Arkholme Village Hall - the hub of a Lune Valley community
Village halls are back in fashion and Arkholme has been celebrating the tenth anniversary of a project praised by Prince Charles. Louise Bryning reports Photography by Darren Andrews
There can’t be many village halls that are as celebrated for their design as for being the hub of a community. So, take a bow, Arkholme.The striking building in the centre of the Lune Valley village attracts many a double-take from first time visitors as it looks as modern and fresh today as it did on its opening a decade ago.
Arkholme Village Hall is a source of great pride to those who took the brave decision to move from a hall built just after World War I to a facility fit for the 21st Century.
‘I loved the old village hall because it held very happy childhood memories for me,’ said Anita Huddleston who now manages the ‘new’ hall. ‘I was as sad to see it go as were many of the older generation.‘But now I think it was the best thing that Arkholme ever did.’
Her husband, James, has been chairman of Arkholme Village Hall Committee for 21 years and, along with the 15 trustees, recognised the old hall’s shortcomings – poor disabled access and no parking facilities or outdoor space.
Paul Duckett of Caton-based architects, Mason Gillibrand, was commissioned to draw up some plans for a new hall. Farmland, owned by the Roskell Trust and adjacent to the village school, was identified as the perfect site.
Then there was the challenging task of raising more than �750,000 to make the dream come true for Arkholme’s 300 residents.
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‘We applied to the National Lottery and received �321,780 from them,’ said James. ‘Once that money was in place everyone wanted to come on board and we got lots of grants and did the sort of fundraising all villages do.’
Among the other most significant funders were the SRB(Single Regeneration Budget); RDP(Rural Development Programme); and the LEF(Lancashire Environmental Fund).
‘We never thought it was going to happen but I think we were very lucky with the timing. The same grants don’t seem to be available now,’ said James.
The first sod was dug on July 19, 2001 by the Rev Dr Gary Bowness who was then Arkholme parish vicar. He returned to be guest speaker at the recent dinner to celebrate the hall’s tenth anniversary.
As well as being a significant year for the village, 2001 was also a devastating one for every agricultural community in the country when foot-and-mouth struck.
The project was delayed a little but then building work began apace led by another Lune Valley firm, Fred Hall & Son, based in the nearby village of Whittington.
The hall was positioned to capitalise on the spectacular views across the Lune Valley towards Ingleborough. Light, airy and spacious, its facilities include a main hall, kitchen, bar, meeting room and foyer.
All the building work was completed within eight months. Nick Hall, managing director of Fred Hall & Son said: ‘It’s a landmark building and it’s nice to have been part of a project which is so special to the village.’
James added: ‘The builders did a marvellous job and used the best quality materials which is one reason why the hall looks as good as it does now, ten years on.’
Architect Paul Duckett, said: ‘I feel privileged to have been involved in Arkholme Village Hall. When I look back to 2002, it was great to see the village embrace the project with so much passion. It is especially pleasing to see that ten years on, the building is not only wearing so well but it has become such an important part of the community life.’
It was officially opened by the then MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, Geraldine Smith, and within months had won a Lancaster City Council Design Award.
Soon people from villages far and wide were visiting the county’s newest hall seeking inspiration. James said: ‘We’ve had coachloads of people over the years from Galgate and Crosthwaite to Slaidburn and Barnoldswick and it’s good to be able to help them. People expect to see somewhere with a tin roof but ours is a beautiful hall with picturesque views and we’re very lucky to have it.’
But Arkholme Village Hall is more than just a striking building in a stunning setting. It’s a hive of activity all-year-round and became such an important part of community life that it was nominated for – and won – the prestigious RICS Community Benefit Award in 2005. James attended the awards ceremony in London and couldn’t believe it when Arkholme’s name was called. ‘We were up against buildings from all over the country and abroad so it was unbelievable. We were so shocked.’Activities and events take place there almost every day of the year.It provides a sports hall and venue for activities organised by the neighbouring village school and is a meeting place for the parish council, the WI, the YFC and mother and toddler group among others. It can also be hired out for events including birthday parties and has hosted about 15 wedding receptions in the past year, even one with a village fete theme complete with coconut shy.Mr Huddleston said: ‘Every year it gets busier and busier. We think we’ve reached a peak, then we have an even better year.’Since the hall opened, the adjacent field was bought and landscaped to provide a community green space. A reed bed developed at the back of the hall within the last couple of years got the Royal seal of approval when James met Prince Charles at an event in Manchester.