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History of our hall

Background

Wilbrahams’ Memorial Hall is one of more than ten thousand village halls in the UK. Like many, ours is at the heart of the community. Sixty percent of village halls provide the only meeting place in their village, and over 50,000 people rely on village halls to make their living, in addition to all those who volunteer. The first village halls, in the 15th and 16th Century were really open market halls below with a meeting room above. Our farmers’ markets hark back to a very old tradition.

Our hall was part of the golden age of village hall building just after WW1. The devastating conflict in Europe (17 of the 86 combatants from the Wilbrahams died) and the Spanish Flu pandemic, left a country in tatters, with half the workforce lacking full time employment. Squire R S Hicks of Wilbraham Temple donated the land for the village hall, in memory of those who had been lost, and to help his fellow returned soldiers. The construction of the hall provided employment, and returning servicemen had somewhere to socialise. Further facilities date from 1949 when fields in the centre of the village were gifted to the Trustees of Great Wilbraham War Memorial Hall by R S Hicks Esq. of Wilbraham Temple and a Recreation Ground was created.  The primitive toilet and changing facilities were extended in 1978 to create a larger (temporary) Hall and Social Club.  An annex was built in 1984 to house Sports Changing Facilities, Tractor Store and a Games Room. 

New Hall

 

By the millennium, the 1950's & 70's accommodation was not able to meet the needs of the expanding villages - they were inflexible and hard to heat.  The hall was classified as ‘very poor’ in terms of ‘Qualitative Provision’ and ‘Accessibility’ in the Community Facilities Assessment by South Cambridgeshire District Council.  A concentrated fund raising campaign to rebuild the Memorial Hall was launched, but it took til 2013 to make headway. 

The Trustees worked with Building Surveyor, Alan Lamb from Lode, a local expert in designing and supporting Sports & Community Halls. Together they developed a plan for a New Hall, which involved demolishing the 1970’s metal roofed hall and brick toilet block. The two storey  sports building was refurbished with a new stair and balcony. The ground floor tractor store was converted into a new Sports & Social Club Bar / Function Room with independent toilets. The New Hall Building was built adjacent to this and contains a large hall (12 x 12m), a meeting room (48m2), both served by a servery kitchen. There is storage for chairs and equipment, toilets and a new entrance from the car park. The two buildings sit comfortably on the edge of the Recreation Ground with a covered walkway and patio area from which to watch the cricket and football. A new timber-clad groundsman’s store was be erected near the children’s play area. Planning permission was granted in March 2013 and completion was in Spring 2016.  Marcus Jaggard of Teversham was the Main Contractor.

The total project cost was £442,000 and was met from hard won funds built up over many years of fundraising, together with grants from the following bodies and generous  individual donations from local residents.

Richards final numbers.jpg

1921-2021 Centenary

Over the last hundred years, the hall has met social and educational needs, and provided a meeting space for the WI, the Parish Councils, Community Choir, craft clubs, exercise and dance classes, coffee mornings, and many other groups. The fabulous annual flower show is ever a centre of genteelly cut-throat competition(!) and delicious cakes and tea. In wartime it was the haunt of jiving GIs from Bottisham airfield, and in peacetime it provided a meeting place for Covid volunteers to organise themselves at the start of the first lockdown. From the very young in Mums and Toddlers groups, to some of our most long-lived villagers, it is a welcoming space for everyone. It is now a modern space with technology available that was not even dreamt of when it was first built. Following closure during the Covid Pandemic of 2022-2021 , we are determined more than ever to keep up this tradition and build on it. Long may it continue! (Ruth Sinclair, Trustee)

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