Building the Lecture Hall
The society always had a vision of either renting or owning a
plot of land and building a 'home' on it. To get an idea of what
type of premises would be suitable for an astronomical society,
visits were made to several of the local societies including Chesterfield,
who already had their own lecture hall. Following an article
in the Lincoln evening paper, the society was offered a piece of
land on the Burton ridge in Lincoln. It was not ideal being down
a hillside and covered in barbed wire, trees and brambles
- but it was cheap and did have very good views to the south and
west. So it was purchased in January of 1960 for the sum of £20
cheap for a quarter of an acre even then.
Our first view of the site showed its potential. Although the
view of the sky would be limited to the east, there were no obstructions
down to the western horizon and only trees to the south.
Initially the idea was to purchase an old nissan hut for the general
meetings and follow this with an observatory. Plans were changed
when it proved impossible to raise the £1000 needed to start
the project. The new plan was even more ambitious but could be
done over many years.
An access to the site had to be cleared and a flat platform
constructed for a lecture hall. The site was full of rubbish
and this had to be removed.
Tools were taken to the site on every visit and as the work level
increased, it became apparent that a lockable shed on the site
would be a great help.
In 1961 Dr Falla ( a society member) had no use for a chicken
hut and donated it to the society. The only problem was moving
it from a village called Bracebridge Heath to the society. Lincoln
is divided by the river Witham and this hut was on the hill on
the other side of the valley to the society. So one weekend, the
committee pulled it down Cross O'Cliff
Hill, through the streets of Lincoln and up Yarborough Hill
to the society's premises. This shows two of the committee inside
the hut part way up the hill, just before a passing policeman asked
what was going on.
This became the tool shed for a time, but one
night the hut disappeared from the society's land complete with
tools. With the site cleared and leveled, the foundations could
be dug. These had to be several feet deep in places as the Lecture
Hall is on the side of the hill.
On one occasion, a lorry driver decided to deliver
sand and gravel directly onto the site. The lorry became stuck
and couldn't reverse back up the hillside. Another lorry complete
with tow rope arrived and it too got stuck. Yet a third was required
to pull both up the hillside and back onto the road. From that
day onward, all building materials have been dropped at the roadside
and carried down the hill in wheelbarrows.
The base of the Lecture Hall was now nearing completion. Stones
had been compacted to form a less muddy surface to work on. A shortage
of bricks were starting to slow down the building work, then a
member heard of a possible source of bricks. They were about 10
miles away, but that didn't matter, they were free.
Very little of the Lecture Hall was 'new'. The bricks came from
Bardney Airfield when it was being demolished. The stones for the
walls are ex British Rail platform slabs 8 feet by 4 feet that
were cut to size.
The floor is made of concrete. Twelve cubic yards were wheelbarrowed
down the hillside one Saturday. The walls continued to rise weekly
now and reached the top of the Lecture Hall by Easter 1962. On
the right we see inside the building. Just in view (right) is the
french windows which would lead to the observatory (one day?). Building continued evenings and weekends throughout 1962.
A steel girder was lifted across the width of
the hall and a temporary cover made for a firework barbeque in
November 1962. The fund raising event was attended by 150 people
each paying 6d. Joists were fitted between the girder and the walls
to form a slightly 'V' shaped roof. The joists were covered in
timber and waterproof felt to form the roof. At last the
Lecture Hall was weatherproof. Fund raising continued with Treasure
hunts, Social Nights, Bingo Sessions and Jumble sales. The first
lecture in the new building was in July 1963. Membership had increased
to 90 and a separate junior section was formed.
One of the first events in the hall shows Peter Hammerton (left)
being presented with the prize for most points in the car treasure
hunt, by Chairman Gordon King in the summer of 1963. The society
was now running a boiler fund where members committed themselves
to donating 2/6d per month to raise money for a heating system.
The society now met in the Lecture Hall on the first Tuesday and
3rd Friday each month. Chairs came from St.Georges hospital in
A trench 7 feet deep had to be dug for the base
of a retaining
wall. This wall is mainly of concrete, reinforced with steel rods
and was back filled with rubble and compacted. The terrace outside
the hall was originally built for telescopes as an observing platform
but this activity was held up due to lack of bricks and money.
|The lecture hall was nearly complete. Here the Chairman surveys
the area outside the door and wonders about the amount of work
still to be done before the official opening.
|At this time the society had a very active junior
section. It was run by John East and had its own separate meetings,
talks and viewing sessions on the 2nd Friday each month.
|On Tues 24th September 1963 the mayor of Lincoln-
Councilor Coles (centre) opened the Lecture Hall- to his left is
Frank Eccleshare (society president). Also in attendance was the
Sheriff of Lincoln. It was a very wet night. Councilor Eccleshare
opened proceedings with a history of the society. All the lights
went out but he carried on. The fuse was replaced and the opening
Meetings now became monthly- on the first Tuesday. By 1964 is
was apparent that security was likely to be a problem. all windows
had to be shuttered as they kept being broken by air gun pellets.
Also members were being shot at on occasions.
The lecture hall was not finished until the summer of 1967. The
entrance hall ceiling is of the Milky Way painted by one of the
society's artists- Peter Lightfoot. The picture of the solar eclipse
was painted by David Hardy in 1968.