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Reading Room 

A Reading Room was erected in 1887, at a cost of £150 (£19,155 in 2018), as a useful and permanent commemoration of Her Majesty Queen Victoria's, Silver Jubilee.

Reverend Ottiwell Sadler (1813-1899), whose family was local to Thoralby, was the donor of the land.

The Reading Room had seven original Trustees:


Original Trustees - 1887


Robert Sadler (1843-1916), Robert Lodge (1816-1888), William Purchas (1842-1919), Leonard Jaques (1850-1920),                      John Sayer (1853-1936), Matthew Heseltine(1875-1958) and William Willis (1855-1932).


Later Trustees: George Dent Willis (1893-1974), James Aston Percival (1878-1932) and Matthew Edward Heseltine (1914-1985).

A Brief History of the Reading Room


The Jubilee Memorial Stone was laid by ‘MISS LODGE OF THE ROOKERY, MAY 23RD 1887’. Robert Lodge of the Rookery, Bishopdale, “was very prominent in getting a reading room and Young Men's Institute for Thoralby in order to benefit those amongst whom he dwelt".

Initially built for ’self improvement’, it provided evening classes where people could learn to read and write.

It was heated by an open coal fire, later replaced by a stove, that was lit daily by a  caretaker. Lighting was initially by oil/paraffin lamps, but in 1923 electric light was installed powered by the Mill.

In 1919, a War Memorial Fund was established to provide a permanent memorial to six local men who lost their lives in the Great War. Money raised was intended to be used to extend the Reading Room into a Village Hall, but it was later decided to build the Village Hall on a different site.

In later years, newspapers and magazines were made available in the Reading Room.

During World War Two it was used by "the Knitting Party".

BILLIARDS — The current table and accessories were acquired from the Hestholme auction in 1956. The previous table had been bought c.1942 to replace an older one.


1946: Lady Members Permitted  3 nights a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

1948: Thoralby & District Women’s Institute founded. They held their meetings in the Reading Room until the conversion of the Village Hall in 1953.

1950s: Mains electric light and power were installed with a coin-operated meter.

Fundraising: Bring and Buys, Domino Drives, Concerts, Whist Drives and Dances were  held (taking the Billiard table down) to raise additional funds.

1960s and 1970s: the Reading Room was used by the County Council as a library.

1973: First mention of plans for installation of water, sewage & W.C. (not done).

The Council also used it as some sort of advice centre and installed a telephone line.

1989: open on Sunday for the first time.

1994: an oil boiler and six radiators were installed.

2018: ‘A Restoration Appeal was initiated which has paid for re-roofing the building, new doubled glazed windows, re-wiring, re-pointing and a new coin slot machine for electricity.

Further improvements aimed for are: internal decorations and the installation of water and a toilet. See newspaper article below.

It is a pretty building with a central porch flanked by 16-pane sashes, and with its original gate and railings. Over the door is a tablet stating that ‘this Jubilee Memorial Stone was laid by ‘MISS LODGE OF THE ROOKERY MAY 23RD 1887’, [see photo below]. The children of the 19th-century rural working class left school early, but for the men at least there were opportunities provided for them to continue their education afterwards. Nearly every village in the Yorkshire Dales was provided at some time with a Reading Room or Literary Institute. Nonconformists [Methodists] particularly valued the opportunity for sober education provided by such places and this coincided with the interest of the middle classes in keeping their workers out of public houses. Some reading rooms started life as humble affairs, a loft or back room in a mill, but subscription and generous donations usually led to a purpose built structure."


(Bulmer, 1890 & YDNP)

According to the Trade Directories, Michael Webster was secretary and treasurer during the period 1905-1921. From 1921 to 1925 Matthew Willis was secretary and John Arthur Heseltine treasure. From 1925-1929 Stephen Dinsdale was secretary and treasurer. From 1929-1933 Frank Heseltine was secretary and treasurer. Finally from 1933-1937 M.W. Heseltine was was secretary and treasurer.

(Kellys, 1905-1937)

Proposed Village Memorial Hall, Thoralby, Building Committee - 1937

Chairman – Mr. John Heseltine, Newbiggin

For Thoralby – Messrs John Atkinson, Christopher Heseltine, Michael Webster, William Metcalfe, Francis Dinsdale, John Redmayne Sayer

For Newbiggin – Messrs Robert Heseltine, John Sayer, William Harry Saville (Hon. Secy. Pro tem) Thomas Dinsdale

For Bishopdale – Messrs Matthew Heseltine Sayer (Myersgarth) Thomas Dinsdale (Dale Foot).

Trustees of the Thoralby Reading Room - 1937

Messrs John Atkinson, George Willis, John Redmayne Sayer, Matthew Heseltine Sayer (Myersgarth), John Sayer (Aysgarth), Capt. Chapman Purchas, Cliff Lodge, Leyburn

Although original a 'men only' domain the accounts of 1946 show that members subscriptions were (Mens) and (Ladies), women being permitted as members 3 times a week. In fact the ladies of the area used the room to form their membership to the Women's Institute (W.I.) in 1948 [see photo below] and they held their meetings there until the conversion of the village hall in 1953. The room was used for village meetings and celebrations [see photos below] until the village hall conversion took place. At one stage there was a proposal to extend the reading room, to create a 'memorial' hall for dances and meetings (see The Opening of the Village Hall).

Darlington & Stockton Times October 19, 2018

© Thoralby Through Time

Its more frequent use was for billiards, snooker, darts and table tennis, though at one time there was a tennis court, in the field ouside [see photos below]. Originally the room had a removable dividing wall, for separate events in each area, heated by a fire place at either end, previously having two chimneys, now only one.

© Thoralby Through Time

Thoralby shop and stables, the blacksmiths shop was to the rear of the stables. Courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler, pre 1887. The Reading Room was built on the site of the stables.

Thoralby Reading Room Memorial Stone, 1887
© Thoralby Through Time

The Jubilee Memorial Stone, May 23rd 1887.

© Thoralby Through Time

Village green water pump, shop, no post box and Reading Room, c.1904.

© Thoralby Through Time

Shop, Post Office and Reading Room, c.1915.