Belstone Village Hall Chairman’s Report May 2022

I hope you will indulge me a little as I reminisce and take you back 40 or so years to the 1980s. I have been looking through the archives at the Village Hall minutes from those halcyon days – or maybe not!

On the 7th December 1981 at the Village Hall AGM, (yes the AGM was held in December in those days), a young 32 year old Robin Hill was co-opted to the Village Hall committee. Interestingly, representatives from Village organisations at that meeting included PCC Edwina Hill, Parish Council Mr D. Williams, Chapel William Pike, WI Lorna Shepherd (Chris Walpole’s Mum), Commoners Michael Ash and Cricket Club Peter Hammond.

On 26th April 1982 the minutes report that a very large electricity bill had been received and Mr Wilson (Treasurer) thought that hiring charges must inevitably be increased. This became an ongoing agenda item.

14th May 1982: A letter from the secretary of the WI had been received, complaining that the hall was very often left untidy and that members of the WI had had to sweep it before their meetings. Mrs Woodward suggested that the letter be put on the notice board asking hall users to make sure the place was left tidy.

In the minutes from 15th April 1987, Mrs Dyer drew attention to the sterling voluntary work undertaken by Mrs Martin and Miss Munden in cleaning the hall. This gives me a great opportunity to thank two very important people in the life of the Village Hall today – Eva Briggs (cleaner) and Edwina Hill (manager) – for their dedication towards keeping this hall spick and span and as well used as it is now.

23rd August 1982: the treasurer reported Current Account £170, Deposit £134. I feel sure that our current Treasurer, Sharon Cooper, would love those to be the figures for the past year. Thanks, to Sharon, for her assiduous accounting and making sure that we got grants from West Devon over the last two years.

21st February 1983: Mr Dyer spoke of two parties held in the hall, one before Christmas, another in the New Year, at which damage had been done. Mrs Martin proposed that a deposit be charged on lettings of unknown or dubious functions and that the rent be paid before the date of the party.

Needing grant money to help the hall keep in good shape is not a new thing.

20 June 1983: The Fire Officer had visited the hall . . .  it appeared that there would have to be several modifications . . .  Mr Dyer to write to West Devon asking for a grant of £1000

25th June 1984: Fire Regulations – Mr Dyer read the latest communication on this thorny subject from West Devon, stating that we are not entitled to any grant at all unless the 1p rate is agreed to by the Parish Council. Following a meeting of the PC at which there was a certain amount of dissent, it had been decided to hold a Parish Meeting. Following the public meeting 12 July a letter had been received from Mr Williams confirming the result of the meeting, at which it was agreed that the 1p rate should be raised for the year 1985/86. And the Hall had now received a cheque for £418.

Moving on to 2020s – no such trouble getting a grant, so a big thank you at this point to both Sharon Cooper and Jane Taylor for their dedication in the last two years making sure that we not only got grant money from West Devon but also from other sources. This has been invaluable in enabling us to continue to upgrade our facilities, particularly the excellent new disabled access and lighting.

Once again looking at the minutes for 15th April 1985 I notice a reference to a sub-committee for the Gymkhana. This was the forerunner of the Summer Fair and was held every year at Cleave House. The sub-committee that year was made up of Mrs Dyer, Mrs Coles, Mrs Hill, Mr Hill, Mrs Martin, Miss Munden and Mr White.

This brings me neatly on to the Village Fair and the Craft Fair. Sadly, the last two years of the Pandemic has meant that we have not been able to hold either of these two wonderful village events that we hope to bring back this year. This year the Village Fair sub-committee comprises Sharon Cooper, Kelly Gilbert and Edwina Hill. Please can we all rally round and give them support in what is proving to be a very busy year in Belstone with not only the Beating the Bounds but also the Jubilee Celebrations.  

As these major events had not been held for two years in September, we held a small celebration called ‘A Bit of a Do’ – part social get-together, part mini garden show. In the spirit of cooperation between the Village Hall and the Parish Council I invited members of the Council to attend. This turned out to be well supported and I was delighted that several Councillors took up my invitation and came along. The afternoon was enjoyed by all who took part.

I believe that it is vital that village organisations work together for the good of the community and when asked by the Parish Council to contribute money towards improving the car park we were very happy to oblige. Recently Jon Pike, as a Parish Councillor, provided a reference for the Village Hall along with Dillys Lord from West Devon. This was so that we could apply to the Postcode Local Trust for a grant for a new heating system, up-to-date loft insulation and a new hearing loop. I am delighted to say that we were successful. Particular thanks are due to Jane Taylor for all her work on this application.

Throughout the 80s there are several references to the Hundred Club which I believe was started by Mickey Dyer and is still going strong. A big thank you to Rona Gundry for running this for the last few years. It must, over the last forty years, have provided an excellent source of revenue for the Village Hall.

Staying in the present – thanks also to Chris Townshend for mending the fence to keep out the sheep and doing a splendid job layering the rather scruffy hedge at the front of the hall. It has certainly opened it up and improved the outlook.

One other, much valued, activity in the hall is the Thursday Community Café and this, like the Village Fair and the Craft Fair, involves more than just the committee so a huge thank you to the team who provide cakes and cheese scones and give up their time to serve them. Plus, thanks as ever to Chris Walpole for his dedication in putting the chairs and tables out each week. The café is a wonderful way of supporting the community, which also helps the Hall funds.

Back to the 80s . . . there were also several references to leaks in the roof, the floor in the committee room and the state of the toilets. This was long before the alterations at the front of the hall where the toilets are now situated and the major alterations at the back, including the kitchen, that we are all so grateful for.

One other aspect of the minutes I particularly noticed was that they rarely took up more than one side of A4.  Halcyon days? Maybe, maybe not! Thanks so much to Sally Fullwood for all her hard work as secretary this year. Sadly, the minutes tend to be rather longer these days and the meetings can go on a bit!  

What is clear is that many people have over the years played a great part in preserving this hall for future generations. I give a big thank you to all of them, but we need to look to the future. Sometimes the path is a little bumpy along the way, but I would like to thank the present committee, in their entirety, for their dedication and commitment over the last twelve months.

Robin Hill 10.05.2022