Winsham cartoon village map showing the church, primary school, jubilee hall and community shop with fields, cows and sheep. Created by Bethany Fowler as the header banner for the Winsham Web Museum.
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Jubilee Hall Renovations

Orginally published Jul 2021
Last updated Jul 2021

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What Needed to be Done

The renovation of the Jubilee Hall was to prove to be the largest project undertaken by the Winsham community for many years. The need came upon the parish suddenly, and needed  a rapid response. The nature of the problems emerged when Rod Well, helped by Keith Portsmore, both Chartered Surveyors, produced a structural survey of the 117 year old hall, at a request of the Jubilee Hall Management Committee in 2004. The committee had become concerned about the steadily increasing number of maintenance tasks needed to keep thee hall in good working order, and the worrying situation relating to the rotting of the floorboards in parts of the main hall.

In summary, the Survey report confirmed the worst fears of the committee. It went as far to express the opinion that the hall would be forced to close within eighteen months or so, due to its unsafe main floor, unless urgent steps were taken to correct the problems. It also highlighted  other problems that would need attention to bring the building up to a good standard, thereby preserving it for future generations.

A list of other 'must do' items needing attention also emerged from the report. These included seeking a solution to the serious damp problem in the area of the men's toilet. There was also a long list of 'should do' items.

In the event, while many of the problem areas were dealt with at the time of the major renovation that was to follow, it would take a further ten years to complete all the necessary work, which would include replacement of all the windows in the Hall.

In order to prioritise the essential work it was necessary to estimate the cost the work. The basis for this can be seen from a February 2005 document considered by the JHMC.

Faced with the prospect of an estimated £100,000 of expenditure, and with financial reserves of  only £5000, the serious challenge of raising the necessary money lay ahead. If this was to be achieved, the local community needed to be informed of the problem and their views sought.

Rod Wells, FRICS, assessing the extent of rot to timbers supporting the 118 year old floor
Remains of one of the floor timbers

The Public Meeting

Before the Public Meeting could be called, it was essential to be able to put together the basic facts of the situation, including an idea of costs involved (estimated at £100,000), the means of raising the necessary money, and a 'route map' for action, with a timetable, that would need to be taken should the Public Meeting approve of the idea of refurbishment.

The early draft of the timetable that was prepared to meet this requirement can be viewed above. It does give an idea of the pressure that was placed on the JHMC, something that it was not really used to! It was necessary to assume approval of plans at the Public Meeting, while recognising that failure to get approval might well lead to the closing of the Hall, probably on a permanent basis, something that the JHMC refused to contemplate.

The Public Meeting was then arranged for the 5th May 2005, and this was promoted by poster and by a parish wide leaflet drop, and in the Parish Magazine. The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Colin Slade, Chairman of the Winsham Parish Council. Supporting speakers were John Sullivan, Chairman of the Jubilee Hall Management Committee, Rod Wells FRICS, joint author of the Structural Survey, and Sarah Gleadell, a professional fund raiser, and Hon. Secretary of the JHMC.

It started with a short introduction to the problem facing the village by Colin Slade. It was then followed by a more detailed explanation by John Sullivan and Rod Wells of what work needed to be done, why it needed to be done, the approximate cost and the means of fund raising that were available to the JHMC. Sarah Gleadell explained that grants from various sources were essential to the success of the project, as was the need to raise money from the community. Grants were unlikely to be obtained unless it could be proved that the community had made a substantial effort to raise money from within the parish.

After a short break for refreshment, the members of the audience were invited to ask questions or express points of view. The possibility of establishing a new hall in another part of the village, alongside the commercial development of the hall into residential accommodation was discussed at some length. In the end it was discounted on the basis of cost. A new hall would cost about £500,000 to build and equip.

By the end of the meeting, there was a general consensus in favour of the JHMC proceeding on the basis that they would aim to refurbish the hall to as good as standard as could be afforded, from fund raising.

The Way Ahead

Once the public meeting agreed that the JHMC should seek to proceed with the rejuvenation of the Jubilee, there followed a period of intense activity. It was agreed that the approach to fund-raising would be multi-pronged. Obtaining grants from the Local Authorities would be essential, and these would need to be supplemented by grants, hopefully, from other organisations who were known to provide money for projects such as the Jubilee Hall. However to qualify for such funds, most insisted on either a 50/50 funding deal or at least a sound indication that substantial amounts of money had been provided by the community. Part of this would be the ability to demonstrate that the Winsham Parish Council considered the project sufficiently worthwhile to support with money from the precept.

However, before the grant providers could be approached we had to establish exactly what work would be done, and how much it would cost, and how the project would be managed. Meanwhile it was agreed that raising money from the community could be proceeded with, and the Parish Council should be approached for a substantial donation, which would paid for through the precept. It was decided, in view of concerns as to what further problems might be uncovered as work progressed,  that the renovation project would be managed 'in-house', using local tradesmen, rather than offer a 'turn-key' project to one building contractor. It was felt that this would give more control and perhaps save money. Rod Wells offered to undertake this management task.

After a long session with the Parish Council, they agreed to donate £15,000, to be raised initially from the Public Sector Loans Board, and repaid over a number of years. This was a considerable amount of money for a small/medium sized village, but it successfully 'kick-started' the fund raising efforts. This was followed by a blizzard of appeals to the people of the village, and something like £15,000 was raised from fund raising events and appeals over an eighteen month period.

Meanwhile the serious task of establishing what needed to be done progressed under the supervision of Rod Wells, without whose help the project would not have been nearly as successful as it eventually proved to be. It was eventually to cost some £112,000 for the immediate project. This included the main hall floor, all the 'must-do' elements as well as many of the 'should-do' items as well. The project did run out of money in its last week, but the people who were still working donated their wages so that the work could be completed.

At the end of the ten years that followed, this figure increased to about £137,000, which included the replacement of all the external windows, a lot of work on the hall's boundary walls (with, in all likelihood, more to come), more damp proofing, and some important work on the roof. A wonderful example of a community working together for mutual benefit.

How the Money was Raised

Although the bulk of the money was raised through grants, local fund raising was essential to qualify for them. This was done through fund raising efforts by the community and substantial support of the Winsham Parish Council.

It was clear that we would need large funders if the money was to be found. The Big Lottery was considered, but the 'golden age' when they had funded a lot of building of new village halls had passed, so it was quickly rejected as a possible donor. If it was to be done we would need help from Somerset County Council and South Somerset District Council. We were advised that we could make applications to each for £30,000. This would provide £60,000, which would be a good start. In the event we got £30,000 from SSDC, but nothing from the County Council, who said however that they would have funded it if they had the money-but they hadn't! Still, £30,000 was better than nothing.

Then we had a tip from Eileen Zoers, the Village Hall Director of the Community Council for Somerset who was incredibly supportive of our project, that Defra had £30,000 of European money that we might get, if we were quick. We were quick and we did get it-or at least most of it! So with the £15,000 from the Parish Council we were on the way! At least we could fix the floor and the toilet roof.

In the months that followed a total of £15,000 was raised locally, and a few more grants came in. We even sold the old floorboards, the originals, we believe from 1887, for a ridiculous amount of money. One way and another we scraped through, without having to borrow. About £112,000 was needed by the time the project was completed-just a week before the official re-opening. All the committee members did a wonderful job as did everyone involved, and the end result can now be seen and enjoyed by all.

BUT! A potential major problem was lurking just around the corner!

The Hall had to close for six months while all the work was being done. This was a problem for our regular hirers. Fortunately Thorncombe Village Hall, who had been very supportive in all sorts of ways accommodated the Ki-Aikido Group on a temporary basis. Winsham Art Club, another big user also made alternative temporary arrangements. Unfortunately, the Winsham Play Group moved away to a permanent home within the Winsham School building. This was not a complete surprise and it made good sense; it was Local Authority policy to do this when possible. The problem for the JHMC was that we lost a third of our hire rental income.

The JHMC had given an undertaking to the people of Winsham that it would not put up hire rates, even though the premises had been improved beyond measure, so increased charges were not a solution. But, as so often happens, the solution had very positive results for the Parish. Necessity did prove to be the mother of invention! The weekday mornings were available for more activity as a result of the play Group leaving, and organisations within the village quickly took advantage of this. The JHMC also took the initiative by sponsoring Yoga Lessons and a wide variety of Computer and Digital Photography training courses, which proved to be very popular, at a time when the digital revolution was beginning. The Jubilee Hall was one of the first village halls in Somerset to have Broadband, and in 2019, it had upgraded to high speed broadband.

The PC Users Group was one of several IT based courses that were organised by the JHMC to increase revenue. Low cost courses on practical subjects were very popular. The picture above shows Jan Sullivan explaining how to use eBay.

The Work in Progress

Replacement of floor surface and supporting structure

Failure of the floor support structure after 120 years threatened the future of the Jubilee Hall. Its repair cost approx £35,000. An essential part of the work involved the improvement of the ventilation of the floor void and the damp proofing of the cavity Modern damp proof membranes were also used to further protect the new ‘tanalised’ floor plates and joists. Thermal insulation panels were also incorporated for the first time to retain Hall heating. Marine quality plywood sheets were then laid above the joists and insulation to provide a strong and level surface for the mounting of the high quality oak flooring strips.

Treatment of hall ceiling and repairs to roof of annex

The beautiful vaulted ceiling helps make the Jubilee Hall very special, but it is difficult to maintain. It has suffered many attacks by woodworm over the years, and these if not treated would eventually destroy it. The work carried out has been aimed at correcting both problems. It was carried out in the heat of a very hot summer and while our team were applying chemical dressings, temperatures in the ceiling space reached over 100°F. Access was a difficult problem and a complex system of scaffolding had to be installed, made more difficult by the weak floor upon which it stood.

It was felt that it had sufficient strength to hold the scaffolding, and it was important that the renewal of the floor should be carried towards the end of the project. With care and proper maintenance the floor surface would last many years. 

Extensive work was also carried out to the roof of the rear annex. Many of the timber joists in this area were rotten due to problems with the roof tiling and flashings, caused to some extent by Ivy penetrating the roof void. These had to be repaired or replaced, and lead gulleys and flashings were installed to ensure that there would be no further backing up of rainwater during heavy downpours.

Renewal of electrical and heating system

Although safe, the major part of the electrical wiring system was at least twenty-five years old and coming to the end of its life. The lighting system in the main hall was also old and inadequate by modern standards. Furthermore the hall had no Public Address system and no induction loop to help the hard of hearing. The heating distribution system was likewise elderly, using cast iron piping and cast iron column radiators that were difficult to keep clean. Protruding control knobs also represented a real risk of injury to children playing in the hall. The new lighting system has been designed specifically, at no cost, by the lighting distributor to meet our particular requirements. It provides a highly efficient and flexible system to meet the many different requirements of our hall users. 

The design and installation of the PA and Induction loop system was designed and installed by a business based in the parish, and would be of enormous benefit to many users of the Jubilee Hall. The Hall was also well equipped with power sockets, including some flush mounted in the floor. Additional power points were fitted in the roof space to facilitate the extra lighting associated with drama productions. New lights were also been fitted in the Committee Room. The heating system has been fitted with new copper piping, and the radiators replaced by finned coil heat exchangers, cased within the wainscot for safety and good appearance.

The general fabric of the hall

History of the parish tells us that maintaining the fabric of the hall has been an ongoing problem from the start of the last century. There is, however, no record of such a comprehensive range of work being carried out previously at one time. One of the biggest problem was the renovation of the cast iron guttering and down pipes. Believed to be the original fittings they are made of cast iron, in sizes and styles now impossible to buy. Despite extensive searching we were unable to locate some suitable replacement items at architectural reclamation yards. As a result these parts were either handcrafted to match, or repairs were carried out to the originals. All were stripped of rust and old paint and then prepared and repainted to the highest standard. It was also decided to replace some small windows where the wooden frames were rotten. The frosted glass in the large main windows was also replaced with clear glass, due to the cracks that had appeared. About ten years later it was again necessary to replace this window, with a much higher standard unit.

Another major problem was the ingress of water into the extension at the rear of the hall where the men's toilet is located. This resulted in the restructuring of the roof, and a certain amount of retiling, and the fitting of new lead flashings. Some twelve years later (2019) more work was required to solve this damp problem, which involved  fitting a waterproof membrane to the party wall. At the same time a light tube was fitted to bring natural light into the lobby area used to access the toilets and for storage.

Areas of stone and brickwork were in need of re-pointing. The front face of the Hall had also accumulated a heavy layer of dirt since it was built, and the front and side walls were pressure washed, revealing the attractive chequer board, coursed stone work that had long ago ceased to be visible.

Improvements and modifications to the interior

Following on from the work on the floor and the ceiling, it became apparent that more improvements were needed and could be carried out at minimum cost. Some changes were also forced upon us due to the dilapidated condition of the hall. Sadly, it was necessary to remove the tall cupboard and the hall separator. The fascia of the former went to auction, and the latter has been recycled into the panelled wainscot. The extent of the ‘making good’ after the ceiling, floor, heating and electrical works also necessitated the installation of the wainscot and redecoration using a practical but modern colour scheme. It was also decided to make use of cupboard space on the upper floor to create a ‘Producers’ window and studio, complete with wiring that will facilitate, at a later date the installation of a lighting and sound control panel. This would make drama productions much easier to manage. All the toilet facilities were dramatically improved, with a new floor installed in the toilet for the disabled. In order to comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, portable ramps are now immediately available for those who need them, and  the Hall is now as fully compliant with the legislation as is possible.

The Reopening Event - 13th January 2007

After being closed for six months, the Jubilee Hall was formally reopened by John Loaring, the senior member of the Jubilee Hall Management Committee. Other guests making up the 'platform party' were Eileen Zoers, Village Hall Director of the Community Council of Somerset, and Sylvia Seal, SSDC District Councillor, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture.

Over one hundred people attend the celebration event, filling the hall almost to overflowing. Following the opening ceremony a superb tea was served, donated by Tony and Terry Laws-Spindler, proprietors of The Bell, and Ann Bevis.

John Loaring on stage cutting the tape to reopen the Jubilee Hall
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Photo courtesy of John Sullivan

John Loaring formally reopened the Jubilee Hall. He and his family before him have been involved with the management of the Jubilee Hall for over one hundred years.

Large crowd attending the event
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Photo courtesy of John Sullivan

The hall was packed with over one hundred people attending

Large gathering attending the reopening
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Over one hundred people attended the reopening event

Pastries and cakes in the Jubilee Hall kitchen
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Photo courtesy of John Sullivan

The Bell donated the refreshments for the party

John Sullivan, Eileen Zoers, John Loaring and Sylvia Seal on stage to reopen the hall
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John Sullivan, Eileen Zoers, John Loaring and Sylvia Sealf - the 'platform party'

Groups of people at the event
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Photo courtesy of John Sullivan

The Clergy were there in strength

Groups of people at the event
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Photo courtesy of John Sullivan

The Clergy were there in strength - Rev. Tim Price

Eileen Zoers addressing the crowd
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Eileen Zoers of the CCS was of enormous help by bringing a wealth of experience in raising funds

John Sullivan addressing the crowd
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John Sullivan, Chairman of the Jubilee Hall Management Committee, made sure that everyone was thanked for their efforts

Click to read John Sullivan's "Thank You" speech

Read the text of John Sullivan's speech, which opened the formal part of the reopening celebration below:

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Words cannot express how happy I am to see you all gathered here to-day to celebrate the re-opening of our wonderful Village Hall - and I know I am expressing the feelings of all the Jubilee Hall Management Committee when I say this.

What has been achieved over the last eighteen months is remarkable. One way or another we have raised some £90,000 and almost a third of this was raised within our small community of 750 people. So you-the people of Winsham are the first people who must be thanked. You supported our events, you have also supported our Jubilee Hall Lottery, and you have given money through the precept and by gift.  Above all, Winsham as a whole has demonstrated what a wonderful community we have and how fortunate we are to live here.
I should also give thanks on behalf of us all to the people and organisations that have played an especially significant part in our project.

Lets start with the organisations -The Winsham Parish Council, South Somerset District Council, Defra, Wyvern Environmental Trust, Awards for All, Community Chest, Area West, various Utility Suppliers and Clarks Shoes. These organisations have provided the about two-thirds of the money and we are very grateful for their support. I must say that one of the  gratifying things has been the support and help, without exception, that I received from the staffs of these organisations in preparing Grant Applications. I think that some are here to day, and I thank you. I would also say how impressed ( and sometimes exasperated) with the rigour with which they protect the (usually) public purse!

We would also like to thank the groups within the Parish who took the time and trouble to help raise money. The Ki-Aikido Club, The Art Club, The Parochial Church Council, The Horticultural Society and the impromptu Drama Group who organised the wonderful village concert last spring  and the Street Fair.(Mothers Union/Adventurers), Bethany’s Fundraiser, Mike Richards Street Fair Stall, Nick’s repairs to the piano, Stella ( I must mention - Stella, we have been friends since Jan & I came to the village some thirteen or so years ago-and I cannot tell you how valuable her knowledge of our community has been to the project).

It is also appropriate here to thank the School, the Winsham Sports and Social Club and Thorncombe Village Hall who helped accommodate the groups who were temporarily displaced while the hall was closed. Thorncombe Village Hall has also been very helpful to us in sharing their knowledge and experience and we are very grateful to them for this. It is a fine example of inter-village co-operation.

I would also like to thank David Holmes and Clifford Lee for the generous way in which they have made Leigh House available to us for three Fund raising events over the last eighteen months. And thanks to Dave Woodland who contributed generously and made an even more generous offer, which we did not need to take him up on- I am tempted to add-‘Yet’. I must also thank Paul Smith for his generous donation of the two prefabricated House Martin’s nests. (It’s nice to know that affordable housing is not just limited to Western Way!) I must also thank Terri & Tony for their generosity, and Anne Bevis for supplying and managing the refreshments we will be enjoying in a few minutes time. Nor must I forget Mike Richards, our Village Post Master, (and of course Debbie) who has helped with the Village Show, and of course all the people who contributed to the Winsham Jamboree. Mike is still helping with the sale of tickets for the Jubilee Hall lottery in the Post Office. You will have noticed that he is here to day, and he will be delighted to sell you a few more!

But there are also other people that I should mention. Rod Wells along with Keith Portsmore were the authors of the original Survey report that first drew our attention to the problems with the Hall floor and ceiling, and the whole long list of other problems.  Both are Chartered Surveyors, and they made no charge for this 30-page Professional report that would normally have cost several thousand pounds to produce. Rod then went on to become the Project Manager, and helped by Colin Langridge (and his son, Joe!) Steve Weller, Russ Haggard, Simon Preston, Ken Banks, Simon Hebditch and others too numerous to name, they have brought the project to a successful close.(And what a team they were - the care and quality of their work has been tremendous-as of course many of us who has got them to do work in our own homes will know – but somehow it seemed to go further than that) . And Ken Butler who did the PA & Loop system.(Ad.lib-how nice it is that so many live in the village or  very close)And Charlie Hawker who donated and made our magnificent new Notice Board.( Thank you Charlie-you have really done a super job).(Russ Haggard, by the way, is continuing with the Jubilee Hall as Janitor, and with his now detailed knowledge of the Hall, this is a really valued acquisition).

I would also like to thank Sarah Gleadell, who found time from her very busy life to be Committee Secretary and the driving force behind many of the fund raising events - a lady of indefatigable energy and tremendous experience, and Phil Kershaw, our Treasurer, who often brought us back to earth when we sometimes took off on flights of financial fantasy. And Roger Beer who is Vice Chairman and who among many other things was the impresario who staged the epic Duck Race at Ammerham. Thanks also to the other members of the Committee who have been so supportive - Marjorie Fowler, John Loaring, from whom we will be hearing more later and of course Norman Good, Roger Barrett and Jacqui George who between them have done so much to support the project by contributing ideas, time and behind the scenes organisation. A really wonderful team. Thanks also to Sue & Jeremy Leighton for their efforts on Fund Raising and to Kate Langridge for her help and advice as part of the décor team who have created the wonderful effect we see around us.

I must make special mention of Sandy Wells. The Hall owes so much to Sandy.  She is the Booking Secretary, but over the last few months she has been far more than that .She has climbed ladders, complete with hardhat to take photographs of the most inaccessible spots. She has been Rods ‘right hand’ and general assistant, tearing off all over Somerset to locate bits of down pipe, and many other things beside. She has done so much; it is impossible for me to do her efforts justice. In the last few days she has spent what must have been all her waking hours in getting a hundred and one different details together to ensure that we were ready for this event. She is also responsible for the fine exhibition of photographs we see here to day. I urge you to look at these-they to give a comprehensive view of the work that had to be done, and the sheer volume of the effort required. (Ladies & Gentlemen please join me in showing your appreciation of Sandy’s efforts.)

To all these, and all the people of Winsham, just too numerous to mention, who have played their part, many thanks.

Now to the future.
We now have a thoroughly modern hall. A good floor, modern, state of the art lighting and a  PA system that includes an induction loop for the hard of hearing. We are also to be the first in South Somerset to have a Broadband service in a Village Hall, and through this we hope to be able to offer a public access Broadband facility. More about this in the next two or three weeks. We have also developed the old Kitchen into The New Meeting Room, which will also be a Parish Office.  With its tea & Coffee-making facilities it may well be useful for small meetings and if we can organise it, into an Internet Café.

The good news is that we now have a village hall in which we can take pride.

The bad news is that if we are to maintain the standard that we see to day we will have to adopt a regular maintenance programme, and that will cost money.

More good news is that hire charges will remain the same to our existing and village users. We will seek to achieve the additional revenue by ensuring that the hall is always fully booked.

This will be a considerable challenge. To achieve this the Management Committee will have to become more pro-active in organising events. We may well be sponsoring events ourselves, and we will be looking to stage more drama and music events, and I am pleased to announce that Stella Abbey has joined the Management Committee to oversee this part of our activities.  These events will provide good value entertainment for our community, giving it a richer social life. Importantly they will also earn us money that can help with Hall maintenance and development.  We also hope that our greatly improved Hall and facilities will also attract more wedding parties and other celebrations.

Even with success in this direction, it is inevitable that we will need to promote other fund raising events, and this means a continuation of your financial support. We will be continuing this year with our mid–summer frolic at Leigh House, which is proving to be very popular, even when it rains! David and Clifford have very kindly agreed to this for which we are very grateful, and I hope that you will all come along.

Finally, and very importantly, there is our Annual Lottery, which has been running for years, started by Janet Smart. We have tinkered with it - changed the prize structure so that you can now have a chance to win twenty five pounds as a first prize each month, with second prize of £10 and a third prize of £5 - all for just £10 per year. This is a very practical and low cost way of helping the hall. Tickets are on sale here today, and I hope you will all buy one. And if you have already purchased one from the Post Office, then why not buy another one and double your chances of winning!

So thank you all once again, for your generosity and your support. My apologies if I have gone on a bit!.
It is now my pleasure to introduce you to Eileen Zoers, Director, Village Halls at the Community Council of Somerset.  I first met Eileen one freezing November day in 2004 when Phil Kershaw and I trekked across the Somerset Levels to a Funding Fair in Bridgewater.  Since then she has been an unfailing source of help, encouragement and ideas without which we might not have been here to day. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Eileen Zoers...
Thank you Eileen.

It is now my pleasure to introduce you to Sylvia Seal, SSDC District Councillor and Portfolio holder for Leisure and Culture. Like Eileen, her support has been vital to the successful completion of our project. We are very grateful to her to take time out from her very busy life to share in our celebration to day. Ladies & Gentlemen, Sylvia Seal… 

Thank you Sylvia.

We now come to the part of our celebration for which we have been waiting for nearly eighteen months. John Loaring, who will re-open the Hall in a few moments needs no introduction from me, except to say that John is the representative of a long line of Loarings who have been involved with the management of the Jubilee Hall. 102 years ago, a Loaring was sitting in this very hall making the decision along with other members of the Parish Council to accept the full gift of the Jubilee Hall to the village from the estate of the recently deceased Lord Bridport. Since then the Loarings have been part of the management of the hall, as far as I can see , almost continuously. There can be therefore no more appropriate person to declare the Jubilee Hall re-opened. John come and join us…