History of the Village Hall- HOW IT ALL HAPPENED

The William Burt Centre, Setch and West Winch Village Hall, was officially opened Saturday 4th May 1974 at 3pm by Osbert Lancaster, C.B.E. Here are some extracts from the souvenir brochure published at the time.

HOW IT ALL HAPPENED……

Before 1922 West Winch had no centre except the Church and Public Houses at which the people could meet. At times of celebration an event was usually held in a farm barn, and after 1900 the Church School was also used. The Victory Dinner of 1919 was held in the barn at White House Farm, off Common Close. In 1916 however a working committee was formed with the object of raising funds, so that the village could have a centre for entertainment. This was achieved on September 6th 1922, when the Hall, known as the Institute was formally opened, by the late C.R.Leake.

For the next 25 years the Hall was used mainly as an organised club and most village events were inspired by the village institute. However from the 1950s onwards as the ‘Institute’ idea became defunct, other local organisations started to use the Hall to a greater extent. One of the organisations viz. the West Winch Players under the inspired leadership of the late J.A Sandover had various ideas for extending the Institute Hall as it was too small for their Pantomime Production. By 1966 a fund raising committee was formed from the old institute committee and in December 1966 they started fund raising with a Tombola event. From then onward fund raising was a continual battle. Many types of events were tried, with various degrees of success. With nearly £1,000 raised by October 1968, Alex Sandover produced his first design, which was a two storey building and estimated to cost £10,000. This design was too revolutionary for the N.E.C and was allowed to lapse until 1970 when a new design was submitted for grant aid. That application of August 1970 asked for a 50% grant on £10,560, but this time the County Planning Department refused to give planning permission because on the advice of the Norfolk Association of Architects they considered the design low on the aesthetics and funtional aspects. By August 1971 it was clear that deadlock had been reached, so with inflation pushing up building costs at an alarming rate, Alex Sandover now a very sick man, and well into his seventies, made an appointment to see the appropriate planning officer at County Hall Norwich: on August 9th 1971 with the Village Hall Chairman, Harry Fuller he made a journey which finally resulted in the design of the village hall being settled. By August 18th another plan had been drawn up and submitted to County Hall, but it was the end of October before the Planning Department finally sent a drawing showing the hall as it is today, with the exception of a small clock turret which was considered to be an extra attraction feature. A specification was drawn up and tenders sent out to various firms for estimates. By now it was April 1972 and the prices, being received showed that more money would be needed. So an appeal was made to the Department of Education and Science for an increase in grant aid, also at the same time the people of West Winch and Setch were asked to lend money on a no interest basis as about another £2,000 would be required.

Eric Sider & Co. were awarded the main contract, with Bussens & Parkin having the heating side, but it was the 8th June 1972 by the time we heard that all the conditions for grant aid had been fulfilled and we were being offered a revised grant of £7,594 towards an estimated expenditure of £15,189.

A model of the Hall was produced for the 1972 Gala Day so that all who attended could make comment on the design. At that time the country was in the middle of a brick shortage and this was going to mean a six months delay before building the Hall could commence and as the Department of Education and Science had given 18 months for the project to be finished, this could have been disastrous.

With the death in October 1972 of Alex Sandover, we lost a man who had not spared himself in trying to produce a new Village Hall for West Winch and Setch. His passing left us with the problem of trying to find somebody who would supervise the contractors in the day-to -day building of the Hall. A Civil Engineer, Mr M Rowlands volunteered his services.

At last, in January 1973, work commenced, and continued until the contractors moved out in November 1973. With the last-minute rush to paint and clear up, the Hall opened for it’s first public function on 31st December 1973.