Bledlow Village Hall History
The following history of the Hall was compiled by Ann Smith, a former Chairman of the Village Hall Committee and a Permanent Trustee of the Hall.
Ann moved into the village in 1967 and the account below is in her own words.
The Origins of the Village Hall
The original village hall came about as the result of fund raising by a village committee. The land on which the building stands was donated by the then Lord Carrington. Funds were raised with Mrs. Christopher James, a sister of Neville Chamberlain, later to be Prime Minister, being the main benefactor. She lived with her niece Miss Freda Ryland at Cutlers Close who also donated a considerable sum, allowing the foundation stone to be laid in 1931. The WI donated a piano.
The total cost of building the hall was £1,100.
The Bucks Free Press quoted from the vote of thanks at the opening ceremony …
“..it was up to the community to see that it was carried on. It could not be a success unless the whole of the community – and the youth especially kept it going.”
Pre-School and Land Deals
A group of young mothers started a playgroup in 1968 and this was the precursor to the present Pre-School.
The village school had closed and half of it belonged to Buckinghamshire County Council and half reverted to Lord Carrington. The Council owned the access to the site and so were entitled to the larger part of the proceeds. The Bucks County Council wanted the ground at the front of the Hall for their proposed road widening scheme, so in 1977 they exchanged their ground behind the school for this parcel of land. The back land is now used for the Village Hall car park. In 1980 Lord Carrington gave the Village Hall his part of the school. A quarter of the proceeds of any sale were to be invested and the interest used to assist with the running of the Hall. This amounted originally to £10,000.
In the year 1982/3 a group ran a village shop and ‘drop-in’ zone in the Hall with considerable help from the Co-op. They won second prize in a Village Venture competition.
With money received from a grant from the Buckinghamshire County Council and the results of the fundraising the first phase of extensions to the hall was completed in 1981. This consisted of the present small room, the kitchen and the original parking area for 30 cars.
The Bledlow Social Club for Young People
For some time the Bledlow Social Club for Young People was licensed to use the school playground for their activities, including netball, rounders, and cricket etc. An example of the sleeveless Tee shirts produced for, and worn by members of the club can be seen in the picture. As an interesting aside, it is important that the full title as above is used to describe the Social Club. We raised significant sums for the Hall and as a result I was approached by the Inland Revenue for the tax they claimed we owed them. I explained that all the money had been handed to the Hall, a charity. They eventually accepted this but insisted that we become a charity. At the time we called ourselves the Bledlow Social Club, and the Charity Commission said that a Social Club could not have charitable status. A compromise was reached and we became the Bledlow Social Club for Young People. Our logo showed parents and two children.
Garden, Playground & sale of the School site
In 1982 Lord Carrington gave the land at the back of the Hall which is now the garden and playground area.
Planning permission was granted for 5 houses in the school site in 1982 and in the spring of 1983 the school was sold to Mr John Riley. Using the proceeds of the sale of the school the second phased of expansion was completed in 1984, and consisted of a new Entrance Hall and Ladies and Gentlemen’s toilets, built on the Risborough side of the Hall.
The Village Hall in the New Millennium
2001 the Pre-School received a grant of £5,000 to go towards a playground. A committee in the village raised enough money including the closing balance from the Bledlow Social Club for Young People to install a playground at the end of the hall gardens and swings at the side of the car park area, with seating for parents.
In 2002/4 use was made of the Millennium Fund from the Lottery to refurbish the kitchen, lay a disabled access, double glaze the windows, renew the heating system and extend the front two store rooms The hall had to supply £10,000 which came from interest gained on the Charifund, the investment made at the time of the sale of the school. The opportunity was taken to relay the foundation stone, placing a current time capsule behind it.
In 2009 the Pre-School entered a competition for money to improve outside facilities and were granted money to buy the pavilion, which finally become their property in December 2014. Should they ever close this will become the property of the Hall.
In 2013 the car park was totally surfaced to enable a larger area to be available. This was financed by hall funds and two grants from the Parish Council and a further smaller grant from the Buckinghamshire County Council Leaders Fund.
The Next Adventure
The refurbishment planned by the Village Hall Committee and recently completed, entails new and extra toilets (including one for the disabled), new LED lighting, a corridor from the Hall to the garden, fresh paint and a host of smaller improvements designed to meet the needs of our customers and make the Hall a friendlier and more usable space. The total costs were in the order of £60k.