The village of New Earswick is two miles north of the City Of York and was the brainchild of Joseph Rowntree, founder of the Rowntrees Cocoa factory. He was appalled at the conditions this employees had to endure in the slums of York, so he had the vision of building a garden village a mile from his factory. People would have the opportunity of living in one of these houses at an affordable rent.
Building started in 1902, starting with Western Terrace, the houses modelled on the style of a country cottage with thick walls, which were pebble dashed and painted white. Each house had an indoor toilet along with a good sized garden. On entering the village coming from the direction of York, you are greeted by these attractive houses on the right, which are fronted by a large area of grass with the Westfield beck meandering through on its way to the River Foss.
As more houses were built, the population grew and there was a need for a meeting place for the residents to socialise, worship and for the Village Council to hold their meetings. Initially two houses were allotted for this purpose, but this arrangement was found to be unsatisfactory, so it was decided that a purpose built meeting place would be provided, it was going to be called the “Temperance Inn”. The Rowntree family were Quakers and opposed to alcohol hence the suggested name. However in the end it was decided it would be known as “The Folk Hall”.
Building of the Folk Hall began in 1906 and was completed in 1907, from when on it became the social hub of the village. Eventually the original hall proved to be too small to cater for events and an extension was built in 1935 in the form of a large hall (now known as Orchard Hall). The Folk Hall hosted many societies, groups of people and gatherings of at least four different religions, who held their services every Sunday.
In the 1940s and 1950s an 18 piece dance band would play for a dance at the Folk Hall every Saturday evening, for as many as 250 dancers. Another popular group in the 1930’s was the New Earswick Dramatic Society which had 400 members in the 1930’s and put on shows throughout the year, with Gilbert and Sullivan shows being very well attended. It hosted numerous other groups including a camera club, fishing club, Girl Guides, St John’s Ambulance Brigade, the Women’s Institute, a library and a men’s social club.
The most popular event in the 1960s was “The Bop” a weekly dance where you could “bop for a bob” featuring D.J. Geoff Bunce playing the latest hits for 15-30 year olds every Tuesday. However around this time regular events started to decline with changing social trends, many people started to own televisions and preferred to stay home.
In 1970, the small hall was looking very dated and was converted into a smart Restaurant, serving tea and coffee to locals passing by as well as a selection of meals. A feature of the decor of the restaurant was a painted mural of the village, with photographs of local long term residents superimposed. This mural remained in place until the large scale refurbishment of the Folk Hall in 2017.
Above information provided by courtesy of Colin Carr (local resident)