The Institute was originally a corrugated iron building, lined with clapboarding, which was leased to the National Council of Social Services in 1931 by the Wigan family of Clare House. They retained the freehold for a period of 999 years. A ‘peppercorn rent’ of one shilling (5p) could be asked, but never was! The NCSS – later the Official Custodian for Charities – eventually became the Charity Commissioners, and the East Malling Institute Trust is now a Registered Charity (number 253531).
The building was badly damaged by fire in July 1977 and opinion was sought in the village as to whether it should be rebuilt. The organisations which used it regularly, including a Darby and Joan Club and a Women’s Institute, were in favour, as were the Parish Council and many individuals whose opinions were asked. A letter from the Parish Council requested that a ‘Parish Councillor’ should serve on the Management Committee, and that continues to this day.
As the hall was adjacent to the Mill Street Conservation Area replacement with an unsightly building, similar to the original, was unlikely to be allowed, so planning permission was sought for a brick and tile construction. This was granted in May 1978, and the building you now see was built.
The Institute is now a hub of village life, with a vast array of groups and individuals. Regular users include The Heath Players, LARA, East Malling Women's Institute, Kumon (children's education), and groups offering Keep-fit, Yoga, and Zumba.
The Institute is one of three community hall venues in East Malling. The Institute in Mill Street is managed as a Charitable Trust by an elected committee. The Village Hall in New road is managed by the East Malling and Larkfield Parish Council. And in addition to these two facilities there is the more recent East Malling Centre located within the former St James the Great Primary School building at Chapman Way, which is also managed as a Charitable Trust.
The East Malling Institute Registered Charity Number 253531