Big Lottery award will help save Warham’s historic reading room
Archant © 2014
A Victorian treasure at the heart of a north Norfolk village is set to be revived after a £16,800 grant was secured to pay for its restoration.
Warham Village Reading Room was donated to the community near Wells in the 19th century, but it is in urgent need of substantial refurbishment if it is to remain suitable for 21st-century use.
Now it is hoped the grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme will save the building from the threat of demolition, and allow an increased range of activities to be carried out there.
Despite its dilapidated state, a couple of village groups do still meet at the reading room, although general community usage has fallen sharply in recent years due to the poor condition of the building.
The money will enable the development of plans to refurbish and save the old building. Once restored and extended, a host of new activities are planned alongside the jumble sales, harvest festival suppers and tea parties which already take place.
Sue Lane from the Warham Reading Room Project said: “We are so pleased that all the work that our team has put in has paid off, and we have received this development grant from the Big Lottery Fund. Restoring Warham Reading Room will really revive our community.”
From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, reading rooms offered an alternative to the public house and became an important part of village life – although they tended to appeal most to the lower middle classes and membership was usually restricted to males.
In rural Norfolk there were about 160 reading rooms, but their numbers gradually declined as other recreations appeared.
The Warham Village Reading Room was among several projects in the East of England benefiting from a share of £1,448,117 from the Reaching Communities fund.
Big Lottery Fund spokesman Alison Rowe said: “It is very rewarding to be able to provide Lottery good cause funding to projects across the region which are already making a difference to help them to continue their good work.
“These grants will go a long way towards improving the lives of hundreds of people and their communities. Some will become empowered to take control of their lives; others will gain the opportunity to meet old and new friends in a community space ending their loneliness and isolation.”