BRIGHSTONE has had a "Reading Room" for well over one hundred years (since 1879/80) - a place for residents and visitors to go and read (or have read to them) local and national newspapers, magazines and periodicals or books, play recreational games and, following the popular Victorian trend, to purchase and drink coffee. The Rules and-Bye-Laws of the "Brighstone Reading & Coffee Rooms" for 1883 show that general management was vested in a Committee of six members, plus a President, Rev. W.E. Heygate, Vice-president, Mr. Parsons, Hon. Secretary and Treasurer, the Rev. F.J. Middlemist, and a Librarian, Mr. H. Phillips. Members Subscriptions were set at 6d. (2.5p) per month. No books or papers could be taken into the Coffee Room, and "anyone using the games in the Coffee Room (with the exception of the Bagatelle Board) shall (after they are done with) immediately replace them in the Reading Room." By-law VIII stated that "Any person guilty of swearing, improper language, or noisy interruption, shall be fined 6d., and on repeating the offence shall be expelled." At the time, the Rooms were situated in North Street, but,. in 1905, Sir Charles Seely personally paid for the building of a new Room - the one now in use in Main Road. The Annual Report of the Committee for 1905 records: "the red-letter day of the year was Saturday, December 2nd, when Sir Chas. Seely, who was accompanied by Miss Seely, opened the New Room. There were also present Col. C.H. Seely M.P., and Mrs. Seely, Mr. and Mrs. Wykeham, and a large gathering of members and friends, and the splendid reception given to Sir Chas. Seely has been reported in the local and London press. To commemorate the opening a social gathering was held on Monday, December 11th, each member having the privilege to invite a lady friend... The first month in the New Room has been most successful, the billiard table taking first honours." The billiard table referred to is still "taking first honours" today! In 1927, Sir Charles Seely's heir, Sir Hugh Seely, baronet, of Brook House, (later Lord Sherwood), decided to give the Reading Room to a Trust "for the use and benefit of the residents of the Parish of Brighstone". The Trust Deed drawn up at the time went on to specify that the premises were to be: "appropriated as a Reading or Recreation Room or Club for the use of all men of the age of Sixteen years or upwards who in the opinion of the Committee shall be sober and industrious and of good character but without regard to their political or religious opinions..." This Trust Deed remained in operation until January 1993, when it was replaced by a new Deed, drawn up to comply with the new Charities Acts, and approved and lodged with the Charity Commissioners. The new Trustees are still responsible for the premises, and let them to a variety of local organisations, the most prominent of which is the Brighstone Social Club. In the ensuing period, the premises became less and less used for its original purpose, particularly after the building of the Public Library and the advent of television. A second billiards/snooker table to installed in the 1950's, and new toilets and a tiny bar were built in order to encourage additions to the dwindling membership In the 1980's, a larger extension was built to the rear of the original building to provide a larger bar and lounge, and a short time later, a Petanque "terrain" was constructed in the grounds to the rear of the Car Park. Membership was extended to all residents, both male and female, and Junior members (under sixteen) is also now available. The Trustees have, together with the Social Club Committee, continued to improve and update the premises. Recently, a new central heating installation with upgraded thermal insulation has been installed, plus double-glazed windows. Most recently, access to the building has been improved for those with mobility problems, with a ramp to the front door and paved, level access to the rear.
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