A brief history of the Manor Hall
The Manor Hall was originally built in 1868 by the “Lords of the Manor”, Sir John Henry Greville Smythe and Charles Edward Athole Colston, as a school for children living in the parish of Westerleigh. It is now a Grade 2 listed building.
In 1975 the Local Education Authority built a new “Manor School” for local pupils as the old school no longer met the needs of the growing community. (This school was destroyed by a fire in 1996 and replaced by the third Manor School, opened in 1999.)
In 1977 the original school building was purchased from the LEA by Westerleigh Parish Council to be used for the benefit of the community and also to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Between 1996 and 1999, while the new school was being rebuilt, the Manor Hall was then leased back to the Education Department and the use of it was temporarily lost to the community. When it was returned after the replacement school was opened, the building was found to be in a very poor state with a leaking roof contributing to the damage. The Parish Council – after much debate! – agreed to pay approximately £78,000 to repair the roof to prevent further disintegration while the future of the building was decided.
In 2000 public consultations were undertaken to debate the various options for the building and the majority opinion was that it should be kept for the use of the community and managed by a Trust set up to preserve it for future generations. Luckily there were enough keen volunteers in the village to make this happen!
Over the next couple of years an enormous amount of work was undertaken by these volunteers and other members of the public, while various User Groups committed to using the Hall and offering their services to the community at large.
The founder members of the Trust gained additional support from the community in 2002 to stage events to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in June that year. Funds from these events were used to redecorate the main “Jubilee Room” – the first major redecoration since it was bought by the Parish Council 25 years earlier during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Year!
At this time the Trust also successfully applied for charitable status which allows applications for grants from various agencies to aid with the necessary ongoing refurbishments. The aim of the Trust was to fully restore and refurbish this well-loved building, to be truly at the heart of our community.
In 2013 the Manor Hall management were successful in receiving a SITA Grant for the refurbishment of the Hall; in July and August the majority of the work was completed and you can see the results of this today.
In October 2016 the Manor Hall Trust was converted to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation which made it simpler to enter into contracts with suppliers, as well as giving the trustees more protection from liabilities. The trustees have carried on with the task of maintaining and improving the facilities, including the complete renovation of the old redbrick classroom – now a very useful self-contained unit. The fees paid for the room hires are used to fund the ongoing upkeep, helped by support from Westerleigh Parish Council.