Historic town hall set for next generation

Deddington Town Hall has been refurbished. From the left, Chris Twomey, George Fenemore, Leah Calcutt, trustees, Tim Catling, builder and John Sampson, trustee. NNL-150922-130724009
Deddington Town Hall has been refurbished. From the left, Chris Twomey, George Fenemore, Leah Calcutt, trustees, Tim Catling, builder and John Sampson, trustee. NNL-150922-130724009

A five year scheme to bring Deddington’s Town Hall up to scratch reaches a conclusion on Saturday when MP Victoria Prentis cuts the tape to officially reopen the building.

The ceremony marks the end of work to bring the community building ‘into the 21st century’, said trustee John Sampson.

“The Deddington Charity Estates took back the lease from the parish council and began this ambitious programme of renovation after a survey showed up a long list of improvements needed,” he said.

The Estates, which also administer the village almshouses, decided against trying to get grant aid for the £50,000 of work because of the stringent obligations for guaranteed income it would entail.

“We could have pursued grants but we would have to prove that the Town Hall would be used enough to provide a steady income stream.

“We put out an appeal to the local community without much response, especially given the charges we would have had to impose, which would have been more than the Windmill Community Centre.

“The Charity Commission said we would need to either sell the building, which we knew the community would not want, or get in a tenant to provide regular income on an annual basis – so we could always take back use of the building for the community at any future time.”

Instead, the trustees used some money already in hand and found a sympathetic tenant who was happy to have the renovation work going on around him at the Market Place building over the five year period.

“The treasurer has found enough money over the five years to get the work done without borrowing,” said Mr Sampson.

“The work has been done in stages and has been fairly extensive. We have had the windows replaced and the roof relined.

“We have improved the interior decoration, better heating has been installed and new carpeting laid. All the brickwork has been repointed and the building has been completely rerendered.”

Mr Sampson said the secretary of the trustees, Leah Calcutt had put a lot of work into the project, aided by trustees including George Fenemore, the treasurer

Deddington Town Hall was rebuilt in 1806 to replace an earlier structure, dating before 1611, which had shops and stalls under and adjoining it.

Repaired in 1832, it was used for vestry meetings, petty sessions until 1874, as a polling booth in 1837, 1852 and 1862, as a reading room and library.

It stood on open arches, beneath which were three stalls used by butchers on market days.

Some arches were bricked up in 1858 to form a shelter for the parish fire engine – formerly kept in the parish church – and for a time in a building on Goose Green.

The fire engine was still housed at the Town Hall in 1933.

A weekly corn market was started there in 1870, but failed.