The story of CHAIN 1977 -2012

by Ron Rowlands


Luncheon Club    The need for regular lunches for the elderly was identified in the 1983 survey undertaken by Angela Kingsbury and an agenda notice for a meeting to be held on 9th April 1984 reads:-

 Luncheon Club – to be co-ordinated by Bobbie Winser. 
For starters – a ‘one off’ lunch to determine plans for the future, asking questions about  time? place? cost? day of week etc.
We will need volunteers to help prepare and serve this meal initially.

 A year and a half later Bobbie Winser produced an excellent paper on the


In 1984 a start was made.  As no catering facilities existed at Croft Hall a splendid meal was cooked by ten different cooks at home, and served by volunteers to about 50.  Crockery and cutlery etc were hired.  Plates were kept warm in insulated bins and it was all a great success. 

At £1 a head it was heavily subsidised by CHAIN but we were able to attract a marvellous cross section of over 60s and get their views on whether they thought we were on the right lines.  It was a very happy occasion.  The only complaint was that the servings of vegetables were over generous!

In the same way we served a full Christmas Lunch (turkey cooked by Geoff of Three Swans) in December 1984, crackers included, in a hall beautifully decked out (Thank you decorator and Mr Haddrell).

As we wanted to keep the idea alive we arranged to meet in an Inn until we could cater at Croft Hall.  So, since May 1984 about 25 have sat down to super meals at The Three Swans, The Lamb or The John O’Gaunt every month.  Thank you.

The demand to meet in Croft Hall has continued so we put our backs into getting the kitchen at Croft Hall equipped for cooking and serving hot meals.

 The Croft Hall Trustees had a major and expensive priority to repair the structure of this well-loved community asset, then known as Church House, and were obviously not able give more than moral support

 So, with generous help of individuals, The Town and Manor, the Town Council,  Round Table,  St Lawrence’s Social Committee and CHAIN’s own funds, we supplied:-
A full place setting of cutlery, glasses and crockery for 100.

Two second hand domestic gas stoves.
Kitchen equipment to a value of £225. (+valuable free gifts from ‘Seconds’).
£100 towards the cost of new cupboards put in by the Trustees.

We cooked our first hot meal (Roast Pork, Roast Potatoes, Stuffing, Gravy, Carrots; Ice Cream and Fruit Salad; Tea) in September 1985, limited to 25.  The tables were gaily decorated and the food delicious at a cost of £1.60 per head.

A further lunch is planned for October 17th.  In the meantime there have been two problems.  Our cook has been unable to refuse a full time job and her replacement can only help until December as she is expecting a baby.  One of the two cookers has a defective thermostat and requires an overhaul – at a cost estimated at £88.

We are grateful to the Mothers’ Union for the use of their cupboard for our kitchen stores and equipment.  It’s a good start.  The Trustees agree the need for the wiring of new power points for electrical equipment and even more cupboards.  If the kitchen is to be used for other Community Catering, we really need a proper gas range; there should be an extractor fan and so on but at least we are in business.

Croft Hall has now been booked on the third Thursday of every month at least until the end of 1986 (exception: December 1985- on Friday 13th)

Our objective: to launch and maintain a Lunch Club for the over 60s, meeting regularly in Croft Hall over a good well – presented meal; to provide an enjoyable occasion in which all  members will have a maximum say in the running.  (already we have volunteers for organising the raffle, keeping the accounts, providing the flowers).  I expect we shall soon have a request for some type of entertainment.

CHAIN hopes all this will be financially self-supporting once we have the equipment and if we build up to 50 or so every lunch.  That would be an extra 600 hours of pleasure for all concerned.  We will have also helped to equip Croft Hall to meet other community catering needs.  That seems worthwhile.

R.S. Winser for  CHAIN    11.10.1985

The objective set out in Bobby Winser’s penultimate paragraph has been met in full; the luncheon club still operating in 2012, 27 years on.  Numbers attending have fluctuated with periods in the 1980s and 90s attracting about 50 diners.  In later years the numbers dropped, perhaps because of other luncheon clubs being available and most pubs offering good deals for pensioners.

Transport has always been available to get those less able to and from lunches either by CHAIN’s Handybus or private cars – and when needed with help from the Red Cross or The Tuesday Club (for the disabled).

The Club’s finances have always been kept separate from CHAIN’s main account and it has always been possible to meet all expenses and at the same time keep cost of the lunch very reasonable.  The first lunches cost £1.60 and by 2012 the cost was £3.50

Credit for starting the CHAIN Lunch Club goes to Bobbie Winser but he and his successors running the club were always able to call on a willing band of helpers.  A recorded list of helpers is not available but in appendix ‘A’ a list of names recalled by Kathleen Walker and others is included.

Bobbie Winser continued as organiser until 1987 when Kathleen Walker, ably assisted by husband Cyril, appeared on the scene.   Kathleen combined the skills of a good cook with excellent organising ability and the club went from strength to strength.  Kathleen continued until 2001 (13 years) when she relinquished the onerous task of ‘organiser’; having to  decide the menu, organise purchasing and  cook the meal etc. There was also the job of finding helpers to serve and clear up plus the liaison with those picking up those without transport who needed picking up in the mini bus.

In 2001 Lynn Collingwood took over as organiser on a temporary basis for about a year until Amanda Goodwin accepted the job and is still doing a good job in 2012 (12 years), Kathleen Walker is also much involved in 2012 but in a subsidiary role to (reserve for) Amanda.

Pub Lunches

In addition to the Croft Hall lunches, Angela Kingsbury’s 1983 survey gave rise to regular monthly visits to local public houses and restaurants for reasonably priced lunches. Most establishments within a ten mile trip from Hungerford have, over the years,  been  generous in providing reasonably priced meals for groups ranging from about fifteen to as many as forty diners.

Organising these lunches has also required much time and effort and as far as can be ascertained organisers have been:-

Pam Lucas
Alan Pollitt

The Pub lunches have also needed the valuable services of the Handybus, the Red Cross and Tuesday Club minibuses and, of course, the volunteers to organise the drivers and picking up arrangements.

Updates from 2021

Sadly the Croft Hall Lunches have been discontinued.

Sue Watts took over from Alan Pollitt but has now resigned.
Due to Covid these lunches have been suspended (01.01.2021)  CHAIN are seeking a new organiser.