Residents may not be aware of the origins of our popular Village Hall or the challenges it now faces.

The original building (now the ‘Main Hall’) and the adjacent ‘Reading Room’ (now the ‘Small Hall’) were endowed by a Trust, in 1921, by a Mrs Susanna Grote-Joyce, to provide a communal meeting place and a place for study. The ‘Reading Room’ became a charity in 1970 and the trustees – the Village Hall Management Committee – manage the whole building for the public benefit of the village and surrounding communities. After a fire in 1986 the building was replaced with our current one, but the outdated 1921 Trust and 1970 Charity ownership arrangement remained.

The 1921 Trust has now become particularly unsuitable for current needs of the hall and modern legislation and the 1970 Management Committee arrangements do not give protection to the trustees from personal liability from debts or legal action. Change is clearly needed to underwrite the sustainability and ongoing improvement of the hall complex for the continuing public benefit of the village.

A solution for this is being developed by all parties involved: the Parish Council, the Management Committee, the Parochial Church Council and, the current 1921 Trustees, who have received legal advice and are collectively consulting the Charity Commission, the final legal arbiter of such proposals. The plan is, firstly, to form a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, a limited liability charity company, to indemnify the Management Committee liability and to replace the 1970 Charity. The second step is to transfer ownership of the whole building to the Parish Council and the third step is to close both the 1921 Trust and the 1970 Charity. However, Mrs Grote-Joyce’s Trust provided for use of the hall for religious services, and this complicates the transfer – hence the need to be guided by the Charity Commission.

Whatever the Charities Commission guidance, the outcome will in fact show no visible change to the users of the Halls but there will be a more assured future with access to community grants for continuing improvements and, with the Parish Council as owner, a much-simplified organisation.

In this way we expect to be able to continue to provide a fabulous facility, open and benefiting everyone and continuing to develop new events and make it a great place to go.

Should you wish to know more or make comments email community@longbenningtonparishcouncil.org or contact us