Barton Bendish village hall undergoes total renovation after it became ‘very tired’

A West Norfolk village hall is getting a massive revamp after ongoing issues included the floor starting to collapse.

Barton Bendish village hall is in the midst of building work as they spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a total renovation, with support from a grant from the Freebridge Community Fund as well.

Chris Parsons, a trustee of the charity, said: “The village hall is really well used in this community and we suffered from a lack of capacity and also fairly poor performance of the building itself.

Barton Bendish Village Hall is being revamped. Picture: Freebridge
Barton Bendish Village Hall is being revamped. Picture: Freebridge

“There was no insulation, the heating caused a lot of problems, the floor itself started to collapse. It was getting very tired.”

Mr Parsons is an architect and designed the extension following a public consultation in which 100 per cent of respondents said they were in favour of work being carried out.

The trustee added: “People really wanted to keep the character of the existing building so we reused a lot of the original materials. We showed them two schemes – contemporary and traditional and the traditional option was chosen.”

The biggest change has been an extension to the side of the building which, as well as increasing the size of the hall, has also made the kitchen bigger. Improvements have been made to the disabled access as well.

Mr Parsons continued: “This is a very rural community and there are a lot of problems associated with rural isolation and loneliness – cultural isolation and social isolation in particular. And the trustees feel that the hall should be something that could help with these issues.

“There are lots of events that have used the hall in the past and we needed to ensure that those could continue, and if we could, offer even better facilities for the people who use it.”

Unlike many charities, the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t impacted too badly on this project.

Freedbridge say the fact the building work was able to take place while they couldn’t hold any functions was in fact “something of a blessing”.

Work commenced on March 23, the same evening Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown.

Mr Parsons said: “I’m really grateful to the contractors who have found a way to keep working. We’ve had to change a few things around because of what we could and couldn’t get. We’ll be a bit later finishing than originally planned, but because of Covid it won’t matter too much.”

The committee are continuing to look at how Covid-19 regulations may impact them in the future but it is hoped the new hall will be ready to use by December.

As well as the money from Freebridge the project has received funding from many sources including West Norfolk Council, ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) and the National Lottery.

The funding from Freebridge’s Community Fund is part of a number of grants provided to West Norfolk charities and community groups by the housing association.

Thirteen projects across the area have benefitted this year, with each being awarded amounts up to £1,000.

This year Freebridge raised the amount available to the fund to £10,000, double the £5,000 that is normally offered, and the successful projects were chosen by a committee made up of Freebridge employees and tenants.

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