Okeford Fitzpaine Parish

Village Hall History




The Village Hall was built in 1910 and used mainly as a reading room, where villagers could go to read books and newspapers. Over the years it has been used as a dining hall for the village school, a meeting place for a variety of clubs and has been and still is the centre of many social gatherings such as dances, birthday parties, wedding receptions and a host of fund raising events.


It stands in a corner of the village know as Greenhayes which is maintained by the Parish Council.  This is a green area with several old trees used in conjunction with the Hall for village tea parties to commemorate nationwide celebrations such as V.E. day and Royal Jubilees.  It also serves as a pleasant place for children to  play and adults to sit when whatever is going on inside the Hall gets too much!


The Hall is a registered charity and is run by a management committee which is elected annually and consists of elected members and representative members of the various clubs who regularly use it.  The main job of the committee is to keep the Hall in good condition which means regular and frequent fund raising.  The support of the villagers is vital at these times and they always come through.


A lot of work has been done to improve the Hall since the 1980’s under the leadership of several different chairmen with the voluntary work of committee members and good friends.  In 1982 a large extension was added to the west end of the Hall, this created space for a new modern kitchen and a spacious bar come committee room.  The old kitchen at the east end of the Hall was then taken on as a storeroom.  Six years later in 1988 further storage space was added to the south side to accommodate the tables and chairs which up until then had mostly been stored in the main body of the Hall, this was not always convenient.


Shortly after the table store was completed the old heavy galvanised roof was replaced with a lightweight hard wearing one.  The entire job was undertaken by volunteers and 20 years later most of it (some of it was replaced when a later extension was added) is still in place and set to last a whole lot longer.

In 1990 the interior porch on the north side was demolished giving a much more open feel to the Hall.  As this area was often used for storage its removal made it much safer with better access to the emergency exit.  Both of the outside porches remained.  This done a new maple floor replaced the original dark and much repaired old one, the transformation was incredible.  The following year in 1991 a major refurbishment of the toilets was undertaken modernising both the ladies and gents facilities.  Again most of the work was carried out by volunteers and members of the committee.  In fact we estimate that 95% of the work carried out on the projects above was completed by volunteer labour, an amazing achievement in a relatively small village.


By 1992 it was obvious that a new heating system was needed.  With the help of a Parish Council grant and a lot more fund raising by the committee gas central heating was installed and was immediately deemed by everyone to be well worth the effort.  Apart from anything else it was cheaper to run and more efficient than the outdated electric fan heaters it replaced.


A problem often found in community buildings is bad acoustics and our Hall was no exception.  In the summer of 1995 a specialist in noise control was called in, his report resulted in the installation of an acoustic tiling ceiling set in a much lower position.  Whilst this improved the acoustics inside it also lessened the impact on neighbours, of noise going out.  Also the reduction of heat loss into the old high ceiling space resulted in lower heating bills.  All in all a much more comfortable environment had been created.


4 years later in 1999 it was clear that something needed to be done to the windows on the south side and the doors and windows of the kitchen and bar areas.  The committee dug into its hard won reserves and the old wooden windows were replaced with UPVC double glazed units, this again improved the Hall and again helped with the heating bills.


As the village began to grow it became apparent that more space was needed and to that end the Management Committee decided that the only answer was an extension. The process started with more fund raising.  Then consultation with structural engineers, builders, architects, North Dorset District Council which is the planning authority and the Parish Council, eventually culminated in a set of plans and an application to the National Lottery Charities Board for a £61,000 grant.  Unfortunately the Board didn’t think that enough benefit would be gained and the application was refused.  Needless to say many villagers were extremely disappointed not least the Management committee members who put so much effort into keeping the Hall running.

Not daunted, fund raising continued and by 2004 it was decided that the extension must go ahead.  Given the price that a building contractor would have cost it was also decided to do it on our own with just the essential professionals to pay for.


Work commenced in earnest in the spring of 2006 and with the promise of a £10,000 grant from Dorset Community Action, smaller donations of money and goods from the Parish Council and other organisations, clubs and individuals and a £26,000 bank balance, the project was set in motion.


Months of hard work followed with volunteers working every day, some having completed their normal days work first, some giving an hour or two here and there and some spending all day in order that the regular users of the Hall (who were very understanding and patient) weren’t disrupted too much, we managed to keep it open during the whole time work was going on, the downside to this meant that at the end of a hard days work everything had to be cleaned up and made safe ready for use.


The official opening of the extension took place in May 2007 and by the end of the year it was finished, complete with new disabled facilities and refurbished ladies toilets and powder room.  Approximately 60 square metres has been added to the inside with surprisingly very little impact to the car parking area outside.  The resulting extra space has been welcomed by everyone who uses the Hall and visitors have nothing but praise for the warm, welcoming, effect that has been created.

With the new bigger space within the main Hall it became clear that the kitchen was not big enough for the numbers that could now be accommodated. It needed more preparation areas, a dishwasher, more storage and general work top space. A link to the bar area should also be considered to give visiting bars staff more flexibility. And a toilet for kitchen and bar workers.

In November 2010 planning permission was granted to build an extension to the kitchen, this would include the removal of the bank of earth to the west of the Hall, the building of a retaining wall and the removal of the old cherry tree.

After many delays, it was in October of 2011 that the cherry tree and importantly its root were removed as was the bank of earth. The retaining wall was well on its way. By November work on this phase of the project was complete. Our funds had now dwindled and after paying for the work which had been carried out, very little of which could be done by volunteers, we were not able to start the next phase which was the kitchen extension itself, and unfortunately it was obvious that a grant was not going to be easy to get.

Grant applications had failed but by October 2014, although our bank balance was looking a little more healthy, our funds still weren’t sufficient to build. So, it was decided to tidy up the outside area by laying fine scalpings on the site. And to spruce it up inside we decided to buy all new matching chairs. We asked the Parish Council to assist with the cost and very generously they agreed to buy them for us as it would benefit the whole community. All we had to do was pay for the refurbishment of the store to make it more suitable for the fabric covered chairs. They have made a huge difference to the people who use the Hall being much more comfortable.

As we didn’t have to use our funds to buy the chairs it was decided not to wait for the extension before the very old cooker was replaced. We now have a lovely new bigger all electric range style cooker.

The extension will be completed – it will just take a bit longer than we would have liked.

Fund raising is ongoing with the main annual event, the FIPPENNY FAYRE, taking place in June each year at the Recreation Ground, Castle Lane. DT11 0RL.


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