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Norfolk villagers celebrate DIY hall's opening

PUBLISHED: 11:00 22 March 2010 | UPDATED: 11:15 07 July 2010

Emma Knights

It was truly a triumph for community spirit as residents of a village near Fakenham celebrated the official opening of their new hall at the weekend.

The story was very different just over a year ago when the Swanton Novers Village Hall Committee was left with a part finished venue.

It was truly a triumph for community spirit as residents of a village near Fakenham celebrated the official opening of their new hall at the weekend.

The story was very different just over a year ago when the Swanton Novers Village Hall Committee was left with a part finished venue.

But the committee, and a number of other village volunteers, were determined the project would be completed and together they worked hundreds of hours to finish the job.

Richard Hart, village hall committee chairman, said: “We had the building. But we had no floors laid, no internal doors fitted, the kitchen was an empty shell, and we had no sinks or toilets.

“We finished it ourselves with the help of people in the village. We are very proud of what we have achieved.”

Mr Hart, 67, who used to be in the RAF, described Saturday's official opening as a “moment of triumph.”

The hall was designed free of charge by 68-year-old Ian Glennie, a retired architect who lives in the village, and Mr Hart said it was an important community venue for a community which has no pub, school, post office or shop.

It has already been open for a few months and become home to a number of groups and events including a parent and child group, coffee mornings and pilates classes.

In the future Mr Hart said the committee would like the hall to host functions such as music evenings, film shows and antiques days.

Lord Hastings has given the village hall committee a 99-year lease with a peppercorn rent for the land on which the hall stands, and on Saturday scores of people came to see him officially open the venue.

Among them was plumber Carl Tubby, 46, who spent a lot of his spare time finishing the kitchen and other parts of the hall.

He said: “I just wanted to help and to see the village hall open. It is rewarding to see it finished now.”

Village hall committee member Bernard Leeder, 66, and Steve White, 52, a highways engineer, were part of a team of villagers who had spent Saturdays and evenings laying decking and paving slabs outside the hall and doing work on the footpath and car park.

Mr White said: “If you want things to happen in a village you have got to take part. I am proud of what we have achieved.”

The previous village hall, an old Victorian school, was sold for £275,000 about three years ago to fund the new venue.

A £40,000 bequest from Dorothy Milton, of Swanton Novers, along with grants from the Paul Bassham Charitable Trust, The Low Carbon Building Programme, and the Norfolk Community Foundation also helped to pay for the new building which includes a meeting room, a much larger hall than in the previous village hall, a bigger and more modern kitchen, and disabled toilets.

From the summer there will also be five caravan pitches with shower and toilet facilities.

t For more information on the hall go to www.swantonnoversvillagehall.org

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