Residents have rallied to raise funds for a new village hall in a bid to safeguard the village’s spirit and identity.
After the demolition of the old village hall last year, Ashurst is the latest victim of funding problems that village halls across the UK have suffered from.
The epicentre of Ashurst since 1909, the village hall was demolished in 2012 after it was deemed structurally unsafe. Since then, villagers have worked hard to raise funds to build a new one.
“If we didn’t have a hall we wouldn’t see each other,” says one of the main fundraisers, Di Stevens from Bines Green.
Originally built to keep farmers out of the pub, the village hall is ‘the hub of village life,’ explains Christina Smith, 63, from Bines Green.
Hosting local events and village groups such as the WI and the village pantomime, villagers rely on the hall to hold the community together.
For this reason, villagers such as Mandy Hedley, Martinlands Farm, Gay Davenport, Bines Green, and Di Stevens, are doing everything to ensure the new hall is up before Christmas.
“It was only when it was pulled down that everybody realised they need it,” says Mandy.
So far £274,720 has been raised. Some £100,000 of this has been raised through events such as the annual Country Fair and Dog Show, and the Flower and Produce Show. The rest has been raised with grants.
Linda Eaton from Ashurst said: “We’ve got enough money to build the hall but we haven’t got any money to deck it out, so we are trying to raise the funds.”
Horsham District Council member George Cockman said: “The courage they had to knock the old one down a year ago this month to start this one and show their endeavour, well I think it’s a very brave thing.”
Ashurst’s determination to keep its village hall coincides with a BBC Radio 4 campaign to form an All-Parliamentary Party Group.
The radio programme visited Ashurst to discuss the possibility of an APPG on village halls.
“We are 100 per cent behind that,” says Di, adding “It’s jolly hard work getting the money.”
This year’s Ashurst Country Fair and Dog Show takes place on July 7.