In 1913, a group of philanthropic landowners from Harwell Village bought and donated a piece of land in a prime, central location in the village High Street to provide a space to build a much needed Village Hall. It took several years to raise funds, but in 1927 work commenced and we believe the present building opened for use in 1931. Since then the building has been continuously used for local clubs, meetings and events and to this day, continues to be a focal point of the village.
In 1971 the Freeman Hall was added as a temporary solution for the local youth group and to replace their wooden hut. It outlasted its original expected lifespan by many years but sadly had to close in 2010, has been condemned for safety reasons and will soon be
A recent, rigorous survey of the Main Hall revealed that the basic structure was sound but the roof needs felting, insulating and the tiles re-hanging, the windows are at the end of their life and the heating and electrical services need modernising.
In 2010 the Village Hall Committee of Trustees began to explore options both to refurbish and extend the Hall or move to a new site and build a new facility. Extensive surveys done of current and future usage of the Main Hall and any Freeman Hall replacement clearly defined the requirements for the Village. A move to the nearby Recreation Ground to combine with a proposed Sports Development was rejected after investigation, risk analysis and consultation with the village and a decision was made to remain on the existing site.
Several Architects, both local and national bid for the work to define what a refurbished and extended Hall could look like.
RPA Architects Ltd were chosen for producing the best design, combined with realistic cost proposals. A preferred design was agreed upon, plans were submitted to the local planning authority in late 2012 and consent given in January 2013. The plans have had several amendments since then, all of which are now approved, including enlarging the link-café area to provide better facilities and space for a Heritage Centre.
Detailed costs for the refurbishment of the Main Hall and construction of a new extension have been calculated and updated and the headline number to be raised is about £1.3 million, to include preliminaries, measured works, provisional sums, professional fees and, following a ruling by HMRC, VAT, to be charged on the whole project.
The plans provide a high quality new Hall with a larger capacity to accommodate the needs of the expanding Village and tiered, retractable seating to create a theatre-like feel and expand the repertoire of offering to the users. The original Hall is to be retained and will have a moveable dividing wall* to provide two smaller Halls. A Committee room will be created in what is now the kitchen. The Harwell Parish Council will have an office. There will be a new kitchen and toilets, a café and Heritage Display area, as well as new and improved car parking and landscaping of the site.
*2016 Update: the moveable wall will be added at a later date once additional funds have been raised.
Detailed internal plans were agreed by the Trustees and were submitted for Building Regulations. Positive outcomes of several grant applications and a successful bid for more Section 106 monies from housing developments in the village meant the go ahead to put the building work out to tender was given in the summer of 2015. On 11th September 2015 the contract was signed with builder Graham Fennell of Fennel Blake & Co. Ltd. and on 19th October the building work began.
Phase 1, building the new Orchard Hall, was completed at the end of October 2016 and Phase 2, refurbishment of the newly renamed Cherry Hall began immediately after that. The project is due to complete before the end of April 2017 and the trustees will hold a Grand Opening and Celebration Event on 1st May 2017.