What's happening

The short answer is "lots!" After many years of fundraising, a major programme to update, extend and refurbish the Village Hall began in the summer of 2006, and the first two phases were completed and opened by our MP, Sir Alan Haselhurst, in December that year.

History

The Hall was built by public subscription in 1854 as the Village School, and continued as such until its closure in 1948. The building eventually passed to the Parish Council in 1953 for use as the Village Hall. Up until that time local meetings were held in a disused railway carriage on the Village Green. The Hall has been run since the 1950's by a separate Management Committee, and is a registered charity.

Like most village halls of this type, the facilities provided were fairly basic, and poor maintenance due to lack of funds had left the building in a sad state. The Committee took the decision to refurbish the existing building, rather than go for 'new build', because of its historical associations and its intrinsic architectural merits, because it was basically structurally sound, and also because of the huge differences in the costs involved.

Basic improvements had been carried out over a fifteen year period, initially with financial help from Braintree District Council, and latterly with support from the Parish Council. A bequest from a villager enabled the interior to be completely redecorated in 2003, and the interior is now very attractive and welcoming, with much improved lighting and curtains.

But standards change over time, and the high expectations that people now have for community facilities, as well as the constant changes imposed by new legislation, have led the Committee to draw up a programme of major improvements.

The complete project includes:

  • New front entrance, with better access for the disabled, the elderly, and for pushchairs.
  • New boundary planting along Mill Road to soften the appearance, and provide interest throughout the year.
  • New storage space, to enable new groups to use the Hall.
  • New extension to the car park area.
  • New kitchen facilities to meet modern Health & Safety requirements for the preparation of food, to enable wider use of the Hall.
  • New toilet facilities for all, including the disabled and parents with babies.
  • New heaters and much improved insulation for the main Hall, to improve energy efficiency and reduce running costs.
  • New extension to the building, to provide a second Hall that can be used separately, or integrated into the main Hall as required, to greatly improve the flexibility of the building.

Progress so far:

The Committee have worked very hard over the last seven years to raise funds for these projects, encouraged by the support of the Village at many and varied functions. In particular, a spectacular Auction of Promises in April 2006 raised £6,000 in a single evening.

We were eventually successful with obtaining some grant funding for the new front entrance and the boundary planting, after several initial disappointments. We are grateful to Awards for All and BDC's Rural Communities Development Fund for their support. We also received two very generous bequests from former residents of the village, which have enabled us to complete these first two phases of the work to a very high standard.

view image galleryWork began in July 2006, and the slides show some of the steps along the way. Feedback has been very positive. Everyone seems very happy with the new entrance, and eliminating the old steep steps has made access to the building much easier for all.

With the completion of the new entrance, Hall usage took off, with regular bookings every weekday morning and evening, and the hugely successful monthly independent Farmers’ Market, which was run by the Committee. But many of these new activities, such as Circuits and Pilates, and the Parents & Toddlers group, require substantial storage space. The old stage, which had not been used for many years, was removed in early 2007, and a huge new storeroom built in that area.

Access to the small chair store at the end of the Hall had always been very awkward. In the autumn of 2007, that storeroom was extended and easy, level access provided directly from the main Hall. Tables and chairs are all now stored together, and setting-up meetings is much easier and safer for all. Grants towards the new storeroom were received from ECC Community Initiatives Fund and from BDC Rural Communities Development Fund.

Increased Hall usage also created increased demands on car parking space. The "boggy bit" at the bottom of the Recreation Ground was drained, levelled, and surfaced with tarmac to double the area available for parking. Again, we were very grateful to ECC Community Initiatives Fund for a grant towards this project. A new native hedge was planted in Spring 2008 along the car park boundaries, which will provide interest throughout the year.

During the summer of 2009, the kitchen was completely refurbished so that it now meets the current regulations for the preparation of food. The previous kitchen had evolved organically as various bits of equipment had been donated to the Hall, and it had served us well. But it was no longer fit for purpose, and needed to be stripped out to start again. We took the opportunity to greatly improve the energy efficiency by dry-lining the external walls, and replacing the old metal windows with double-glazed units, as well as replacing all the cupboards and appliances.

This was the most expensive phase of the refurbishment so far, and was supported by five different grant funders. We are very grateful to ECC Community Iniatiatives Fund, BDC Rural Communities Development Fund, the Essex Environment Trust and the Essex Community Foundation, as well as the Augustine Courtauld Trust at RCCE. We also received a very generous donation from a resident of the village, which enabled us to complete the work to a high standard.

The Cloakrooms were completely refurbished during the Spring of 2010, to provide new toilet facilities for all, including a new disabled-access toilet and nappy-changing facilities for parents with babies. This excellent work was supported by a grant from the Halstead Area Committee at Braintree District Council, for which the Committee are very grateful. Our Cloakroom provision now meets all the latest standards.

We will continue to provide updates on progress on these pages.