A potted history of Newton and Bywell.
There has been a hall in the village of Newton since 1930. It was known as the Newton Women’s Institute Hall or in short ‘The Institute’. It was created by fundraising and public subscriptions, and the photographs in the Hall today show the ladies of the time who took it upon themselves take this bold step for the community. The Hall was owned by Mrs Baker Creswell, VCO and was run by a committee of 13 ladies.
The land was rented on a peppercorn rental from the supportive landowner, and the village and area enjoyed the use of the Hall for 73 years until 2003. It was the centre for social events, meetings, Church events, craft classes and much more over the years, and we are grateful to the WI for managing the building for 73 years and making it available for public and private use.
In 2001 the membership of the Newton WI had dropped considerably and they were finding it difficult to maintain the Hall. This coincided with an ‘Action from the Parish’ plan for the Hall to be more central to the community. A community development group was formed with a view to taking over the Hall from the WI. This happened in 2003 with Allendale Estate agreeing to assign the lease to Bywell Parish Council and the new group. This new group was registered as a charity and the Newton and Bywell Community Hall Trust was born.
Having become responsible for the Hall the priorities of the Trustees was to build up the use of the Hall , but more importantly to plan for its refurbishment, because the 73 year old building was becoming dilapidated, of very poor quality and in need of a major uplift. Advice was obtained from Community Action Northumberland which resulted in funding being achieved to employ an Architect.
The early concentration was to refurbish the Hall, but the added burden of VAT meant that a new build became the lower cost option. The Architect produced a number of designs that were considered at public open evenings and public meetings, and eventually the decision was taken to build on the footprint of the existing Hall After further public meetings planning permission was obtained, but then there was the matter of finding a not inconsiderable sum of £380,000 for the project. All funders want to see local people raising some of the funds as an indication of commitment. The residents in the Parish were asked if they would contribute to the project, and 45 households gave generously with a total of £45000 being received including gift aid. This gave great impetus to raising the balance, and over a period of about a year, around 30 funding applications were made, and a total of £353,000 was raised from 18 different organisations, the largest being £140,000 from the European Union. However, this meant the project was still £27,000 short. At this point Bywell Parish Council stepped in and made up the difference with £10269 from reserves, and borrowing £18,000 from the Public Works Loan Board, to be paid back over a period of 18 years. Following the receipt of tenders a contractor was appointed to build the new Hall.
Demolition of the old hall started in July 2006 and the new building was ready for occupation in April 2007. An opening Ceilidh was held in May 2007 and an opening dinner in July of that year. The Duke of Gloucester officially opened the Hall in July 2007 with a very pleasant informal ceremony involving a large number of residents and guests.
Right from the start the new Hall was very popular. Its design and architecture, the long windows and the open views attracted many organisations and residents to use the facility. The trustees business plan for usage of the Hall was well exceeded as more organisations became regular hirers, and over the years since 2007 the Hall has gone from strength to strength.
The Community Hall is effectively owned by the residents of Newton and Bywell, so we all have a stake in it. We are grateful to Allendale Estate for supporting the Hall with a lease that runs to 2056 at a peppercorn rental.
The Newton and Bywell Community Hall is a classic social enterprise. Its purpose is for the benefit of the residents of the Parish. It is owned by the community and is run on a voluntary basis by representatives of the community and users of the Hall. It is returning a surplus each year overcoming the need for any subsidy.