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History

Englefield Village Hall

The building of the club began in 1884 and it was opened in January 1885 simply as a Reading Room, in which capacity it proved a failure, and on 16 June 1886 it was opened as a proper club. The Club was intended as a place for the men to go in the evenings to keep them away from the many public houses in Theale.

The Club originally consisted of a single large room with living accommodation for the caretaker attached. In 1892 the porch was added and in 1894 the Billiard Room was built at right angles to the main clubroom, across the school playground.

After its unsuccessful opening as a reading room and conversion to a social club, a range of games and entertainments were provided for the members. Games such as bagatelle, cribbage and darts were available as well as snooker and billiards, and games tournaments against neighbouring villages were frequently played.

In keeping with its original purpose, a lending library was another of the facilities provided for members, accommodated in the billiard room. New books were added each year with about eight or ten pounds being spent annually in the 1890s. Lending was over 1200 books per year. The books remained on their shelves, though unread, into the 1970s.

In 1891 annual dances started to be held on a trial basis and, having been pronounced a success, were continued thereafter. At New Year there was the President’s Dance with free admission for both the members and their lady guests and free food plus the first drink. This was discontinued on the death of James Herbert Benyon and replaced, after World War 2, with an ordinary dance. Whist Drives were also a regular feature up to the 1960s.

In 1930 Mr and Mrs Claydon retired and Mr Cook took over. In the letter offering the job of Sub-Postmaster, the remuneration as Steward of the Club is given as £1 per week, with additional payments as determined by the committee for catering for the various functions. By 1949 the salary had doubled to £104.

Mr Cook retired in 1963 and the following year the Club became a general members’ social club open to all rather than just the preserve of the estate workmen but at the end of 2018, it succumbed to the pressures afflicting so many licensed establishments and closed its doors.

Re-produced by kind permission of Richard Smith

Community Consultation

Following the closure of Englefield Social Club in December 2018, The Englefield Estate was very keen that the building continued to provide a space for community use for people of all ages and for a variety of uses.

During 2019, the Englefield Estate conducted surveys, including an exhibition with concept designs, among residents of the village, as well as businesses and local clubs and groups to find out what kind of activities people would want to see centered on the building.

This feedback showed that, overwhelmingly, people agreed that there was a need for a venue suitable for the whole community.

The Estate then commissioned ATP Architecture to produce concept designs for a renovated and refurbished community venue which would provide suitable, fit-for-purpose facilities and flexible space which reflected the feedback received.

Some of the many comments made are shown below:

  • “I think a multi-purpose venue would be hugely beneficial to the community.“
  • “The village lacks a much-needed multi-purpose meeting space for use by a wide range of residents and local groups.“
  • “There needs to be a shared vision to foster a community atmosphere which draws residents and non-residents, the School and the Church, and is welcoming to all ages.”
  • “The hall should provide a village hub for social events and gatherings. I like the idea of it being run by volunteers.”
  • “The venue should ideally suit “cradle to grave” use, but with the scale of ambition matching the likely demand in what is a small village with lots of other opportunities locally”

Refurbishment

In August 2019, the first of two planning consents were granted, paving the way for work to start on the sensitive but extensive refurbishment and partial demolition of the modern extensions to the Victorian building. A second consent was granted in December of the same year, permitting the construction of a small lobby to the rear to help provide a flexible space.

In November 2019, demolition commenced, followed by the replacement of roof and internal refurbishment. As you will see, great care has been taken to repair, reveal or reinstate period features, whilst ensuring the building is suitable for modern use.

In April 2020, work paused due to the Covid-19 Lockdown with works completed on 10th December 2020.

In summary, the works included:

  • Demolition of later additions to the building and subsequent reinstatement of the original Victorian elevations.
  • Removal and replacement of roof coverings to include installation of high efficiency roof insulation.
  • Installation of internal wall and floor insulation to ensure the building is efficient to heat.
  • New drainage, electrical systems, plumbing and heating services were installed, to include a renewable energy air-source heat pump and energy efficient LED lighting.
  • Repairs to period features including exposed brickwork, window reveals and structural roof timbers.
  • Installation of new glazing and patio doors.
  • Installation of a modern kitchen and WCs, as well as storage for equipment.
  • External landscaping, including patio and a newly turfed lawn to the rear.

The project team took great care to reinstate the building to its original Victorian design, whilst bringing the building into the 21st century, creating a modern, flexible space, suitable for a wide range of activities and user groups.