Miss Marianna Hagen - Philanthropy in Ropley
Miss Hagen is well-known for her philanthropy and generous donations to a variety of causes in Ropley and the surrounding area.
The Coffee Room
Miss Hagen’s first major act of generosity to the parish was the construction of a temperance hall known as the Coffee Room, attached to her house Meadowside, at her own expense and in memory of her parents. Intended to combat the frequent insobriety of some local inhabitants, it became the base for many of Ropley’s community activities. According to Annals of Old Ropley, the Coffee Room was opened on Monday, October 6th, 1883. An inscription over the entrance bears the date 1883. However, October 6th fell on a Saturday in 1883, and the opening was reported in the local press in October 1884 when October 6th was indeed a Monday.
In accordance with Miss Hagen’s staunch temperance principles the hall served as the meeting place of the Men and Boys Club, a social group which provided an alternative to the public houses in the village. Alcohol, gambling and swearing were forbidden on the premises. Musical evenings, Sunday School teas and other entertainments were regularly held in the Coffee Room, often with songs and readings given by Miss Hagen and her friends.
In her will, Miss Hagen bequeathed the Coffee Room and her house Meadowside to the Diocese of Winchester. The deed of trust stipulated that the rooms were to be used as a club for working men and boys, and to teach Sunday School bible classes. A sum of money was given to support the Men and Boys Club, vested in the Winchester Diocese, and the building called ‘The Coffee Room’ in her will was given to the village. The Jacob and Mary Hagen Memorial was registered in 1936 as charity number 205039, with the aim of providing ‘a meeting room for the residents of the Parish of Ropley’. The sale of Meadowside in 1956 provided funds to modernize the room, the remaining money being invested with the Church of England. By the late 1970s the Men and Boys Club had closed down and the diocese permitted the Coffee Room to be used, by arrangement, by anyone in the parish. In the same decade, local nurse Janet Johnson made a significant donation to allow the conversion of the boiler room into toilet facilities. The Coffee Room has continued in use, with fund-raising initiatives and donations ensuring that it continues to be fit for purpose. It now provides a small, accessible meeting room for the village.
The Tin Church
In January 1891 Miss Hagen gifted a tin church to be erected in Ropley Soke on land given by the vicar of Ropley, Thomas Woodhouse. It has been suggested that Miss Hagen built the chapel there to distract navvies from the local ale house known as the Shant, in a bid to popularise temperance. However, this story must be inaccurate since Miss Hagen was still a child when the railway was being constructed through Ropley in the 1860s. It may perhaps be a conflation with the story of the Coffee Room being established as an alternative to local pubs such as the Chequers. By the turn of the century Four Marks had a greater need than the Soke for the church, so she paid for its relocation on the 5th of January 1908 to a site near Five Lanes End where it stands to this day, overgrown and abandoned.
Four Marks School
In 1902 Miss Hagen donated some land for a new school at Four Marks, for which the vicar of Ropley, William Leak, had been raising funds. The investment was not purely hers, however, as she had purchased the land from local landowner John Joseph Tomlinson, who in turn donated all the money that she had paid towards the development of the school. In effect this made the school a joint effort by both parties, something that is often overlooked. The establishment catered to local poor persons and was to include a residence for the master and mistress of the school; however, there is no evidence that this residence was ever provided. The building of the school started in 1902. It was constructed as a single room that could be divided into two separate ones. On May 16th 1904, ‘Five Lanes End School’ accepted its first ten students, another eleven joining on the next day. It was noted by the then headmistress Mrs Lilly Pigott that much of the children’s work was of a very poor standard.
As well as these impressive additions to the village and its surroundings, in 1927 Miss Hagen also paid for the recasting of St Peter’s church bells. The history of St Peter’s bells is not wholly clear, but we know that from the fifteenth century until 1701 the same peal of bells was in use until they were recast by a similarly generous local man, John Gilbert. One of the bells bears the inscription ‘John Gilberd did contrive to cast from four this peel of fife (five)’. Miss Hagen also donated two extensions of the churchyard, to the north and north-east of the church. Her temperance advocacy led her to start a local branch of the Band of Hope, a temperance organisation aimed at supporting working-class children.
Hagen, Marianna S. (1929) Annals Of Old Ropley available at http://www.ropleyvds.ropleysociety.org/annals/index.html
Hampshire Advertiser, Hampshire Chronicle, Hampshire Observer and Basingstoke News, Hampshire Telegraph: various articles and reports accessed at https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
Mills, Betty (1995) Four Marks: Its Life and Origins
Ropley Society, The (2014) Ropley Past and Present
Wikipedia entry for Jacob Hagen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Hagen