First, a bit of background. Our Hall was at one time the village school; the adjoining cottage was the schoolmaster’s house. They were given to the village in 1900 to be used as the village hall, and now are held in beneficial trust on behalf of the village by the Rector and the Churchwardens. The on-going viability of the Hall is entrusted to a group called the Trustees who have the task of trying to square the financial circle – of making ends meet. The day to day running of our Hall, together with fundraising activities, is the responsibility of a Management Committee headed by Teresa Russ.
Hambleden Village Hall, just like almost every other village hall in the country, has always had to beg for funds to keep it afloat: income does not cover regular outgoings, and as many people will know from their own experience, Victorian buildings tend to need constant repair and renovation – they are not cheap to run!
For many years the Trustees have managed (just) to keep their heads above water, and to keep our Hall open. Recently, through the generosity of many villagers, they have also managed to carry out some essential refurbishments, including completely reroofing our Hall and the cottage. All this has been achieved by an enormous amount of hard work by the Trustees, Management Committee and other volunteers and we should all offer a huge vote of thanks to those who have donated money and/or have given many hours of their time to have kept our Hall open.
However, at the end of 2009 the well ran dry – there were only a few pounds left in the bank, and the chances of keeping our Hall open into the future seemed rather bleak. There was a very real prospect that our Hall would have to close. Quite simply, there was not enough income to cover basic expenses. Consequently, the Trustees had to make a most difficult decision: to offer the Caretaker suitable compensation to vacate the cottage in which he had lived rent free for many years. The cottage could then be let on the open market, and the resulting rent would help to underpin the financial stability of our Hall for the foreseeable future. As you may imagine, this was not an easy decision to make, but it was the only realistic chance of saving our Hall. It should be stressed at this point that the Caretaker was not asked to leave his job, only the cottage; there was no question of dismissal or redundancy. However, after careful consideration, the Caretaker decided that he could not continue looking after your Hall if he did not live next door. He resigned in early January, and we thank him for the contribution he has made over many years, and wish him well for the future.
A new Caretaker has now been appointed, a village resident - Clare Blandford - and I’m sure we all offer her our best wishes in the job. We hope she will enjoy it, and continue to do so for many years to come.
While all this was going on last year, members of the Management Committee and other volunteer groups were organising many fundraising activities to enable our Hall to keep its doors open. Many villagers will have enjoyed the fete, quiz, Burns night supper and open gardens last year. These events did not happen by accident, but by a tremendous amount of hard work, and we must thank all those involved for their efforts. We also received over £8,000 in donations in 2010 from many generous individuals and organisations, and we thank them for their thoughtfulness.
Meanwhile the renovation of the cottage is well underway, and we hope to have a tenant in residence in March. The rent will be partly used to repay the loans we had to take out to do the work, the balance going to help run the Hall.
So as we move forward, the financial future of the Hall is now more or less secure, barring some catastrophe! However, the need to continue to renovate our Hall continues – we want to completely rebuild the kitchen, improve the toilets, do further damp proofing and improve the exterior. However, our immediate need is not for money (that will come later!), but for two other vital things:
Firstly, we need more people to work with us to restore the position of our Hall as the centre of village activity. As Lady Hambleden has said ‘The Hall is part of the fabric of our village, part of the cement that helps bind it together, and helps make it the lovely place it is in which to live.’
One can’t really add to that! So may I urge any of you that can spare a few hours to join our team and help us. In particular, we need someone to act as our Treasurer, as Mike Wortley has decided not to offer himself for re-election at our AGM in March after many years’ service as a Trustee. His work has been invaluable in guiding the Trustees through some difficult years, and we thank him immensely for his contribution. If you can help us with this role, or in any other way to regenerate the Hall, please speak to any of the Trustees (names and phone numbers below), or call me on 01491-577067.
Secondly we need more people to use the Hall – it is a wonderful old building, but is used only about 10% of the time. So please consider it for your function, party, meeting or other event. It really is a case of use it or lose it! Bookings can be made by phoning Clare on 01491 414210 or 07810 315117. Further details of our Hall can be found here on our website.
Finally, let me invite everyone to our AGM in our Hall at 6.30pm on 2nd March, when you will have the opportunity to chat with members of the Trustees and Management Committee, and to ask any questions that may concern you. I hope to see you there! Remember the Hall belongs to the village of Hambleden!
Chris Whitehead, Chairman of the Trustees
Roddy Baird - 01491-571304
Maureen Cleary - 01491-571208
Evelyn Robinson - 01491-571329
Jill Wennberg - 01494-880012
Mike Wortley - 01491-576072
Chair of the Management Committee: Teresa Russ - 01491-571451