During the second world war, 1939-1945, a large number of men and women from the Chalfont St Peter area gave their lives to serve their country. A number of local businesses and farmers wanted to show their appreciation for this service and as a result a barn (Tithe barn) was converted into a meeting place for service men and women returning from the war. Early photographs show the building being very popular as young men and women shared their stories and enjoyed spending time together. After the war, premises were being sought for a permanent building to provide a base for a youth centre. Before that time there were several small youth groups that met separately run by volunteers. These clubs lacked accommodation and relied on the help of other organisations for young people who let them use their facilities, among them the scouts and guides in the village.
A group of residents to mention a few Mr J.J. Williams, Mr G.H. Randall, Mr Lowenstein, Mr L. Goss. The Rev. Hammond, Mr W.J. Stringer, Miss Cockburn and others came together to discuss what steps could be made to secure a permanent base to enable the small groups to merge together.
It has been recorded that Mr. Paddy Lailey was the person who made the group aware of the existence of the Tithe barn which at that time was hidden away in a farm lane (Swan Bottom Lane) entirely shut off from the view of any one passing along the main street of the village.
Origins of the barn:
16th/17th century, described as a building of unusual dignity and beauty standing in approximately half an acre (a small portion of land was sold off to the county council in readiness for the building of the village by-pass which did not take place until the 60’s)
The barn was inspected and consultations took place with Mr Eric Hayman chartered architect, and negotiations were commenced forthwith with the vendors. Vendors were Louis Stroud and his co-trustees.
Louis Stroud and his co-trustees had previously purchased the land on which the old barn stood as part of the Swan Bottom Farm in 1927; this property total was 122 acres for which they paid a total sum of £12,000 from Messrs Sturgess, Lipscome, Ballard and others. Swan Bottom Farm had been for centuries the farm for the manor house (Chalfont Park). This land stretched from the A413 to Denham lane. The Stroud Partnership had purchased the land with a view to development and selling off individual plots which subsequently was named the Chalfont Heights estate. This partnership had been halted in their project by the outbreak of war but they had started planting rows of trees along the new avenues that were created in readiness for this development. The first plots being sold being in Sandy Rise where the old barn stood.
Purchase price of the barn: £2,500 freehold
Legal fees for this transaction were paid by Mr Louis Stroud and his co-trustees and they also contributed £100 towards of the cost of the purchase price.
Contracts were exchanged on the barn on the 25th September 1944.
Other monies for the purchase were raised from an appeal to the general public as a “thank you “ for the end of the long and bitter war which was now in sight.
Conversion of the barn into the centre was completed in May 1946.
Total cost of the purchase and adaption of the barn was the sum of £6,609.
Opening ceremony: was performed by Lady Douglas Hamilton better known as Miss Prunella Stack.
Dedication: by Rev. A.C. Mckenzie vicar of Chalfont St. Peter and the Rev. A.W. Argyle, minister of Gold Hill Baptist Church.
First chairman was Mr. Ivor Crouch.
First A.G.M. Held at Gayhurst School on the 23rd June 1945 before the opening of the centre. Guest speakers at subsequent A.G.M.’S included Hugh Lyon of Rugby school, Robert Birley headmaster at Eton, successive Bishops of Buckingham, and Buckinghamshire County Council.
The clubs also had close relationships with the then Newlands Park Teacher Training college, Army School of Education at Wilton Park Beaconsfield, and members of the United States Air Force when stationed in Buckinghamshire, the National Society for Epilepsy, National Association of Boy’s Clubs, and the National Association of youth clubs.
Craft room: added in 1958, was built by member’s parents.
Games room added in 1964.
Main hall: remained much the same, an ornamental oak divider was fitted in the late 80’s early 90’s whilst Jill Walker was the youth leader and Mr G. Segrove was the chairman to create a separate area as a coffee bar.
Temporary stage was designed by Adam Lane an ex-member and built and erected by staff and members in 1993. Also a new wood floor was put down in this year. This temporary stage remained until 2005 when it had to be removed to make space for the new disabled toilet.
Kitchen: first renovated in the early 80’s and re-fitted in 2005 by way of a grant from Bucks County Council.
Office: originally situated in the small room at the rear with access to the fire escape. The office was moved in the late 90’s early 2000, to the rear upstairs room to the far left hand side of the stairs, due to new fire regulations.
Office: was previously used as a discussion room and TV Room.
Games room: the room situated to the right of the stairs, where a full sized snooker table resided, now a general room.
Art room: the room situated to the far right hand side of the building up the stairs was another general meeting room but a sink (with cold water supply only) was fitted instigated by Jill Walker (youth leader at the time) in the early 90’s.
Dark room: a small room housing the electrical meters but was used as the name implies is now used for storage for the youth club.
Outside courts: the supporting boundary wall replaced in the late 80’s. Major refurbishment carried out in the late 90’s including new boundary fencing and re-surfacing works funded by bucks county council and the monies from the centre. The court surface marked out for various sports and flood-lighting renovated.
Putman room: (named after Alan Putman a prominent youth leader and ex-member at the centre who tragically died at a young age). This originally comprised one large room, which was used for a games room and mainly for boxing. At a later date it was extended to include one large changing room with showers and w.c. and sink. Plus one small changing room with one shower and w.c.
Later it was turned into a dance studio with the addition of full height mirrors and an exercise bar supplied and fitted by the then dance school who used the facility. The Putman room has also been used by a resident play school who rented the building for several years. It now houses a montessori school.
Bungalow: the warden’s bungalow was built in the early 70’s. For the then youth leader Arthur Stout the youth warden who moved on to work for the National Society of Boy’s clubs. After that it was occupied by a succession of youth wardens/caretakers and is currently let on a commercial basis.
Over the years the youth centre has enjoyed varying levels of success but by 2005 popularity was waning and an average of only 20 young people were attending the centre each week.
At that time the management committee took a strategic decision to change the way in which the youth work was delivered. This new approach involved the youth work being delivered and driven by community volunteers.
Since then the youth centre has gone from strength to strength with attendances now averaging around 180 per week with the youth work being delivered by a team of 40+ volunteers.
The centre is open three nights a week and is a safe place for local young people to meet and engage in positive activities. A wide range of activities are offered, including air hockey, pool, wii, table football, tuck shop, ps2, film making, arts and crafts, residential and day trips, internet cafe, table tennis plus a wide range of craft and outside sporting activities.
The youth centre is very aware of its role within the community and in summer 2007 a group of young people from the youth centre made a real and positive contribution to the village by undertaking to repaint the subway under the A413, making it a brighter and safer place for all to use. In 2008/2009 members of the youth centre took part in the River Misbourne de-clutter days.
The youth centre also likes to support other charities and regularly raises money for Toybox and the Chalfonts & Gerrards Cross hospital League of Friends.
The Chalfont St Peter Youth Centre is a registered charity (No. 300240) and is affiliated to Action4youth and the National Association of Clubs for Young People.