Penn Street Village Hall
A brief history
A brief history
This is the third hall to stand on this site and the story of how it came into being makes interesting reading. A former member of the Village Hall Committee, Mike Seller, has written a brief history about it. Please read this below.
by Mike Seller
It may well have been the building of the Memorial Hall in Winchmore Hill that prompted the villagers into wanting a hall of their own. From the diary notes kept by Alice Timms in November 1923 we have an entry which shows how the matter was progressing.
“There is a movement on foot to set up a Village Hall in Penn Street and Lord Howe has most kindly offered us a site for this purpose on the edge of the wood adjoining the green. The hall will thus be available for use as a cricket pavilion in the summer as well as a clubroom and place for entertainments and meetings in the winter. Steps are being taken to obtain an Army Hut and we hope shortly to come to some definite decision and lay the proposal before a general meeting”.
Alice was meticulous with the detail in her record keeping and the description of the proposed site would suggest a different location to the one we now have. The ordnance maps of the time show that the plot of land now occupied by the hall and Two Gates was in fact within the curtilage of Forge House.
We know from her records that the villagers needed to raise the necessary funds:
February 1924: “A wonderful entertainment organised entirely by children was given in the Penn Street School. On December 28th and 29th the performers were O & K Stevens, V & F Smith, M & C Hearne, A & E Hatt and G Nieles and Miss G Hearne played the piano. There were seven little plays given besides recitations, pianoforte duets and solos and dances. There was a crowded audience on the first night and quite a good one on the second and the result enriched the funds for the Village Hall by no less than £7. Great praise is due to the enterprise of our young friends and their promising abilities lead us to expect great things from them when the Village Hall is actually built”.
The fundraising continued and on the 26th June 1926 a Village Fete was held at Penn House. The programme lists country dancing, recitations and sport amongst the afternoon’s activities with dancing on the lawn to the Crotchets Jazz Band.
We have no record as to when the hall was built but in January 1929 a deed was completed for the site. The conveyance between The Right Honourable Richard George Penn Earl Howe, Guardian Assurance Company Limited, Reverend Ernest Montague Davies and Alfred Hearne released and extinguished the land from mortgage and was to be held in Trust in perpetuity under the name of Penn Street Village Hall.
The hall burnt down on the 30th July 1948. During WW2 the hall had played an important role in entertaining the troops with concerts and dances.
And so for the second time funds needed to be sourced for a replacement hall. In 1953 after obtaining planning consent the villagers acquired an ex MOD hut at a cost of £4000 which Lady Curzon opened on the 24th October. In 1955 a small kitchen extension was added and in 1982 a further extension was built to provide improved toilets and showers for the cricket club.
The main hall was constructed from asbestos panels supported by hollow pillars and beams made from plywood. Over the years the glues used in the plywood supports had started to degrade and the box beams supporting the flat roof became structurally unsound. During heavy rains in April 2000 a large section of roof collapsed.
Props had to be used to support the remaining structure and Brian Bate from the cricket club who ran his own scaffolding firm kindly encased the hall with scaffold to support a temporary roof. The Committee considered the possibility of repair but decided because of the poor quality of the building it would be prudent to start all over again. Another cricket club member, Colin Parry, an Architect, was asked to draw up plans along with costings, and planning approval was eventually obtained in 2003. The estimated rebuilding cost was £263,000 – way beyond the pockets of the villagers so the Committee applied for a grant from the Lottery Fund and registered the village hall with the Charities Commission. Meanwhile maintenance and insurance premium costs for the old building continued to eat into the funds that the Committee already had so an application was made for consent to demolish the building. Chiltern District Council refused consent on the grounds that by doing so it would leave a gap in the “street scene” which would not enhance the conservation area and also that funding for the rebuild should first be secured. The Committee immediately lodged an appeal with the Secretary of State and seven months later approval was granted to demolish.
As the hall contained asbestos demolition required a specialist contractor at a cost of £5,570 plus VAT. Penn Parish kindly donated £5,000 towards the funds required. There was a further set back to the project when the Committee learned that the architect, Colin Parry, had died.
In February 2004 the Committee received notification that the Lottery application was not successful. It was decided to ditch the proposed new build and look at cheaper options. John Arnold of Forge House had suggested a more traditional style of building be sourced and came up with the designs offered by English Heritage Buildings who were then approached. Their estimated cost for a suitable oak timber framed hall was around £103,000 exclusive of groundworks/foundations and internal fitting out. Estimates received for these works put the total rebuild at around £190,000.
A second application was made to the Lottery Fund and also to DEFRA, BIFFA and other sources. These included Penn Parish Council, Bucks CC, Chiltern DC, Awards for All, Microsoft, Foundation for Sport and Arts, and Penn Street Cricket Club. Villagers also pledged monies and various events were held to boost funds.
A second planning application was made for the new design and once funding had been secured the work started in spring 2007 and was completed in April 2008.
The Hall was officially opened on the 7th June 2008 by the Earl Howe followed by a day of celebrations.
The Village Hall Trustees at the time of opening.
The Earl Howe, David White, The Reverend William Mason
The Village Hall Committee at the time of opening.
Simon Hennell (Chairperson), Charles Huff (Treasurer), Phil Cross (Secretary), Mike Seller (Buildings) Sue Taylor (Project Planning/Funding), Rhiannon Lawrence (Events/Funding), Carolyn Bourne (Lettings)