History of our village hall

Our village hall came into being in 1920 thanks to two benefactors, Bertram Phillips and Daniel Combes. Mr. Phillips paid for the original building and Mr. Combes paid for the plot of land owned by Alfred Lane, a carpenter, where Old Hall House now stands in Bratch Lane. It was originally an officer’s mess building and was hauled by horse and cart from Codford. Over the years wooden huts deteriorate and as with many village halls during the latter part of the 20th century, they were a money pit constantly needing maintenance. They were also fairly primitive, relative to today’s standards, so there was not much income to be made by hiring out the premises. It was purely for village use.

The idea of a new hall was first conceived about 1986 and in 1988, probably as the result of rumours about a new hall being planned by the village hall trustees, came an offer from a local developer to buy the existing hall. That started discussions in earnest, although that sale never took place. Eventually it was agreed that we could build it on the Recreation Ground as no other land was available. Plans were drawn and outline planning permission eventually granted in 1989. Fundraising began and the village came together to organise fundraising events such as clay shoots, sponsored runs and raffles as well as donations from villagers. There were also various charitable organisations that offered grants once we could get a reasonable fund built, but we knew it would be a very long campaign if we were to succeed. 

With the announcement in November 1992 that the closure of RAF Chilmark would take place in 1995, an opportunity presented itself to acquire a piece of land more suitable than the Recreation Ground.  A letter was immediately sent to the RAF requesting the gift of some land to build a village hall. It took a further five years to get to an agreement in which the Ministry of Defence sold us the present site for a very reasonable price. It was the last sale of its kind that was not at market value. Another stroke of luck came in 1994 with the launch of the National Lottery. Realistically there was no way we would ever raise enough money as inflation was increasing the build cost faster than we could raise funds. The Lottery was the one chance we had of getting the large amount of funding to make our dreams come true. At our third application, we were given a grant of £132,000. With the sale of the old hall for £75,000 and a very remarkable amount given by the village of about £40,000 plus other grants, we were ready to build. One small problem was that our original build cost was four years out of date and the Lottery made it clear that if we exceeded our budget we would get no more from them. We had come this far and fortune favours the brave so we went for it. Unable to afford professional site agents to manage the project we did the job ourselves. Everything had come together and from breaking ground to opening only took nine months and remarkably it was completed within the original budget.