Official Opening Chairman’s speech

Beech Village Hall & Recreation Ground

Chairman’s speech for the Official Opening

In 1894 a company called Vaus & Crampton built their printing works here in Beech and that original building now houses the up-to-date loos, kitchen and bar/lounge.

Vaus & Crampton vacated the premises in 1909 and eventually sold the building and grounds in 1920 to a private buyer who renamed the property ‘Hedge Grove’. In 1931 ‘Hedge Grove’ was secured by a Beech resident, Nellie Asser for £450 and on 28th March 1932 (78 years ago) Mrs Asser passed ‘Hedge Grove’ to the village for the £450 she paid for it as the site for a much needed village hall. From that date it has remained as our Village Hall.

In 1960, the Recreation Ground was bequeathed by General Morgan Owen and three years later the Beech Village Hall & Recreation Ground Charitable Trust was formed, of which I am proud to be the Chairman of the Board of Trustees today.

On numerous occasions in its lifetime several improvements have been made the facilities here, but it became evident at the turn of this century that Beech Village Hall could no longer exist in its current out-of-date state.

And so, during the first half of this Millennium Charles Cockburn and his Renewal Project Team began the serious job of looking into the modernisation of these premises. And I must say, that the work that they put in during that period, together with the funds raised for the project, meant that our task as a project team was made that much easier and I think a great vote of thanks is due to Charles and his team.

Our Phase I project team consisted of:

  • Philip Ladds (Project Director)
  • Norman Adams (Project Co-ordinator)
  • Mike Smith (Architect – sadly passed away Easter 2009)
  • Vic Richards (Building Work Supervisor)
  • and, to a very much lesser extent in building expertise, me!!!!!

We applied for Big Lottery Grant in April 2007. Planning was sought in March 2008 and approved in May of that year. The approval of our Big Lottery Grant was announced in December 2008.

This meant that, together with grants from Hampshire County Council, East Hampshire District Council (represented here today by District Councillor Patrick Burridge) and Beech Parish Council (represented by Chairman Ed Neish) the groundwork was able to commence in December 2008 on the new extension that houses this very room.

Work commenced on the old hall in Spring 2009 and by the Autumn of last year were able to open the doors to bookings.

Thanks also must go to the residents in Beech who kindly volunteered to help with the internal decorating and to the various Committee Members who have helped the Project Team with their efforts throughout the process.

That’s not the end of it though…

Still to come is Phase II of the project, for which we need to raise about £25,000. This includes modernising the old meeting room, creating a unisex toilet and kitchenette, and establishing more storage space.

And so to the gentleman standing next to me – Alan Titchmarsh…

As many of you know, Alan, his wife Alison and their daughters Polly and Camilla were residents in Beech for over 20 years (1981-2002), during seven of which Alan presented the BBC’s  Gardener’s World  programme from his garden in Medstead Road.

Alan and his family played no small part during those years helping to raise funds for the Village Hall, the girls came to pre-school in the Village Hall and I believe Alan himself sometimes displayed his thespian tendencies on our stage, as well as being Patron of Beech Gardening Club.

I read recently that Alan has been quoted as saying that he remembers Beech “with ridiculous fondness.”

Alan: we are so glad to have you here today to officially open the new Beech Village Hall, and without further ado can I pass over to you to say a few words and unveil this commemorative plaque.