Private owners revive the fortune of old village hall
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