Pri­vate own­ers re­vive the for­tune of old vil­lage hall

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - By David Gazet dgazet@thek­m­group.co.uk @DavidGazetKM

Re­fur­bish­ments to a much-loved vil­lage hall may soon be com­plete – six years af­ter it was sold to a pri­vate buyer.

East Far­leigh’s Old School Hall was bought by Mandy Howard and Gary Hind­ley in 2011. Their of­fer of £100,000 out­bid the parish coun­cil, spark­ing con­cerns that the build­ing, in a poor state of re­pair, could be lost to the com­mu­nity for­ever.

How­ever, the cou­ple have poured time and money into a painstak­ing ren­o­va­tion which has seen the down­stairs re­fur­bished with new floor­ing, toi- lets and kitchen. They are ren­o­vat­ing the rag­stone ex­te­rior and re­plac­ing the finials – a dec­o­ra­tive or­na­ment – be­fore con­vert­ing the up­per room into an apart­ment they hope to com­plete by Fe­bru­ary.

The hall re­mains open for pub­lic use by sev­eral groups in­clud­ing an an­tique and vin­tage fair.

Mr Hind­ley, 55, said: “I ran Mar­den Me­mo­rial Hall for 20 odd years, so I am very ex­pe­ri­enced in the run­ning of a hall. When we saw the hall come up for sale we thought we had to give it a whirl.”

The hall, which is Grade II listed, sits next to the parish church, founded in 961 AD. It was built with the same Ken­tish rag­stone and high gothic win­dows.

In the 1800s, vil­lage chil­dren were taught in the vestibule. In 1846 the school hall was built by Henry Wil­ber­force, at that time East Far­leigh’s cler­gy­man, but lat­terly a Catholic con­vert, jour­nal­ist, ed­i­tor and news­pa­per pro­pri­etor. He was brother to Wil­liam Wil­ber­force, the abo­li­tion­ist MP who is buried at West­min­ster Abbey. Other mem­bers of the Wil­ber­force fam­ily are buried at the parish church.

In 1866 a se­cond storey was added to ac­com­mo­date the education of boys and girls. It was con­verted to a church hall in 1930 when the new school was built in Vicarage Lane.

Af­ter a fire in the 1950s, the build­ing came briefly back into use as a school and since then has been used by com­mu­nity groups.

Garry Hind­ley and Mandy Howard bought the Old School Hall, East Far­leigh, and be­gan a painstak­ing ren­o­va­tion; the hall is still open and was used for an an­tiques fair two weeks ago

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.