History of Village Hall and Playing Field

The Village Hall in Chapel Lane, just off the Main Street, was originally a Methodist Chapel. It was purchased by Mrs and Colonel Thompson, The White House, Charney Bassett and given to the Parish Council on 10th February 1956.

Village Hall and Playing Field

Village Hall Committee
Village Hall Committee
Village Hall
Mrs Browning in the picture is Violet, Laura Browning’s niece, and the mother of Derek and Brian Browning.

Newspaper cuttings on Purchase and Gifting of the Village Hall

A kitchen and toilets were installed and the hall served village needs for many years.

Some thirty years after acquisition some villagers and user organisations thought consideration ought to be given to the provision of a new hall. Significant grants seemed to be readily available for new community buildings linked to the Government’s Youth Training Scheme.

In 1987, the Parish Council arranged a public meeting to consider this issue and subsequently appointed a sub-committee to undertake a feasibility study into the provision of new or improved Village Hall facilities.

The Parish Council had already taken steps to register the existing hall as a Charity and this process was completed in June 1988. The Hall was now managed by Trustees with the Parish Council acting as Custodian Trustee. The Parish Council sub-committee was renamed Village Hall sub-committee. 

There was a further public meeting in late November 1988 when it was clear not all villagers would be favour of building a new facility.  It was agreed that a referendum would be held should a proposal for a new build be forthcoming.

The sub-committee presented their report at a public meeting in November 1989.  The possibility of an extension to the existing hall had been ruled out due to planning requirements. The feasibility study identified the possibility of building a new hall with parking facilities on land in Buckland Road. Guidance had been provided by the Oxfordshire Rural Community Service and the County and District Councils and specialist advice obtained from various sources. The total capital cost of the proposal was estimated at £172,000 including a 10% contingency. A series of generous grants had been promised and if these were forthcoming the village itself would need to raise £10000 towards the overall cost. The annual revenue costs were estimated at £1000 to £1500.

A referendum was held later that month, under the auspices of the District Council. The proposal was lost by 62 votes to 55. Many pondered why the proposal had not found favour. Perhaps it was the fear a new, larger hall would bring with it unnecessary change or a need to rely on greater external use in order to cover revenue costs. Others wondered whether the campaigning role undertaken by a minority of those who were against the provision of a new hall had placed doubts in the minds of those who were largely neutral.

A democratic decision had been taken and that no further action was taken.

However, in the early nineties it became clear the village was in danger of losing the use of the village playing field at the rear of the old school in New Road. (The school had been previously been sold to a private investor with the proceeds being held by the newly formed Charney and Lyford Trust).

After the school had closed the playing field had been leased from the owners, Oxfordshire County Council, at a peppercorn rent. When the lease came up for renewal the County Council would only agree to a one year agreement. It was thought they had in mind to sell the land for building.

The then Chairman of the Parish Council pondered on the possibility of buying back the Old School which together with the purchase of the field could provide improved and permanent facilities for the village. However, this was not possible.

In 2000, with continuing uncertainty about the future of the playing field the Parish Council negotiated the purchase of the present day playing field largely paid for by a grant of ‘landfill tax’ money provided by the Trust for Oxfordshire Environment.

Two years later the responsibility for the field was transferred to the Village Hall Trustees and the Charity Commission registration was amended to Charney Hall & Field Trust (CHAFT).

The Trustees were now concerned that the hall was showing its age. In early 2005, they began to investigate what could be done to improve the existing hall.

The project started out with high hopes and grand plans. These included underfloor heating, a new wooden floor, a ground source heat pump and possibly photovoltaic cells on the roof. The Anderson Orr Partnership were taken on as architects and by April 2006 plans were drawn up. All that was needed was the money.

The Big Lottery Fund had a Community Buildings Programme running. It was estimated that an additional £45,500 could be raised from local fundraising and local grants. Based on an initial costing of the project, an application was made to the Community Buildings Programme for £142,275.

By April 2007, there was every indication the Lottery application could be successful but in June it was turned down because the programme had become overloaded with applications and sufficient funds were not available.

The next two years involved applications to a wide range of charities and other organisations that provide grants. Help in searching for funding, together with advice on applications was provided by ORCC (Oxfordshire Rural Community Council).

By the beginning of 2009 total grants of £ approximately £79000 had been promised and local fundraising events had increased the hall’s bank balance to £16000.

It was recognized that there would be insufficient funds to go ahead with the original project as originally planned and so, despite having already obtained planning permission and building regulation approval, the specification was re-examined and a new application for planning permission was made in December 2008. By April 2009, planning permission had been granted. The estimated cost for the building work was £99,000 plus VAT. The funds available to spend stood at £85,000.

An appeal was made to the community for loans to provide another £20,000 which would be paid back through further fundraising in future years. The result of the appeal was more than could be hoped. Donations with gift aid totalled almost £20,000 with offers of further loans if needed.

Appeal Notice

As a result, builders were asked to tender for the work and a lowest tender of £86,093.60 plus VAT was received from E.C.Hughes & Son and accepted. Andrew Alder Associates carried out the tendering process and was retained as CDM Co-ordinator, for the preparation of Building Regulation alterations and for on-site supervision of the building work.  The project started in September 2009.

Originally, the completion date was the end of January 2010 but with the worst winter for 30 years, it was not surprising that this slipped back. It continued to slip month by month for a variety of reasons but finally, at the end of June, the hall was back in use.

The final cost of the project from beginning to end, including architects fees, planning costs, structural engineering, CDM regulations, building inspectors fees, independent project supervision and purchase of materials for work carried out by volunteers was approximately £120,000 and this provided an insulated hall with nearly 40% more floor space, a new kitchen, lobby and toilets with disabled access and facilities, an internal storeroom as well as two external storage sheds and a patio area.

In total, CHAFT had received donations of £20,447.32 from 2006-2010 that were eligible for Gift Aid. This allowed a total of £5,767.19 to be claimed from HMRC towards the project. Of these donations, £17,765 plus £5,010.64 associated gift aid came directly from the Gildersleeves Charney Challenge.

The modernised and extended hall was officially re-opened on Thursday 9th September 2010.

 The Playing Field

As stated earlier, In 2000, with continuing uncertainty about the future of the existing playing field behind the old school, the Parish Council negotiated the purchase of the present day playing field largely paid for by a grant of ‘landfill tax’ money provided by the Trust for Oxfordshire Environment.

Two years later the responsibility for the field was transferred to the Village Hall Trustees and the Charity Commission registration was amended to Charney Hall & Field Trust (CHAFT).

The Charney & Lyford Education Trust (CLET) formed after the sale of the school, provided a grant to help purchase the equipment for the children’s play area.

The District Council planted hedging, shrubs and a small wood of oak, ash, hazel, maple and dogwood. In 2008, villagers donated £1000 worth of trees and shrubs to extend the planting. With a few exceptions and despite droughts, these are now well established.

Goal posts, a basketball net, a willow arbour and nest boxes were added. The venue was used for an annual bonfire and fireworks evening for many years. Charney Rangers played in the Junior Football League for two seasons.

The field has been regularly used by a range of people; footballers, young families, dog walkers and occasional keep fit activities.

More recently it has been used to host the village feast and other social activities.

In 2015 the structure for the swings was found to be unsafe and was replaced.

Once again the village rose to the challenge. The use of financial reserves, supplemented by fundraising and donations and a grant of £9000 from the Vale of White Hall District Council enabled the installation of enhanced play equipment at a total cost of approximately £26000, thereby ensuring this important village facility continues to give enjoyment to all those who use it.

An official opening of the new play facilities was held on 5th November 2016.

Over the years these village facilities have been purchased developed and maintained by a host of unsung heroes and the generosity of so many. A study of Parish Council and CHAFT minutes reveals all!

To all those involved then and now ……the village owes a big thank you.

Last updated –DS/November, 2016