IT was a momentous day for residents in Sandleheath who celebrated the completion of the first phase of its refurbishment of the new village hall, which has cost around £59,000.

The hall project has seen the disused St Aldhelm’s Church building undergo renovation works to ensure it was fit for its new role. It now boasts a fully renovated, reconfigured and re-equipped kitchen/toilet block including disabled and baby-changing amenities.

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Sandleheath Village Hall Charitable Incorporated Organisation was set up to lease the building from the church authorities and make the village hall proposal a reality.

A special ceremony was held on Saturday to open the new facility and also reopen the hall.

The chair of the trustees, Keith Bennett, during his speech, said: “The whole project grew from a grain of an idea by Simon Daykin way back, who led us up to the point of signing the lease. Since then the trustees and their small team have worked hard to make the original idea a reality.”

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The second phase of the project is due to start at the beginning of October, which involves repair work to the roof and insulation. It is also hoped that work to the interior body of the hall can be carried out as well, which Mr Bennett said “will follow as soon as funds permit”.

“The cost of phase two will be around £75,000, of which we have already raised £50,000, so we are well on our way,” he added.

Work started on the first phase at the beginning of the year.

It has been made possible thanks to donations from individuals, trusts, foundations and corporate and municipal organisations. The major donors have been New Forest District Council, the TH Russell Trust and the Veolia Environmental Trust.

There have also been grants from The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation, which has allowed us to pay for the equipment needed to reopen the hall under Covid-19 constraints, and to meet the management bills after five months without letting income.

Trustee Mike Richardson said: “Our rural village community is immensely grateful to the many generous donors who have made both our refurbishment and our hall reopening possible.”

Fundraising efforts will be continuing and Mr Richardson added: “Our motto is ‘Let’s Make it Happen’. Well, we’ve started to do that, and we are determined to finish the job.”

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The New Forest District Councillor for Fordingbridge Ann Sevier said: “I am impressed by the hard work of the volunteers and trustees to produce a village hall fit-for-purpose for a village.

“I am very impressed with the new loos.”

Canon Gary Philbrick, of Avon Valley Churches, said: “It is absolutely fantastic that it can be used again for the village because it had been empty for so many years. I wish them every success and congratulations to the committee’s effort that has gone into it.

“It is wonderful it is a real asset to the village. It is a special village and I hope it gets really well used.”

To find out more about the refurbishment project or to donate go to