THE community of Sandleheath has celebrated the completion and opening of its village hall which saw some £200,000 raised to transform the former church building.

A formal opening ceremony was held on Friday July 23 with representatives from Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council, Sandleheath Parish Council, and a variety of organisations that have contributed to the project in attendance.

The new village hall is housed in the former church mission building of St Aldhelm’s. In late 2018, the trustees of a small, local charity took out a 25-year lease on the St Aldhelm’s church building in the village.

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The structure was redundant and dilapidated, but the village hall trustees were determined to transform it into a contemporary village hall.

Thanks to many generous grants and contributions, some £200,000 has been raised to make the refurbishment plan possible.That sum includes £11,000 generously donated by members of the Sandleheath community as well as grants from a number of organisations, trusts and foundations.

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The Sandleheath Village Hall Refurbishment Programme has received grants from a number of organisations, trusts and foundations, and from the Government Village Hall Improvement Grant, the New Forest District Council, the Hampshire County Council’s Rural Communities Fund and County Councillor’s Grant, and The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation.

Other grants have been obtained from: The Veolia Foundation, The TH Russell Trust, The Bernard Sunley Foundation, The Garfield Weston Foundation and The National Lottery Grants for Good.

In a speech during the ceremony on Friday, the chairman of the board of trustees of the hall, Keith Bennett said it was a “landmark” event for the village and added: “It is the remarkable outcome of a successful two year fundraising and development project.”

The work has been carried out in phases. Work has been done to renovate the kitchen/toilet block, re-lay and insulate the roof, and refurbish the exterior and interior of the main hall, install new double-glazed windows and a new electrical system.

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“Throughout the works programme our goal was to create a stylish, modern community amenity whilst carrying out those works in a sympathetic manner to preserve the arts and craft design of this much-loved landmark. I hope you will agree that we have achieved our goal,” added Keith.

“The creation of a brand new village hall in the New Forest and Hampshire is a considerable event and cause for great celebration.”

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Sandleheath was once a busy brickmaking community, and St Aldhelm’s was built from Sandleheath bricks’. The foundation stone was laid in 1907 by Lady Katherine Hulse, widow of the 5th Baronet Hulse of Breamore House, whose family donated the land.

The building was officially opened in its new role by Michael Hulse, Lady Katherine’s great-great-grandson who lives and works in Breamore House.

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The plaque is located on the wall above the foundation stone laid by his forbear.

Before unveiling the commemorative plaque, he said that it was “good that now there is a new use and the building can benefit the community still”.

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He also applauded the trustees and all those that have supported the project for “creating a magnificent village hall”, which he hoped “will thrive for years to come”.

The vice-chairman of New Forest District Council, Councillor Alan O’Sullivan, also praised the “impressive” efforts of the village for raising the funds for the “fantastic project”.

And Hampshire County Councillor Edward Heron, who is also a the leader of the district council, said it was “fantastic to see it done”.

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The trustees are already busy fundraising for audio visual equipment for the hall.


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