In 1951, the first Wreningham village hall was constructed on land in Mill Lane donated by Burton Bullimore Long. This hall was created from an old “Nissen Hut” relocated from Hethel airfield; it wasn’t connected to mains electricity until the following year. Prior to that, for a special Christmas event, the lighting had been powered by tractor and dynamo!
In 1954, the floor from war-time Hethel airfield’s gymnasium was installed in the hall. (The present hall’s stage floor re-uses this original floor’s timber.)
The hall was quite primitive by modern standards. Old photographs show the many pairs of old bus seats in use as part of the hall’s regular seating. Normally, the old bus seats were arranged around the perimeter but they augmented the other chairs when there was a stage production.
After World War 2, the village Home Guard had formed a “Comrade Club” and set about re-directing their war-time camaraderie into local community ventures. They decided to put on events – including annual village pantomimes.
In due course a formal drama group: “The Ashwren Players”, was established. Their stage and performance requirements were carried forward into the design when the new hall was constructed in the early 1980s.
The old hall was demolished in 1979 – with the new hall being constructed in the same location. There were a series of delays in the completion process, and it opened a couple of years later.
This period also coincided with the launch of the Wreningham Mardle newsletter – the first in October / November 1981, and the formation of a village hall Social Club.
Building a new hall was always going to be a costly exercise. Compared with many of the more recent village halls, the design of ours was significantly constrained by the limited budget.
Grants were received, totalling £26,250 plus various donations. There was a 60 mile sponsored walk, a stall at Earlham Park fete and an event involving barbecuing a whole pig.
Part of the money was raised via a loan bond money scheme where villagers bought bonds with regular prizes. The bond scheme, planned to raise £4,000, ran for a number of years and was extended when extra space and facilities were required in the early 1990s.
The target cost of new hall (in 1980) was £38,000. It was designed to seat 200 people and double up as a sports and events venue.
The new hall opened in mid 1982. There were no fireworks – indeed, it was a gradual affair as different elements of the hall were slowly completed and the community became acquainted with their new facilities.
By the end of the 1980s, more space was required to provide a function room with its dedicated toilets, a larger bar and a furniture store. Funding for this new work was greatly assisted by a bequest from Miss Margaret Preston who had died in 1991. The completed extension was opened in July 1993. The new function room was named the “Margaret Preston Room” in her memory.
Both the original hall and the new replacement have always been at the heart of the village community. Whilst the current hall is occasionally used by the school, it is very regularly hired out for events – all helping to pay its keep.