Huthwaite Carnegie Free Public Library was designed by Urban District Councillors to incorporate a Lecture Hall filling out its large basement level. Rear double doors gave good access for ample anti-room storage, which also helped host larger group sittings, meetings and parties. Requested use for any private bookings were duly considered at Council meetings, and usually sanctioned by committee at a nominal rate. The building was well equipped with free public toilets to begin encouraging better sanitation.
Long before the exposed land could invite alternative car park entry from top corner off Columbia Street, original access could only be gained via a walkway either side the library. A dark and narrow steep descent beyond toilet entrances into eerily colder air may have encouraged some long told ghost stories. Secluded rear location gained a little more light through slum housing demolitions, which eventually included the neighbouring and later redundant Huthwaite Council offices.
Local press reports offer some choice examples of popular usage. Just after hosting a third 1932 concert chaired in December by Cllr J Davis JP for the unemployed, Mr T, Bradley as secretary spokesman for a Huthwaite branch of the Unemployed Workers Movement did request further free use for their 50 members. The council dutifully allowed this dispensation request to permit use as a Recreation Room. Agreed understanding was it would not interfere with existing arrangements similarly made to assist and entertain the aged. Dilemma regarding rising numbers of unemployed was a topic addressed by Mr C Brown MP when finding, coincidentally in same month, the Lecture Hall was chosen venue for a local branch of the Labour Party presided over by Councillor John Davis JP.
A jumble sale supervised by Captain Chapman raises interest in the 1st Huthwaite Company of Girl Guides. Annual suppers do lead to questioning their hire charge of 1s before enjoying a 1935 Christmas party with Captain Straw and Lieut Jones in charge.
The history of Huthwaite was one topic to invite public lectures notably given by Mr J Ensor, plus Mr G G Bonser JP with Mr Bonser adding interest. Hall capacity is indicated by a 1933 wedding reception for over 60 guests. Living memory of this popular type of venue refer to the Clam n' Bost, apparently deriving from overcrowded dance nights often ending rowdily influenced by alcohol.
Mr C A Cooper expressed 1933 thanks on behalf Huthwaite Prize Band for use of the Lecture Hall. They continued holding practice sessions here, and probably did make longest regular use of this facility beyond my relatively short early 1970s involvement.
The brass band felt forced to move elsewhere though when anti-social behaviour became more than just a nuisance through the 1990s. A quiet secluded rear enclosure recognised one favoured meeting place for gangs of drug users. Closing off the public toilets located beneath either side the library was no deterrent, but signalled when the Lecture Hall fell into disuse for several years.
A scheme for tidying up the associated area was initiated around 1993. Year may also relate dated designs for a future reopening to serve as a youth centre in a newly named Undercroft. Unfortunately, that costly project presented one darker side of Huthwaite.
Boxing Club entrance was only other reason for accessing this rear area. Assured its graffiti covered doors were still being opened gave reason for returning with a slightly better camera capturing progressive vandalism beyond year 2002. Hid by a walled parking enclosure sighted one burnt out vehicle in the era of joy riding and insurance fraud. But used syringe's lay in litter strewn damage.
Sign fronting Columbia Street entrance still proudly announced this had been an Environmental Improvement Scheme by Ashfield District Council in partnership with Groundwork. The project appears to have built a new public toilet block, added decorative wooden fencing and block paving with seating to encourage group bonding, presumably focused at serving that past youth club.
Dating the Undercroft first opening, plus full reason behind closing its youth club a few years later are all vague, and maybe even best forgotten judging by such a disastrous outcome. It left this former Lecture Hall again without recognised use, this time for upwards 15 years. Costly upkeep of a further misused toilet block eventually shut that signposted amenity after finally managing to very noticeably clean up this area.
Pleasanter scenes from 2010 realise a significant improvement from simply opening up the entire grounds. The Undercroft did at least visually benefit from numerous Nottinghamshire County Council library revamps, before marking its 2013 centenary year.
From 2017 the Undercroft has become the signed Huthwaite Hub workshop. Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero shares an opening group scene, accompanied by local Councillor Lee Anderson. The craft team offers a warm social invitation for more adult members.