It was built as a home for Lord French, by Lord Kitchener’s Master builder during the 1899 – 1902 Anglo Boer War. Lord Kitchener, a notable British soldier, who succeeded Lord Roberts as Commander-In-Chief was also the brain behind the elaborate military blockhouse system, established to defend strategic road and railway bridges along the main routes in the country.
Drawing on the distinctly Victorian architectural styling that was in vogue at the time, and making sure that everything was done just right, the Master builder was sent out from England to construct the dwelling. This man and his team of masons were true experts in their trade, and created an extremely strong structure, using ordinary unfired bricks that were covered under a thick layer of super-hard cement plastering. All the woodwork in the house was also done to an exceptionally high standard of craftsmanship.
During World War I, it was bought by Mr Maurice Hall for his wife and children’s safety and they called it “The Refuge”. The Hall woman resided here for the duration of the Wars. One of the sisters suffered badly from consumption and only found some relief by sleeping on the stoep. The other sister was an accomplished artist as well as an enthusiastic gardener and most of her works were from images found in the Eden-like floral setting she had created around the house. The locals treated this garden as a town park, and came strolling through in the evenings and on weekends.
When the war was drawing towards its end, many local residents felt that the ex-volunteers should be welcomed back home and some form of memorial to be instituted for those who did not return. On a public meeting of interested members of the public and representatives of all War organisations on 16th February 1945, the Soldiers Reception and Commemoration Committee was founded. The office bearers were Mr. JS Minnaar (chairman), Mr. TF Hurley (secretary), Mrs. G Gilfillan, Mrs. F Kock, Mrs. Minnaar, Capt. N Meintjies, Mrs. JO Scott, Mrs. D Wilcocks-Vorster, Mr. GA Bailie, Mr. Hartogh (magistrate), Mr. PD Rose, Mr. GD Schuurman, Mr. JO Southey, Capt. Terblanche and Mr. van Zyl. At the meeting various ideas for a memorial were discussed, one was establishing a social centre for young people. The Chairman informed the members that should the idea of a social centre be accepted, Misses G & H Hall offered to sell their old home, “The Refuge” for this purpose and donate their shares to the fund. At a meeting on 14th May it was decided to purchase "The Refuge". The memorial Hall was officially opened on 19th July 1947, and since that day it was known as the VCA Hall.
The tower was completed and handed over on 12th November 1950. When the hall became too small, the “Jan Smuts” hall was built at the back, as a venue for dancing, complete with sprung floor and elevated bandstand. For the opening of this extension the General came to Middelburg and planted a tree in the garden, which still stands today. Mr. Ettiene and mrs. Rene Marais bought this building in 1990. The only difficulty they faced was how to convert the building, used for so long as a venue for group entertainment, back into a functional family home. For this they called on the expertise of Port Elizabeth architect, Russel Moffat. At the back of the Hall, mr. Marais decided to install a heated solar indoor pool, in the centre of the old dance floor. Mr. Clift Frewen who bought this building in 2000 decided to restore the dance floor and took out the swimming pool. The Frewen's also used this as a family home and relocated to a farm in 2011.
The potential of this building as an entertainment venue, was never forgotten and today, the VCA Hall houses an events & entertainment venue. The venue is very popular for small weddings, farmers markets & birthday parties.
So the circle is completed, the VCA Hall is back to entertainment!