A Brief History of Whitmore & District Village Hall
At the time of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 it seems that events held by other village communities convinced the people of Whitmore and Baldwins Gate that they also needed a village hall. Accordingly various fund raising activities, including an annual garden party on the site, coffee mornings, whist drives and jumble sales took place.
In 1957 an RAF mess hut/assembly hall/cinema was discovered on an airfield in the Needwood Forest close to Burton-on-Trent. It was purchased and taken apart for transport by lorry to Whitmore. The numbered sections were re-assembled for the Hall to be rebuilt on its present site. The Hall was officially opened on 13th of June, 1959.
The people of Whitmore and surrounding areas raised half the money for the Hall and the remaining funds came in grants from Staffordshire County Council and the Ministry of Education. Jessie Evans was very helpful in obtaining these contributions. The cost of the Hall by the time of the opening was £5,478. By July 1959 £6,089 had been spent, leaving a balance of £2,100 yet to be raised. The Chairman reported in 1962 that the outstanding debt had been reduced to just over £300, a fall of £180 over the year since 1961.
The building was improved over the following years and a major extension opened at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in June 1977.
A redundant RAF temporary building of an uncertain age has understandably required a regular programme of maintenance and preservation. In the closing months of the last millenium the then Chairman of the Village Hall Management Committee, Mr Richard Stevens, suggested a review of the facilities and proposed a Capital Development Planning Committee be set up. Mr Stevens retired in 2004 and was replaced by Dr David Jones. The Committee was advised to delay any applications for funding until the Parish Plan, a Parish Council initiative, had been completed. This was published in 2005.
In the October plans were drawn for a complete demolition of the existing Hall and the erection of a brand new building at an estimated cost of £570,000. Application was made to the Big Lottery Fund for £410,000. This was turned down. Then it was decided, with a new architect, Mr Geoff Hillman, to adopt a phased approach to the development of the existing building.
The Kitchen, Annexe, Information Centre and Bar comprised the first phase at a cost of approximately £65,000 for which grants were received of over £41,000. The work was completed shortly before the celebration of the Hall’s 50th Anniversary with a Dinner Dance on the 20th June 2009.
The second phase covered the toilet refurbishment and improved disabled access to the Committee Room. This cost about £29,000, with grants of about £18,000, including £10,000 from the Lottery Awards for All. Completion was in March 2010.
The final phase, at a cost of about £126,000, has provided a new entrance and foyer to the Hall, a disabled toilet, additional storage space and a new Meeting Room. The latter is available for booking for meetings and activities at the same time as the Hall itself is in use. The new extended and improved Hall was officially opened by our Member of Parliament, Mr Bill Cash, and in the presence of His Worship, the Mayor of Newcastle, on the afternoon of the 21st of June, 2013, 60 years after the Queen’s Coronation and 60 years from the decision in Whitmore and District to begin the task of funding and building a Village Hall for our community’s use and enjoyment.
The Management Committee wishes to express its thanks to the Parish Council for ongoing support during the development process, and to the Community Council for Staffordshire and Soapbox for assistance with the submission of applications for funding. Help in funding, without which there would have been no extension, has been very gratefully received from the Staffordshire Environmental Fund, the Bishop Stamer Fund, Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Community Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Newcastle Borough Council, Whitmore Parish Council, Newcastle Rural LAP, Staffordshire Local Community Fund (Councillor Frank Chapman, Mr David Hughes (Whitmore Youth Club), Mr Roy Turner, Mr D Hampton (legacy), and all those residents and friends of the Hall who supported the “Buy a Brick” scheme.
The Committee’s most important thanks and appreciation go to Mr Don Lawton, whose persistence and belief that the necessary funds would eventually be raised, never waivered. We can now look forward to another fifty or so years in the life of the Hall and new generations of users.