Corfe Castle Village Hall has been serving the village since February 1951. It was set up as a charity with the purpose of "physical and mental training and recreation and social, moral and intellectual development through the medium of reading and recreation rooms, library, classes, recreations and entertainments or otherwise as may be found expedient for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Corfe Castle and its immediate vicinity without distinction of sex or of political, religious or other opinions". Land and a timber shed clubhouse was bequeathed and the present structure erected, based on a steel framework such as commonly used in agricultural storage barns in 1985. The new structure provided the village with a large indoor space, with some insulation and double-glazed windows. Kitchen facilities were upgraded, changes made to adhere to new fire regulations and the car park changed from gravel to tarmac. Extra storage was provided by an ISO container, and the separate Library building was retained.
Repairs and a certain amount of improvement to the building have taken place over the years, but the original drains (part of which run under the hall) remained a constant cause of concern, the roof needed to be replaced and the cloakroom facilities were dismal. In 2013 planning began in earnest to address these (and other) issues. Initially the trustees were thinking of a modest extension allowing improvements to the toilets and improving storage facilities. For many years previously, Corfe Castle Village Hall had been setting aside part of its income for this purpose, and land adjacent to the hall had been purchased back in 1990. The trustees sounded out public opinion and enlisted the help of Dorset Community Action. In November 2014 a questionnaire went to all households and the responses were analysed. The charity converted successfully to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in May 2015. Trustees decided to "think bigger", and the revised plans were for a larger extension, incorporating not just improved cloakroom and storage facilities, but also a medium sized "public use" room and a small "community hub" room.
Fundraising started in 2016, and has continued right up to the current time. Thanks to hard work, generous support from individuals, local businesses and organisations, a significant legacy and assistance from four trusts and two councils the total amount raised has exceeded £585 000. The outstanding support of the community for the village hall was further demonstrated by their voting for the hall in an on-line competition to win a solar panel system in 2017.
The roof was replaced by the start of 2018, and as a result the whole building is now much better insulated. By the beginning of 2019 a new drainage system had been installed, there was a larger foyer and modern heated cloakrooms. The lighting in the main hall had been updated and the shell of a large extension completed. The building process was not without its unforeseen difficulties which, although were overcome, caused substantial delays in the summer and autumn of 2018, and trustees are grateful to all users for the patience and flexibility shown in this period.
The extension now has substantial storage space for our enhanced stock of stage units, and also for our key regular user groups. There are also now two attractive and well-equipped rooms for public use.
The medium sized "Bill Carter" room addresses issues thrown up by the questionnaire responses. It will be used for family parties and gatherings - the current hall is considered too large for this purpose by many villagers. It has already become the venue of choice for new "clubs" or regular user groups. These activities help provide social cohesion.
The George Preston Room is a response to the challenge of an increasingly elderly population, in the face of a cash strapped future for public services. The Trustees see it as a means of allowing easier access to advice services who are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain contact points in every location due to restricted funding. It provides a hot-desk facility for all such service providers on a "no charge" basis. Already it has been used regularly by our MP for surgeries, by Corfe Castle Land Trust for their committee meetings, and by our Admiral Dementia nurse for a 2 day training event. Further service provider use of this type is anticipated.
A full list of the financial supporters for the Developments project is displayed on our Honours Board in the new foyer.
A great deal has been accomplished, but a substantial amount is still to be done:
- The new ceiling in the hall has caused reverberation issues, and sound absorbing panels will be needed to address the issue.
- The conversion of the old "committee room" into an enlarged kitchen and chair store. This will make catering easier for all our regular and occasional users, and will further de-clutter the main hall.
- The provision of a digital projector, sound system and hearing loop will enhance capabilities within the main hall.
- The completion of the boarding out of the first floor of the extension. This will provide further extensive storage spaces.
The help and support of the whole community has been vital in getting the Village Hall to this point, and will be needed further as we attempt to address these final pieces of the jigsaw over the next few years.