A County Durham village hall that was destroyed by fire has been replaced by a modern state-of-the-art building.
St John’s Hall in Meadowfield was devastated by a blaze in March 2014. The recent opening of an entirely rebuilt hall on the same site has been a cause of celebration for the villagers, many of whom have worked tirelessly to resurrect their community centre.
The £670,000 project was made possible by a number of grants, including one from the Mid Durham Area Action Partnership.
The dated wooden building that went up in flames has been swapped for a spacious facility boasting a large hall, a fully equipped kitchen and meeting rooms.
The new hall is also dementia friendly, with colourful floors and yellow signposts. There are even plans for a sensory garden.
The rebuilding project has been led by the St John’s Hall Meadowfield Committee, which is a registered charity. The charity’s trustees organised a fun day on Saturday 20th July to celebrate the village hall’s reopening.
Among those present was Cllr Katie Corrigan, the Mayor of Durham and Chairman of Durham County Council. Cllr Corrigan officially reopened the hall by cutting a ribbon before being taken on a tour of the new building.
Also in attendance were staff from the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service who fought the blaze back in 2014.
Cllr Corrigan said, “It was a great honour to officially open the new St John’s Hall. It’s a wonderful building that will provide a place for people of all ages to socialise, attend fitness classes and club meetings for years to come.”
“I am especially pleased the building is dementia friendly, as it is vital we do everything that we can to ensure important community hubs like these are accessible to all.”
The original St John’s Hall was built in 1911. After long years of service to the community, however, the building became run down. The hall had to be closed in 2012 after the heating system was condemned. A water leak in 2013 caused significant damage.
The hall’s problems led to the founding of the St John’s Hall Meadowfield Committee, which began a fundraising campaign to renovate the building. When the fire broke out, funds of £25,000 had been secured and the campaign had made it to the final round of a grant application for £50,000 to repair the roof.
Referring to the fire, Lesley Baxter from the committee said, “It was a major setback. The fundraising efforts had been going really well so when the fire happened it felt like we were back to square one. Giving up was never an option though.”
The committee were given a boost by a £325,000 insurance pay-out, but with the cost of rebuilding estimated at £500,000 and other expenses to consider, more cash was required.
Local community groups and businesses came to the rescue. Contributions from Mid Durham AAP, the Small Grants Fund, local county councillors and the Brandon and Byshottles Parish Council meant that the rebuilding could take place.
Leslie continued, “We are so grateful for the support we received from councillors, the AAP, and businesses and organisations in the area. We couldn’t have done this without them.”
“I would also like to say a big thank you to the people of Brandon and Meadowfield. Just three months after the fire someone arranged a charity night and we raised £1,000. A fundraising group was set up and many more events have been held over the years.”
“To date, more than £26,000 has been raised by the community – it has really brought people together.”
The Mid Durham Area Action Partnership Coordinator, Derek Snaith, said, “This is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when people and organisations work together.”
“Lesley and the committee have done an amazing job at bringing this project to fruition and we are proud to have been a part of it.”