered by a committee. The indenture from 1923 states that “the purpose of the Village Hall is for the recreation, entertainment, enjoyment and benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Laleham”.
Today it is used for all manner of things and is a hub of the community. The Cine and Camera Clubs have been using it for more than 60 years for their meetings. It is used for private parties at weekends and during the week you will find pilates, yoga and even Insanity classes there. (For the uninitiated, this is some form of intense exercise which I have not so far experienced personally, but watch this space!)
Mavis’s garden was blooming and wonderful. It won Best Kept Front Garden in Spelthorne in Bloom last year. Perry Cottage is a quaint and homely place. It used to be two residences (the Verger of All Saints lived in half of it when Mavis was little) but was knocked into one. It has a central stair case inside and it was down this that Mavis fell headfirst only 18 months ago, leaving her with every bone in her face broken as well as both her arms and her neck. She claims that the knock on her head is her excuse to be daft.
Why might she say that? Well everywhere you look there are knitted things. Even the stone animal statues at the front of the cottage sport hats. The joke in the house is that if you sit still for long enough you will be wearing a hat! Mavis is a prolific knitter, using up even the smallest bit of yarn. She has an excuse. She knits for a charity called Revive n’ Thrive, sending her creations to bring a smile to poor communities. Her creations travel as wadding for computers, tools and sewing machines destined to help the needy in places such as Uganda, Peru and Romania.
All Saints Church has been central to Mavis’s life. It was where she met husband Bruce. Her son Alistair is Church Warden, Bruce is one of the organists and maintains the graveyard. Alastair’s wife, Lorna Duncan, runs the Sunday school. For very many years Mavis herself has helped at the Church holiday club during the summer for children of primary school age .
All Saints is an open and welcoming church. Teas and coffee mornings are held in it and tables remain set up. Mavis herself hosts regular Victorian teas at her home, hosting 14 or so every time. She invites a selection of guests, whether from the church or village. They may be invited because they are interesting, or because they are lonely. Home-made cakes are served and tea is drunk from bone china. With a busy social life in the village and 16 grandchildren (aged 2-22) here is a family for whom there really is never a dull moment.