THERE has recently been considerable controversy amongst the inhabitants of Wheaton Aston and Lapley concerning who is entitled to control the use of the building in the former village known as "The Reading Room."

The vicar of Lapley-with-Wheaton Aston, the Rev. Geoffrey Mather, has claimed that the building is church property, and that its control is vested in a body of trustees, of which he is a vicar, its ex-officio chairman, the other trustees at present being the two churchwardens, who are also ex-officio, and the Lichfield Diocesan Board of Finance.

Other trustees appointed in 1922 are, by since died. The actual management of the building, however, has been in the hands of a committee elected by the inhabitants, and this body has maintained and financed the community function for many years, just before the formation of the new committee in 1954.


Led by its president, Mr. Tim Weate (whose photograph appears above), the committee has strongly opposed the Vicar's claims, and there is considerable bitterness. He claims that the present constitution provides an indefinite tenure of office for members, whereas the Rev. Mather is demanding the election of trustees who would be subject to re-election every year.

Mr. Tim Weate
Mr. Tim Weate

It also states that the Parish Council has power to replace the two churchwardens by public nomination.

The Parish Council’s Association questions the validity of Mr. Mather’s appointment as a trustee and says that the trustees, in default if they do not appoint at least four more trustees and the 3,000-word report was considered by the Association’s legal advisers, and also sent to the Ministry of Social Welfare with a request for the trusteeship to be vested in a body of independent persons. This is an important point and recommendations have been made.


In the January issue of his Parish Magazine, he wrote: "To show that I have no sectarian interest in the building, I am prepared to allow the Methodist Minister, who is a friend of mine, to have the use of the Hall. We could arrange a rota, and there could be a mixed club for young people of Wheaton Aston. One night there might be a Boxing Club for the young men in the village. Another evening the Hall could be used for young boys and girls to meet. And it can also be used for square dancing."

He added that he was quite determined that the Room should be used for the benefit of the young people.


But the report from the Parish Council's Association has left the vicar unmoved. He said on Tuesday:

"One major legal fact entirely escaped the attention of the lawyers concerned. It remains quite unimpressed by the findings of the lawyers. It is quite clear to me that not only have they not seen the original deeds (which are in the custody of the church authorities) but also that the documents submitted to them were inaccurate and incomplete."

Despite the report, the vicar still intends to adhere to his original plan to hold a public meeting after Easter "so that an effective working committee may be elected, and one that is sufficiently representative of public opinion."

Inside the Reading Room at Wheaton Aston
Inside the Reading Room at Wheaton Aston are three billiards tables - rarely used these days.