The old barn club

The Old Barn Club

A successful Silver Jubilee community project


Text and photographs by Roger Froude


The Old Barn Club originated from a meeting at the Yew Tree Inn during May 1977 of people who lived in the area and were interested in doing something to celebrate The Queen's Silver Jubilee, 7 June 1977. Those present were Charles Bishop (local builder), Tony Old (Councillor), Roger & Barbara Froude, Henry (landlord of the Yew Tree Inn), Jim Flood (Charles Bishop's Foreman) and a few others. After various ideas, an afternoon fancy dress and knock-out competition for children were decided upon, but a function for the evening for adults was difficult. Then Charles Bishop (Charlie) came up with the idea of clearing out the old barn on the old Yew Tree Farm (which he owned, along with the surrounding land on which he was building Plantagenet Chase) and have a barn dance. The barn could be cleaned out, rig up some lights, get some hay bales for seating and book a group plus Henry offered to do the bar. Sorted.

The next day Charlie Bishop with Jim Flood met up with Barbara Froude and Tony Old and suggested looking at the barn in order to do a bit more than just clearing it out, but make it into a more permanent facility for the community. Within two weeks all of Charlie Bishop's builders were transferred from building the houses on the Plantagenet Chase site to renovating the barn. Tony Old assisted with planning with the Council and a number of sub-contractors were arranged by Charlie Bishop, plus he was supplying all the materials. The Old Barn was transformed. The roof was removed, new trusses erected and tiles replaced, interior walls cleaned, a new floor was laid and tiled. New doors were added, an extension was built which included a kitchen, cellar room, boiler room for central heating of the centre, a bar, entrance hall and toilets.


The old farm cottages at the rear of the Yew Tree Inn, seen at top right. Photographed around 1977. The Yew Tree Inn had been the original farmhouse of Yew Tree Farm.


The old barn at the beginning of the alteration project. 1977.


The Old Barn Club, photographed in 1977.


While all the building was taking place fund raising was organised for furniture and prizes for the children’s fancy dress which took place in the afternoon of the Jubilee along with “It's a Knockout” competition for the older children to be held it the Lysander Road playing field. Jubilee Day arrived and the Toddlers' Fancy Dress was judged by the Mayor, James Gardener, in the afternoon. At the same time there was a painter in the toilets painting the windows, carpenters in the hall erecting a stage and Henry, the landlord of the Yew Tree pub, setting up the bar. In the playing field Roger and Barbara Froude, with helpers, ran the “It's a Knockout” competition for the older children.


For the adults, after the “It's a Knockout” competition, a football match featuring the men against the women was organised - the difference being that the men and women changed roles, the men had to be dressed as women and vice-versa.


A fundraising jumble sale held in the Yew Tree / Forest Hill car park. Photographed in 1977.


The evening dance was an overwhelming success with over 200 attending, with majority dancing on the recently laid and tiled floor. The floor began to heave and was awash with a white chalky moisture which covered the bottom of the ladies' long dresses and the men's trousers. The next morning, on visiting the aftermath, the floor had dried and required the hire of industrial cleaners to restore it.

The next question was “What to do with this new community centre?” To enable it to operate and obtain a licence it had to become a private members club, so The Old Barn Club was born. A committee was formed with Charlie Bishop nominated as President, Tony Old as Chairman, Roger Froude as Secretary, plus 9 other members. Membership was opened; Tony Old and his wife were members 0002 & 0003, Roger & Barbara Froude 0004 & 0005. Membership annual fee was £5 and soon over thirty members were signed up, a licence was applied for and a bar stocked. Initially members suffered having a drink on several occasions in freezing condition due to the heating constantly breaking down and sparse furniture and fittings but they battled on as they believed in the Club for the community.

By 1978 a brewery could see the potential and sponsored the club financially, so better furniture and fittings could be purchased making the bar area more comfortable and appealing. Fund raising had to continue, a sponsored walk Yeovil to Sherborne and a barrel race were organised for Good Friday. The latter consisted of teams rolling a beer barrel from the Club along Lysander Road, up Pine Tree Avenue, along Rowan Way, through Forest Hill shops' car park and back to the Old Barn with drinking stations on the way - which obviously was a pint of beer. A Summer Fête was arranged which included a Tug-of War competition.


The barrel race in progress.


The barrel race pit-stop being enjoyed by one of the teams.


The tug-of-war took place on the waste ground that is now Holy Trinity School and Plantagenet Park. Photographed in 1977.


The Club started a darts team and skittle team; the skittle alley was a temporary wooden alley that was borrowed and had to be laid in the hall whenever a match was played. But soon it was decided to convert the old cattle stalls adjacent the entrance to the barn into a skittle alley and again with help from the brewery a separate bar and function room was feasible. The initial work however, which was pulling down the old cattle stalls, had to be done by mainly the male committee members to save money.


Committee members take turns to demolish the old cattle stalls. Photographed in 1977.


The result of a lot of hard work. Photographed in 1977.


Over the next few years the Club continual to grow and in 1987 a further extension was made adding a new bar and a separate member's bar.


From my collection

An advertisement for the Old Barn Club in the 15 May 1997 edition of the Yeovil Express & Star.


The rear of the Club, photographed in 2015.


The new smoking area, photographed in 2015.