Campaign to save Stokesby community centre gets underway

Stokesby community centre which is in need of major repairs and overhaul.
Campaigners outside the centre which they hope to raise £35,0000 for.

Picture: James Bass Stokesby community centre which is in need of major repairs and overhaul. Campaigners outside the centre which they hope to raise £35,0000 for. Picture: James Bass

Friday, August 15, 2014
8:00 AM

For more than 130 years it has stood at the heart of the village, providing an educational and sociable hub.

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Stokesby village school pictured soon after it opened in 1875. Picture: suppliedStokesby village school pictured soon after it opened in 1875. Picture: supplied

But the decades have taken their toll on Stokesby’s historic community centre and villagers have now banded together to ensure it can stand for another 130 years.

They have launched a campaign to raise £35,000 to repair its wooden floor and original roof, which has not been replaced since the 1800s, and overhaul the kitchen. The money will also be used to refurbish the centre, which has suffered water damage due to its leaky roof.

Volunteer fundraiser Janis Austin said the building was well-used and well-loved and villagers were keen to maintain its original features.

“It’s open as a social club every Friday night, we have things like stretch and tone in there, it’s used by the young farmers and it’s a meeting place for the parish council. Stokesby is a really sociable and active village and so we do a lot in there,” she added.

History of Stokesby’s community hub

■ Stokesby village school was built in 1875 at a cost of £600 to accommodate 85 scholars. A house was added for the schoolmaster in 1881

■ For many years the infant class was taught in a gallery above the main hall, an inspection reported dated 1923 remarked that this was very cramped.

■ A new classroom was added in 1896 to increase capacity to 100

■ The school also acted as the parish meeting room until the first village hall was built after the First World War. It was also the venue for inquests.

■ As the number of children in the village gradually decline, the school was finally closed in 1978 with just 15 pupils on the roll. Thanks to residents’ efforts the school was saved and bought from the county council to be used as a community centre

■ The centre is now used by several groups and for a variety of events, including regular quiz nights and fundraisers. It also hosts the village social club on a Friday night.

“It hasn’t changed a great deal. It’s still got the bell tower on the roof and that’s one of the things that also has to be rebuilt and replaced. We want to maintain the history. We could have sold it as a residential development and then built a new village hall, if we had gone down that route it probably would have been easier to raise a lot more money. But we discussed the possibility and everybody said no, it’s the heart of the village and the heritage and we want to keep it.”

Residents have already managed to secure £10,000 from the Big Lottery Awards For All scheme, £5,000 from the Foyle Foundation and £4,000 from the Geoffrey Watling charity. And they have raised £7,000 themselves through fetes, table top sales, music nights and other fundraisers.

Their total so far gives them enough to start repairing the roof. But Ms Austin said more work is needed inside.

She said: “We’re continuing to fundraise for the interior because we’ve had water running down the walls, £25,000 is the minimum for the roof and we won’t know exactly how much it’s going to cost until they take it off and reveal the damage underneath.

“There’s always hidden extras.”

Events are now in the pipeline to boost the total including the Broads Music Festival being held on Filby playing field on August 23 from 2-11pm.

■ Anyone who would like to make a donation, or has a fundraising suggestion, should call Ms Austin on 01493 750333.

Do you have a story about saving a historic building? Email newdesk@archant.co.uk.

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