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The Welney Website

Welney Parish Hall

page created Apr 2005, amended/updated Thursday, 02 July 2015
Parish Hall name plate



The Parish Hall  (commonly but wrongly called the Village Hall) is at the junction of Main Street and Bedford Bank (East), alongside the Old Bedford River immediately north-east of Welney Bridge.

The Present

The Hall today

Hall & river, 2009
Photo: Peter Cox, Aug 2009
The outside has beige profiled-metal wall-cladding with a grey felt roof. Inside is a little more attractive, being mostly clad with tongue and groove timber, painted cream and light blue. The timber boarded floor is bowed up in the middle due to subsidence of the outer wall foundations.

Layout and facilities

Overall, the building has a floor area of 156.5m2, or 1,684sq.ft. The main hall is 18.3m x 5.6m (59½ft x 18½ft) including a stage at one end and bar at the other. At the rear is a kitchen, with a store room beyond. Other facilities include a large kitchen, and a baby changing unit.
floor plan 2003
SEARCH Architects 2002

Facilities for wheelchair users

The building is accessible for wheelchair users via a removable ramp, but there are no disabled toilet facilities.


 Ample off-road car parking is available on both sides of the building, but disabled users should use the parking area in front of the Hall or along the river bank to avoid the steps up from the main car park which is provided courtesy of Elgood's Brewery.

Hire and Bookings

The Hall is available for private hire, and is licenced for public entertainment (dancing, singing and music) for up to 99 people. 
All booking enquiries should be made to Parish Clerk and Hall Licencee, Mrs P.A.Copeman, tel 01354 610 226.

The Past

Brief History - How it started

The original minutes book (held with others by the Parish Clerk) covered the period 1929 to 1962. The first page is headed “Welney Parochial Hall”, perhaps reflecting the fact that the Chairman was a clergyman, the Rev. H.H. Wilford. The other officers were H. Kimmons (the village postman) as Hon.Treasurer, and C.H. Ray (the schoolmaster) as Hon.Secretary.

In the minutes, the building is referred to variously as the “Parish Hall”, “The Hall” and occasionally as the “Village Hall”. Despite suggestions that it had been originally named “Memorial Hall” there is no reference to that in any of the archives.

The following extracts record the birth of the hall:
1929 March 4th The first recorded meeting was held in the Oddfellows Hall in Main Street, (later the Cherry Tree public house, now a private residence). The only item recorded was

“The builders were asked to prepare & submit tender for the following week”.
The meeting then adjourned  
1929 March 11th “The following were elected as Trustees:- Rev H.H. Wilford, H. Kimmons, C.H. Ray, A. Neville, C.W. Stokes, H. Kent (Snr).”
[Webmaster's note: Mr Ray was the schoolmaster.]

Tenders had been submitted, one from Blows for £196, or £200 with galvanised roof & sides, the other from Kent for £55, presumably for different aspects of work.

Mr Blows’ tender of £200, and Mr Kent’s were accepted.
1929 Oct 8th The next recorded meeting (by when T.W. Dalton had become Chairman) was to discuss whether to postpone the opening ceremony "on account of Rector’s illness”
1929 Nov 14th a meeting in the Vicarage.
The Secretary to write to Messrs Metcalfe, Copeman & Pettifor of 6 York Terrace Wisbech, to arrange a mortgage of £200.

A General Meeting to be arranged to ask residents their wishes with regard to an Institute being formed, and a proposed scale of [membership] charges was listed.
1930 Aug 30th “Mortgage for £100 had been arranged”


The Opening Ceremony, 1929

opening ceremony 1929
As seen at the opening ceremony in 1929. Note sign above front door "Welney Parish Hall". Also chimney stack. Building on right is the Three Tuns pub.
opening ceremony 1929
photos from a 1929 press cutting courtesy Cissie Bedford via Derek Levesley
According to the caption of this cutting from a 1929 press report, the ceremony of "unlocking the door" was performed by Mrs Townley, who was accompianed by her husband,  Rev Charles (?) Townley of Fulbourn Manor.
Mrs Townley is seated in the front, holding a bouquet. On her right is Mrs Wilford, wife of the Rector of Welney, Rev H.H.Wilford; beside her is Mrs H Kimmons who "worked indefatigably for the cause". The days proceedings concluded with a dance.



According to all leases since 1950, the HALL is also leased, not just the site, which may come as a surprise to many.

Tenders for building the Hall were accepted by the Trustees on 11th March 1929, and building work probably began soon after on land which was part of the low bank and forelands of the Old Bedford River, the land owners having granted the Trustees a lease. (As an aside, the other bank of the river, the "high bank" was the Middle Level Barrier Bank.)

Neither the current Trustees, Welney Parish Council, nor current landowners, the Environment Agency (EA) have been able to trace a copy of that lease but the EA do have copies of documents of 1948 and 1949 which provide much detail, viz:

(1) An internal note of a meeting of the River Great Ouse Catchment Board (RGOCB) Estates Sub-Committee on 14th April 1948 refers to the site leased as "Property No. 623 ..... approximately 6 poles in extent"  (99 feet or 30 metres).

(2) A letter dated 5th May 1949 from the Clerk of the RGOCB to the Trustees stating:
"It was reported to the appropriate committee of this Board held on 14th April last, [1948] that the lease of the above [site of Welney Village Hall] dated 10th May 1929 granted by the Middle Level Commissioners to the Trustees of the Welney Village Hall for a term of 21 years from 6th April 1929 at a ground rent of £1 per annum, was due to expire on the 6th April 1950."

The letter offered renewal for a further period of 21 years on the same terms, or an annual tenancy. The offer of renewal was accepted by the Trustees in a letter from their Hon. Sec, WA Carley, dated May 9th 1949, received by the RGOCB on 11th May.

Clearly the original lease was just for the land, and renewal was offered and accepted for the same. Yet the lease drawn up by the Board's solicitors and acepted and signed by the Trustees on the 22nd of May 1950, referred to the piece of land " numbered 623  ..... TOGETHER WITH the bulding erected thereon known as Welney Parish Hall". I believe the inclusion of the building on the lease was a mistake which went unnoticed by the signatories, one of whom was the Rector.

Succeeding leases in 1971 and 1986 perpetuated the mistake, and again no-one seems to have noticed until 2002 when the new Treasurer to the Parish Hall Management Committee read the lease and advised the Committee who were at the time discussing replacement of the hall, that they couldn't demolish a building they didn't own.

in 1986 the Council wished to carry out improvements (toilets, entrance lobby) and applied for grants. At that time only 9 years remained on the 1971 lease, and that was not considered a long enough term by funding bodies. Subsequently the 1971 lease was surrendered and a new 30-year lease negtiated from 1986. Funds were then made available.

Lease history in brief

table by the webmaster 16/01/2004; details supplied by Councillor Charlotte Cox.

Repairs and improvements


Refurbishment alterations and repairs

The Hall has been refurbished on several occasions, the last major works being carried out in the mid-1980s. That may have been when an extra section was added at the front to provide toilets. Compare photos left,  top 1929, below 2002

Some strengthening of the floor supports was made in the early 2000s
hall and bankside 1929
1929 cutting: Peggy Taylor

hall and bankside 2002
2002 photo: Ian Warrington
support wall


The foundation walls supporting the outer walls and cross walls supporting the floor have all subsided leaving the Hall with a floor that bows up in the centre making it unsuitable for activities such as carpet bowls.
support wall
This main photo shows the junction of the outer foundation wall (on left), and one of the cross-walls running at right-angles to it (left to right). The small photos are sections of the cross wall. The floor joists were originally supported directly on the wall - now there is a 6 inch gap in many places. The wall is cracked in two places, near the outer wall (above) and in the centre (on right). All photos were taken on 7th November 2014.

support wall
gents wash-basin
Parts of the building have been badly affected by damp, particularly the gents toilet.

gents WC
  In 2002 the the independent Committee running the Hall engaged an architect to draw plans and apply for planning permission for a new Hall whilst dealing with a number of financial irregularities. In February 2003 they were forced to resign as a result of those actions and were replaced by a newly formed sub-committee of the Parish Council. That committee also resigned, but this time voluntarily, at the end of 2004 because of lack of support from the Parish Clerk.

In March 2005 the Council, who are also the Hall trustees, decided to take full control and run the Hall without a management committee. Details of the financial concerns and reports and minutes of both resignations and other meetings can be seen via the link at bottom of page.




The Hall receives no subsidies or grants. Until 2005 the only cost to local rate-payers was the annual rent, which in 2004 was a mere £178 a year, paid by the Parish Council. All other expenses were paid by the Hall Committees from revenue. The various Committees that looked after the Hall for more than 75 years prior to the Council taking direct control in 2005, supplemented the fees received from users of the Hall by fund-raising events throughout the year, such as annual tub (raft) races and water galas, Christmas Fayres, bingo, lotteries and the 100-club.

It ought to be noted that despite the problems that besetted the last two committees, they raised nearly £15,000 for the Hall funds and provided a good deal of social enjoyment and inter-action; and members of the last committee also initiated and were instrumental in organising the highly successful 2004 Gala at the playing field which raised nearly £4,000 for new play equipment for children. Both sums are now in the hands of the Parish Council.

The Council took over the 100-club but allowed it to lapse and they have not organised any other fund raising events so the only income now is from hire charges which appear to be diminishing. The Health Centre's weekly surgery and the CAB's monthly advice surgery were withdrawn several years ago and the Womens Institute now meet elsewhere to save costs. Perhaps even more upsetting than the lack of fund-raising is the almost total lack of public social activities.

Acknowledgements and Sources:
text & photos by the Webmaster


Does it have one?

The long-term future of the Hall has been in doubt since 2005 when the Parish Council announced an ambitious plan to build a new community centre at the playing field.

The original scheme would have involved the Council buying the existing Parish Hall site from the Environment Agency and selling it on at an agreed profit to Elgood's Brewery. The brewery's original intention had been to demolish the Parish Hall and the adjacent Three Tuns Pub which they owned and which closed in 2002, and build a grand new riverside pub. Once the new pub was open, Elgood's other nearby pub, the Lamb and Flag, which has suffered from subsidence, was to be demolished.

Another scheme was to build a terrace of small houses along the river bank for which they obtained planning permission.

Elgood's did demolish the Three Tuns but due to the general economic problems of 2008-9 both plans are on hold or abandoned, and planning permission for the houses has lapsed.

In the eight years since 2005 the Council changed courses, went round in circles, became lost and finally becalmed. Deals and promises of help from Elgoods faded. Then after wasting £2,500 of the funds raised by the Management Committees (see above) on planning applications which they could not possible afford to action, in May 2014 the Council conceded they were unlikely ever to succeed and handed the project to a new body, the New Pavilion Project Team, to raise funds and procure a building.

So does it have a futue? No says Welney Parish Council

The Council say the Hall is already running at a loss even with a mere "peppercorn" rent, and if the EA want a "commercial" rent on renewal, the losses would become completely unaffordable. Therefore they will not renew the lease and hope that before it expires a replacement building will be available at the Playing Field.

The EA have said they will not sell the site until an alternative building is available, but if put to the test, would they hold to that promise?

Yes say some parishioners

There are a few people who believe the move to a replacement building at the Playing Field is not a good option and want the Hall to remain and be used as a cafe/drop-in centre and shop, and believe funds can be obtained to do so.

I doubt they or potential funders have seen conditions under the floor as I have!

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