A gift from heaven! Generous benefactor leaves £700,000 in his will for village to build new community hall
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
For the people of this small, secluded village deep in the heart of Norfolk, it must have seemed like all their Christmases had come at once.
For 60 years the people of Thompson, near Watton, have toiled to raise the funds for a new village hall to hold their children's birthday parties, social clubs and community activities.
Its previous village hall had become outdated and unfit for purpose - but like most tiny rural hamlets, trying to cobble together the money needed for an entirely new building was an uphill struggle.
So when news came through that long-term Thompson resident Derek Jessup was leaving his full estate worth £700,000 to the village it felt - in the words of neighbours - like 'somebody was smiling on us'.
Bronwen Tyler, chairman of the trustees of the new community hall, said: 'The old village hall was not fit for purpose.
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'There was no land so we couldn't expand it. You couldn't even have a decent party because you didn't have the room.
'Members of our group have been trying to build a village hall in Thompson for 60 years. We were fundraising and looking for possible funds from the Lottery.
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'Then we got the news we would be left an entire estate of a former resident. It felt like somebody was smiling on us.'
There was no indication of why Mr Jessup decided to make the generous posthumous donation.
However Mrs Tyler said of the village: 'People have always regarded it as special.
'It's attractive, we have wonderful footpaths and quite a lot of circular walks.
'We have a wonderful medieval church which is rare and unique, so many people come for that - not because they're religious but because it's historic.'
However she said one of Thompson's most distinguishing features is its 'community heart', adding: 'People look after each other. It's already got that strength of community feeling.'
Residents set up a survey to ask people their views on how best to use the windfall, with a brand new building created next to the village's Millennium Green.
'We wanted something that was in the centre of the village and took advantage of the beautiful view across the village green,' Mrs Tyler said.
'It is a perfect focal point.'
As well as up-to-date kitchen and toilet facilities, there plenty of rooms for meetings and activities, with the trustees already taking many enquiries for birthday parties and even dog classes.
It is already open for use but a commnity event officially unveiling the building is due to take place on Saturday, April 7.