St. John's Ambulance Brigade

Before the last war Sir Thomas Cook, the County Commissioner of S.J.A.B., purchased the disus­ ed Wesleyan Chapel for the use of a Division in Watton, if and when, one could be formed. An at­ tempt by two people just before the war and another attempt just after, were unsuccessful.

In February 1949 Mr G. M. Dupont who had been taking the Association Examinations in Surrey for 20 years, came to live in Watton. Three months later his record card was transferred to Norfolk and when Sir Thomas received this he arranged to meet him. The outcome of the meeting was that Sir Thomas asked Mr Dupont if he would try to form a Division in the town.

After meeting Miss K. Blomfield, the Commandant of the Red Cross Detachment, who promised to do everything she could to help, he was successful in finding eleven other men, who together with himself attended a course of First Aid Lectures in the autumn of 1949. Dr R. G. Shanks was the lec­turer and the Red Cross Society loaned bandages, splints and other equipment until St. John's had enough funds to purchase their own. All twelve men passed their examinations and Mr Dupont was appointed Divisional Officer (later Divisional Superintendent) and Dr Shanks Divisional Surgeon. A year later an Ambulance Cadet Division was formed with 18 boys and Mr H. J. Rump the Head­master of the school was appointed their President. When Mr Dupont and Mr Rump left the town in 1952 Mr J. H. Page of Carbrooke was appointed Divisional Superintendent of the Watton Division and Mr R. Waters became Divisional Officer in charge of the Cadets.

For a while during the 1940's the old Chapel was used as a Health Clinic and during the early part of the 1950's it was hired by the Norfolk Education Committee for three nights a week as a Youth Cen­tre where table tennis, snooker and billiards were among the amenities provided. By the mid 1950's the old building was deteriorating badly and under the leadership of J. H. Page the divisional Superintendent sufficient money was raised and with financial help from Sir Thomas Cook, it was demolished in 1958 and the present St. John's Hall erected on the site. This was officially opened in the spring of 1959. In addition to the main hall, there is a Dr's consulting room and a kitchen. The present Divisional Officer is David Skipper of Ashill.

Opening of St. John's Hall, by Lord Walsingham in 1959.
Left to right: Victor Woods, Arthur Kerridge, Ronnie Waters, Tony Sussams,
Roy Banham, Philip George, Dr. Puddy, John Riley, Lady Cook, Sister Mollie Lambert,
Lord Walsingham, Arthur Neve, Sir Thomas Cook, Martin Dupont, Rev. Avery,
Mr. W. Crawford /President), Harry Page, Dr. G. R. Shanks,
Bob Moore, Stanley Clarke, Ted Houchin.

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