The Build Blog

For pictures of the build please go to our “Looking back in time” page!

May 2017 – Build Complete, Hall Open!

Monday 1st May was the day of our Grand Opening and Celebration Event, sponsored by The Big Lottery and hosted by the Village Hall trustees. Click the above link for more details and a gallery of pictures!

April 2017

What a difference a 18 months makes – at last our building work is complete and we have our Village Hall back!

We are just running through our final snagging lists with the builder and our first users have moved back into the Cherry Hall (the new name for what was the Main Hall).

It’s not over yet however, as we still have a large loan to repay to the Charity Bank.  We are hoping for some more Section 106 money in due course and will continue to apply for grants for specific items but we will also continue to fund raise for the foreseeable future to cover any shortfall (at the moment about £100K before grants).  Therefore please continue to support us with your donations, pledges and don’t forget our great events!

March 2017


The Cherry Hall work continues on apace.  The interior is almost complete with some minor snagging to be done.

Outside, the roof is finished and the new steps and porch are in place.  Work has begun on resurfacing the car park.


The Trustees are planning a public celebration event for Monday 1st May to say thank you to the village for all their help in getting this huge project to completion.  Highlights will include The Bagg’s Tree Buskers, Harwell Young Singers, Irish Dancers and much more with entertainments for children and refreshments for all.  Groups who use the halls have been invited to have a stand or display leaflets to show the huge variety of what’s on offer.


The recent film Bridget Jones’s Baby film event was a huge success and raised £577 and we were awarded £1000 from the Tesco “Bag for Life” scheme to go towards trees and plants for our landscaped areas – thank you for voting for us!

The grants team continue to work hard and are applying for grants to cover theatre equipment and new curtains among other items.

January 2017

In December our much talked-about retractable seating was installed and it looks fabulous!

The money for the seating came from a very generous grant from Biffa, the waste management company, who award funds to qualifying community improvement and environmental projects.

We can now seat 129 people for a film, theatre event or concert and tested them out in January with our first film of the year – Sicario – with great feedback.

For a video of the seating in action go to

We are now progressing further grants to buy stage furniture and lighting.

Phase 2 – Cherry Hall

Work continues on track in Cherry Hall.  The work on the roof will finish in February and inside the plastering is finished and decoration work begun.

We expect the renovation work will be completed in the spring.

December 2016 – Phase 2 Cherry Hall

Phase 2 works have begun and we would like to announce that the old hall will be renamed “Cherry Hall” on completion, with the whole complex retaining the name of “Harwell Village Hall”.  The booking system will reflect this change and we are already taking enquiries for bookings for Cherry Hall.

We expect that the renovation of Cherry Hall will be completed in the spring.

Parking and Access

All users should use the new Westfield car park
(OX11 0LG) while building works on the Cherry Hall and High Street car park continue. The footpath from the High Street to Westfield is still accessible for pedestrian access.


The film evening in November, The Lady in the Van, was very well
supported but sadly disrupted by sound problems. We have since then sorted that out and the new tiered seating has now also been
installed.  Thanks to everyone for your patience and support.

Our Orchard Film Club has launched so please contact Alison on or 221052 if you would like to be on the mailing list.

£350,000 loan activated

Please continue to support us; we now need your help going forward to repay our bank loan. We are extremely grateful for all donations and do please gift aid them if you can.  Contact Keith Beswick on or Clare Wagner on for more information.

Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November

We’ve had another wedding in the Orchard Hall and the Craft Group have held their very successful annual Christmas Fair – the hall looked fabulous for both events and the attendees were very pleased with the venue.

23rd October 2016

It happened!  The Orchard Hall was handed over on Friday, and was “christened” with a big wedding on Saturday 22nd October.  The
couple were delighted with how the day went, and many guests said how great a venue it is.

The Old Hall is now handed over to the builders, and we will now be fretting about how long that will take, and when we might have two halls.  But for now, all our classes and events will be in the new,
Orchard Hall.

Our regular users will now be getting used to our new key-less
security!  Entry is by code and each club has their own code which only works during the time slot they have booked.  If anybody has any problems, please contact the Bookings Secretary on 01235 835 430 or Keith Beswick on 01235 835338.

We have an Open Afternoon next Sunday 30th October from 2-4pm, so do come and have a look around.

Finally, a thank you to all our users for all your patience over the last few months.  Now you can begin to see the benefits.

October 2016 – The Orchard Hall is ready!

Phase One of the £1.3 million pound contract to rebuild and
renovate Harwell Village Hall is complete. The new Orchard Hall will be open to visitors on Sunday October 30th from 2pm – 4pm.  Richard Potter of RPA Architects, the halls architect, will be present and the Trustees will be
delighted to show you round. It has taken a year to get to this stage but we hope you will approve of the new facilities.

The new Westfield Car Park (sat nav: OX11 0LG) is open for use from Friday 7th October.

Phase Two will see the existing Village Hall receive a full renovation and makeover during the next few months.

September 2016 – Phase 1 is nearly complete –

It has been a longer road than we expected but now that the final hurdle of getting a new electricity meter installed (involving the
coordination of half of the south of England and with help from our MP to move it forward!) is complete, we now expect handover of the New Hall to happen in mid-October, following commissioning of the services in the new building.

We will have a small opening ceremony at that time so please look out for the posters and come along and see our fabulous New Hall!

When open, users of the New Hall can access the new car park to the rear from Westfield (OX11 0LG).

We expect that the final renovation phase of the Old Hall will now be completed early in the New Year.  If you have questions or concerns, please contact Keith Beswick on 01235 835338 or

Fundraising We will now begin to draw down on the loan secured from the Charity Bank so fundraising continues to be a prime focus for the Trustees.  Our Grants team are still hard at work identifying new funds to apply for.

The delay to the opening of the New Hall has meant we have had to postpone our planned film event so keep an eye out for the posters announcing a new date.  The Oxford Fiddlers are visiting us again on 16th October, come along for a fabulous evening of song and dance!

The New 100 Club is now up and running – monthly draw results will be posted on the Village Hall website.

Following news of a generous donation from the Harwell Feast fund, our new total still to find is now:


Please continue to support us – we are extremely grateful for all
donations – please gift aid them if you can – and we also accept pledges (to be called in if we cannot raise the money in time through grants, etc.).

With sadness It is with great sadness that we commemorate the life of Trevor Packer, neighbour and former treasurer of Harwell Village Hall.  Trevor was a keen supporter of the Freeman Hall and the
Winterbrook Youth Club for many years.  He will be missed.

August 2016 – Opening of New Hall delayed

We are sorry to report that the proposed Open Afternoon scheduled for 20th August has been POSTPONED following unforeseen delays in the completion of Phase 1.  The Trustees and our Architect, Richard Potter of RPA Architects, are closely monitoring the situation and challenging the builders to move the project forward as soon as possible.

We will let you know as soon as we have a more definite idea of when the open Afternoon can be rescheduled but it is looking like
sometime in September.

July 2016 – Phase 1 – End in Sight!

The latest estimate for the handover of the new extension and car-park is now mid-August.  We will hold a simple opening ceremony and open afternoon on Saturday 20 August, for villagers and users to come and see the New Hall, entrance foyer, kitchen and toilets.  We will re-confirm the date nearer the time.

At that time, we will lose access to the Old Hall and its car park while they undergo renovation: new roof, double glazed windows, doors, new heating and lighting systems, the car park will be resurfaced and landscaped.  Users of the New Hall can access the new car park to the rear from Westfield.  The defibrillator will be moved near to the New Hall entrance.

Loan Success!  We are very happy to report that, after lengthy
negotiations and lots of hard work, we have been approved a loan from the Charity Bank which will enable us to complete the
renovation phase of the project.  Well done to Clare Wagner and Keith Beswick for this fabulous achievement!

Fundraising  The loan is a temporary solution which will need to be repaid, so we will continue to hold events and apply for grants, even after the building project has completed.

Please continue to support us in any way you can.  We are extremely grateful for all donations – please gift aid them if you can – and we also accept pledges (to be called in if we cannot raise the money in time through grants, etc.).  Please contact Keith Beswick or Clare Wagner for more information.

Grants  Congratulations to our hard-working grants team!  They have secured a grant from BIFFA for £41,000 to pay for the
retractable seating in the New Hall, which will be installed sometime in December!

Our new total still to find is now:


NB We will continue to report our shortfall as a fundraising target to keep us focused, even though the loan is now in place.

Contact information:

  • Keith Beswick for general queries about the project, letters of
    support, business contacts, etc. on 01235 835338 or
  • Clare Wagner for donations, SO mandate, etc. on 01235 835425 or

May 2016 – Moving closer to the end of Phase 1

We are now far enough into the project to release an estimate for the completion and handover of the New Hall.  At present we are looking at “no earlier than  mid-to-late July” for our transition into the New Hall and the start of the refurbishment of the Old Hall.

Changes to this estimate will be notified here and in Harwell News. We aim to minimise disruption by moving during the holidays.

We have had more good news this month from our grants team and the amount we still need to raise has dropped by another £10,000.   It now stands at:


Please continue to support us in any way you can by donating or pledging and amount or supporting us at our events.

April 2016 – changing the way we report fundraising

As you know, about £1m has been raised to date.  We now have
detailed information on retractable seating for the new hall and this has been added to our target for funds (it was originally excluded from the main contract as it is specialist equipment).

To focus all of us on our new goal, we will now report the shortfall in our funds, rather than the total raised!

The amount of money still to raise is:


A huge well done to our grants team who have secured another £10,000, this time from TOE2 – the Trust for Oxfordshire’s
Environment! Great news!

Please continue to support us in any way you can.  If you would prefer to make a PLEDGE rather than a donation (i.e. we only call in the pledge if we cannot raise the money in time through grants, etc.) please contact Keith Beswick ( or Clare
Wagner ( for more information.

March 2016 – on schedule but some

Work is continuing to progress well and the windows for the new hall are due to be installed soon.

The path on the south side of the hall needs to be dug up to
accommodate new water, gas, electric and sewage services. The Fun Club storage shed must be moved and the exit by the committee room blocked.  Also, the adjacent storage room used by Fun Club and the Wood Turners must be emptied to enable construction of the new toilets for the new hall.

We will need to accommodate as much of their equipment in the hall as we can so please bear with us during this disruption.  We have managed very well so far with your support and we are well on the way to our new hall being opened.  If you have concerns, please
contact Keith Beswick on 01235 835338 or

January 2016 – planning the fixtures and
fittings; funding news

The Trustees have been working hard on planning the new kitchen to ensure plumbing and electrical requirements are met and that
suitable cabling is laid for sound, lighting and projection equipment.

Many thanks go in particular to Kath Luker for her tireless efforts to plan and spec out the kitchen and ensure it meets the health and safety standards.

To give you an idea of the huge effort put in by our grants team, here are some figures: they have reviewed 70+ trusts and funding bodies, applied for 35 suitable grants and identified a further 22, so far  they have had 8 grants successfully awarded totalling a fabulous £130,610 in promised funds. What an amazing effort!

December 2015 – the shell of the New Hall is up!

The steel shell of the new hall is now up and visible from the High Street.  The mild weather has meant work has progressed apace and we are ahead of schedule – that could change if we have severe weather in the New Year but it’s good to have some time in the plan.

It has been noted that there is a lot of mud on Westfield Road and this is being regularly cleared by the builders – they may put some scalpings down on the verges to  reduce this but please rest assured that the grass will be reinstated at the end of the build.

The Christmas Raffle has been drawn and the full results are on the home page but well done to our top three prize winners, Ruth Slatter (£50 Bob’s Butchers voucher), Vicky MacArthur (£40 Hart of Harwell voucher) and Lois Farren (Luxury Christmas Cake)!

November 2015 – the Freeman Hall is down!

The following is from our Harwell News entry.

Since the October update, great progress has made at the Village Hall Build Site.  A fence has been erected all around the build area and the stage is now boarded off inside the hall. The asbestos from the
Freeman Hall was safely removed and, on 16th November, the
Freeman Hall was finally demolished. The site for the new hall is being lowered by about 3 feet to bring the new hall in line with the original one and the footings will be dug in the next week (from 23rd

Unfortunately, the cooker in the original hall has expired and will not be replaced until the new kitchen is installed, but we have added a 6.5L (11pint) slow cooker and there is also a microwave oven and warming cupboard for those who need them. The Trustees apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Fundraising to November 2015 – we have raised over £1m!

Our grants and fundraising teams are continuing to work hard and we now have confirmation of the release of the £96,000 of S106 money from the Blenheim Hill Development. We also have new
confirmed grants totalling £11,500, further generous gift-aided
donations from Harwell residents and £430 raised from our latest film event, Mr Holmes. Thank you to all who came.

Our new total from events, donations (received and promised), gift aid, grants, and S106 money (including refunded VAT) to:


We still have more to raise to reach our target and have more grants to apply for and several things in the pipeline but we still need your help so please keep giving!

October 2015 – Day 1: Monday 19th October 2015

Chairman, Keith Beswick  and Treasurer, Clare Wagner, of the Trustees met the new Site Foreman, the Architect and the Electrician on site to discuss the coming works.

Fencing is due to be delivered tomorrow, Tuesday 20th October, and the site will be set up to include the car park in Westfields, the courts and Freeman Hall and its toilet block.  Once fencing is in place there will be absolutely no access to the building site area – all requests or queries must come through the Architects via Keith Beswick (01235 835338), so please contact Keith if you have any concerns.

There will be construction sign going up at the front of the High Street car park.

A partition is being put up in front of the stage in the Main Hall on Tuesday 27th October and there will be no access to the stage after that.  The screen is still accessible for the Film Evening on 30th

Please note that the Main Hall is still in operation and can be booked in the usual way.

Thank you to all those who have helped to clear the Freeman Hall, committee room and stage area in preparation for this time,
especially to Martin Ricketts who spent many days dismantling
furniture and taking things to the dump and lost an electric saw to thieves in the process!

There will be a time-lapse camera covering the new building site along with the normal security measures which we hope will put off any future vandals.

The contracts are signed!  Work will begin on 19th October 2015.

It was an historic day for the Trustees of Harwell Village Hall on
Friday 11th September 2015 when Chairman, Keith Beswick and
Secretary, Martin Ricketts, alongside David Marsh for the Harwell Parish Council signed the contracts for the Village Hall
Redevelopment Project with Graham Fennell of Fennell Blake & Co. Ltd, the builders who will be carrying out the work.

IMG_0716   IMG_0719IMG_0721

“The project has enjoyed huge support from the Village and we would not be here today without teamwork and everyone pulling together. I would particularly like to thank Harwell Parish Council for their help with Section 106 and minimising the VAT impact of the project” said Keith Beswick, Chairman of the Trustees.  “The next few months will be very exciting with visible progress being made on site.”

“The aim is to keep the hall operational throughout and we will be
keeping all users updated on progress. Look here, on our website and in the Harwell News too.  We haven’t finished fundraising, so our events will continue and we have more grants in the pipeline. We still need your support so please keep giving.”

It’s Happening!

We, the Trustees are delighted to announce that after careful
consideration of the quotations tendered we have decided
unanimously to go ahead and award the contract to our preferred builder and start the works programme.  Our architect, Richard
Potter of RPA Architects Ltd, will Project Manage the build and will ensure that the terms of our contract are met safely, on time and within budget.

Works will begin in September with the pre-build phase of
demolishing the unsafe Freeman Hall.  Phase 1, building the new
extension and link area, will follow.  Phase 2, refurbishing the main hall, is scheduled to take place in the summer of 2016 to minimise
disruption to users.  By then, the new hall will be available to
accommodate our July/August users.

We anticipate that overall the works should take about 12 months to complete.

Important: If you have items or equipment stored in the stage area or committee room, these areas must be cleared before we can
commence the Phase 1 works.  Please contact Keith Beswick (details
below) to arrange to remove these items from the hall.

We are also pleased to announce that the Village Hall will hold its AGM on Wednesday 2nd September at 7.30pm in the Village Hall – everyone is welcome.

Choir Concert a Huge Success!

Many, many thanks to all those who contributed to the Raise the Rafters concert on 11th July which was a terrific village event and which raised over £1,000 for the Village Hall Redevelopment Project. What an uplifting event!  Thank you to all who bought tickets, our
performers, the Didcot Community Gospel Choir, Harwell Young Singers and the Baggs Tree Buskers and to all those organisers who worked so hard to bring it about.

Take a look in our Gallery for some great pictures from the evening.

July Newsflash!!

Did you see the write-up in the local newspapers last week?…/13348912.Singers_strike_right…/

We got some excellent exposure for our Project and Fundraising
Targets thanks to Liz Roberts of the Didcot Community Gospel Choir who organised a photo-shoot for three of the trustees at the Village Hall and had a “call to action” piece published in the local Didcot newspapers (Oxford Times, Didcot herald, etc.) asking for help to raise the remaining funds to get our project off the ground and into bricks and mortar!

Please show your support on Saturday 11th July (click link to find out more about this great event) and help Didcot Community Gospel Choir, Harwell Young Singers, The Bagg’s Tree Buskers, the Scouts (bar, with rumours of Pimms) and the church (venue for picnic and concert) push up our Harwell Village Hall fundraising total!

Tickets are on sale at Bob’s Family Butchers or call 834295 for
delivery over the coming weekend!

June 2015

Many thanks to all of you who came to our stand at the Harwell Feast on Bank Holiday Monday – we had some great discussions and
helpful input for our “what events would you like to see” board.

We had some more excellent news in time for the Feast with £96,000 awarded to us from our application for Section 106 funding from the Blenheim Hill development and confirmation of another £25,000 from a grant we had applied for!  We also have of a promise of a £225,000 gift-aided donation from an extremely generous individual who has requested to remain anonymous and to whom we send very heartfelt thanks.

And since the Feast, following a meeting with the Parish Council we have heard that we will be able to save £74,000 of our costs through a VAT rebate of the spend of Section 106 funding for our build.  This is fantastic news and thanks to the diligent efforts of our Chairman, Keith Beswick and Treasurer, Clare Wagner.  We would also like to say a big thank you to Harwell Parish Council and their Chairman, David Marsh, for all his support, particularly over the Section 106 monies.

This takes our total from events, donations (received and promised), gift aid, grants, and S106 money to:


So we now have access to almost £1million! Our target is £1,245,000 – a huge amount – but we are so close to achieving it. With further applications in the pipeline, we hope for more good news soon.

Please help us to raise the remaining funds!

To donate, just contact our Treasurer, Clare Wagner on 01235 835425 or email her at or, you can visit our “How to Donate” page on this website to download a gift aid form.

We, the Trustees of the Hall, are so grateful for the support we have received so far, and we hope you will feel moved to make further donations.  Join with us and “Be Part of It!”

May 2015

NEWSFLASH: We have just had excellent news from WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental Limited) regarding our application for a grant for the Village Hall Redevelopment Project. We have been awarded the absolute maximum amount they have available:


This takes our total from events, donations, gift aid, grants, and
Section 106 money from the Alder View Development to:


Thanks to Sue Greatbanks, Clare Wagner and everyone who helped with the grant applications. We have more in the pipeline so watch this space!

April 2015

In April, our Chairman, Keith Beswick and Treasurer, Clare Wagner met with the Richard Potter (of RPA Architects Ltd), our architect and Andrew Snowdon, the quantity surveyor. After reviewing a number of possibilities, four builders were identified (with a potential two more) and the
Committee will be asking for quotations in May.

If all goes according to plan we hope to be able to award a contract to the chosen builder in the summer.

Going forward the key next steps we will be following are:
• Demolition of the Freeman Hall
• Ground work
• Isolating the old Hall prior to beginning the new build*
• Building the new hall, entrance foyer and facilities.
• Fundraising for new furniture, etc.
• Moving to the new Hall
• Renovating the old hall

*This step is a critical enabler to ensure we can continue to run the existing Hall and host clubs, events and parties while the Extension is being built with minimum disruption.

Thank you for your patience. The average time to organise this kind of work is 10 years so please continue to support the hall. The trustees hope this project will give the village a first class social hub that
integrates with the RBL Club and Church Hall.

A venue for all in Harwell, Oxfordshire