03.06.21 Liveryman Mike Goggin

Find fellowship and share skills in a shed

There I was one Saturday morning in October 2019, walking along Hampstead Road on the southern side of Dorking. I glanced across the road at the attractive but unused church building and I noticed a change to the signage – what was formerly Hampstead Road Church was now Dorking Men’s Shed. I took another look. What’s a Men’s Shed? Is it really for men only, is that allowed?

Some further research confirmed the attractive building was a Brethren meeting room built in 1863; it later assumed a more Evangelical character and the congregation outgrew the building. Under a new name they now meet at a school nearby.

Enough about the history, what was this building that seemingly only allows men to enter the front door? A bit more research and I visited Dorking Men’s Shed to meet some of the founders, and indeed join. What they found several months previously was a badly dilapidated building in need of some major TLC. A partially collapsed roof, damp everywhere and an overgrown rear garden were just some of the challenges that needed expert attention and hard labour.

The Dorking Men’s Shed founders, all local gents of course, met the council and the trustees of the church, and the deal was eventually done. After striking a mutually beneficial arrangement with the trustees the hard work began. Various contributors of money or equipment came forward. A huge number of hours of hard labour and relevant skills were provided, initially by the founding members and then new members as they signed up.

The current membership consists of men with a wide range of skills. Whether it is or was their chosen career skill or something they had mastered in their spare time. Roofs were repaired or replaced as were the washroom and toilet facilities. There is a new kitchen, donated by a national housing association and the garden is now looking spectacular. A workshop with seriously impressive carpentry tools has been created and areas for members to participate in other skills and interests have been provided.

The pandemic has seen the Dorking Men’s Shed closed for many months during the past year. Despite this, regular and controlled visits by members to keep the premises clean and in good shape mean the facility is ready for full reopening. There will be the return of the sound of banter in the workshop and in the kitchen area. Skilled people will teach others how to use tools and in return a joke will be shared.

Men’s Sheds are great for getting men over 18 out of their homes and into a friendly environment, and there are many who need such a facility. Statistics show the shocking number of men suffering from loneliness, isolation, depression and suicide numbers among men in the UK have increased substantially in recent years. Many only see the pub as a place to socialise, but a Men’s Shed is a great alternative, where we can socialise, learn, maybe teach and share.

Important to note – despite the name, women members are very welcome at most Sheds.

There is probably a Men’s Shed near most of us in the UK as there are around 700 in existence. Not all will necessarily display the obvious signage. https://www.dorkingshed.org.uk/will tell you plenty about the Dorking Men’s Shed.

I’m now a resident of Southsea in Hampshire and soon I shall visit the three local Men’s Sheds and join at least one of them while keeping my membership of the Dorking one.

Please be sure to find out more about Men’s Sheds. Don’t hesitate to mention them to someone you know who may well benefit from joining one. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.