The Town Hall, or as old Wattonians have always known it, Wayland Hall, being named after the hundred in which Watton is situated, stands on the Market Place and was built in 1853. At the time' of its erection it was described as a handsome brick and stone building in the late Perpendicular style. The ground floor consisted of a lofty reading room, waiting room and other offices from which there is an ascent by a stone staircase to the room appointed for the magistrates. Also on the upper floor is a large room constructed for the purpose of a corn hall, assembly and concert room.
The roof is of open timber work with hammer beams and spandrels cut into open tracery and com pleted with large panes of glass. The large windows are framed so as to be in perfect keeping with the general character.
The building surely fulfilled a great public need in the town at this time as previous to its erection farmers and merchants had no suitable place where they could meet to barter their produce and those convening meetings or arranging social events were always in a quandary as to where to hold them.
Watton Ancient Order of Foresters at Dinner in Wayland Hall,
Watton on Whit Friday 1907, Fourth from left in front row G. Bowden, seventh: E. Jessup.
The Wayland Petty Sessions, which were held fortnightly on a Wednesday, had a court room al the Crown Hotel one year and at the George Hotel the next and this was considered most unsatisfac tory, but with the opening of the Town Hall they were transferred to a Magistrates Room in the new building.
Many a man who was summoned to appear before the magistrates for such minor offences as riding a cycle without lights found himself the target of jest by his friends, who informed him that he would be very fortunate if he got away with a fine of less than a 1/- a step. As there were over twenty> steps to the magistrates room it was quite a relief when the case was over and a modest fine o' 5/-was all that was imposed.
For many years Wayland Hall was found adequate for what it was intended, but its use as a corn hall steadily declined and a few years ago the glass roof was replaced by tiles.
The large room has been the venue of a great variety of activities in the past including boxing tour naments, dances, Christmas Parties, dinners, auctions, theatrical plays, concerts and badminton Older residents will also remember many a lively political meeting held there. In 1930 this room was converted into a cinema where the first talking films were shown in the town, until the new Regal Cinema was opened in 1938.
For the next few years it was again used for social activities before being sold to the Norfolk Count y Council and converted into one of the finest public libraries in the county and opened in November 1950. Towards the end of the 1970's it was purchased by Watton Town Council and it now houses the Council Chamber, Town Clerk's Office, Day Care Centre, Kitchens for the "Meals on Wheels on Service", Social Services, Register Office, Wedding Room, Job Centre Officer, a Breckland District
Council Officer and a Citizens Advice Officer, while the large room once again provides a venue for many social activities as in the past.
An interesting item housed in the Town Clerk's Office is the Silver trowel used in the Stone Laying
Ceremony of the hall. On one side is an engraving of Wayland Hall as it was when built and on the reserve side the engraving reads, "Presented to the Lady Walsingham on her laying the foundation stone of the Wayland Hall, Watton, April 26th 1853".
In July 1982 an oil painting of the U.S. 8th Army Air Force emblem was presented to the Town
Mayor, Mrs. Janis Crabtree, by Ken Godfrey on behalf of the Americans who were stationed in Watton nearly 40 years ago. This painting, together with a plaque, now has a place of Honour in the
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