The History of the Village Hall
The Bourtons Village Hall is the old Methodist chapel on Main Street in Great Bourton. It was purchased by the Parish Council for the Bourtons in 1996 for use as a Village Hall. The Village Appraisal in 1993 showed that the villagers perceived a need for a village hall – 63% of the 394 respondents thought that the provision of a village hall was important or very important.
The building dates from 1932, when the Great Bourton Methodist Church (Banbury Circuit) was built on the site of the old chapel they had purchased from the Congregationalists in 1924. The photograph shows the original building.
The existing Hall building was built by the Methodists in 1932 on the site of the Congregationalist chapel which they had purchased in 1924 for £75. (Interestingly the Valuation Office Survey 1910-1915 had valued the chapel at a market value of £285 “in its present condition”.)
At purchase the chapel was in serious disrepair and funds were collected to renovate it, but the architect’s survey found the old walls were unsafe, being pushed out by the roof. It was recommended that the building be taken down to floor level and rebuilt. Building commenced in 1932 with a stone laying ceremony held on May 18th.
The later re-Opening Appeal leaflet shows “the New Premises – consisting of Hall and Vestry (fitted with copper etc), suitable cloakroom accommodation and modern heating arrangements – indeed a really well-equipped set of premises, meeting every village need”. The new building was opened on September 30th, and the appeal shows that funds were still being raised at the last minute with only £500 of the estimated £650 raised. Messrs Cherry and Son were the builders, and the final bill including sundries was in excess of £716, with the architects bill another £49 (5% of the project cost plus travelling costs).
A letter from J. Harold Judge dated 13/7/39 to Reverend A. Bateson, South Bar, Banbury, notes that:
“..when the building was paid for there was nothing left in the funds to furnish chairs, carpets, organ, crockery and pay for renovation of cottage adjoining. I undertook all of this on my own responsibility and incurred an overdraft of £142.15.2 to enable all this to be completed..” “the bulk of money [for the chapel] came from outside. It has been a most difficult scheme owing to local conditions, but it is so constructed that it could be at any[time] converted into a Village Hall”.
The adjoining cottage, Chapel Cottage, was sold by the Methodists in 1978 for £4195.
The Village Appraisal of 1993 shows that membership of the Methodist Chapel had dwindled – only 6% of those that responded to questions on their membership of religious establishments were Methodist.
By 1995 the Banbury Circuit Policy Committee had spent “considerable time seeking suitable alternative uses for the Great Bourton chapel but has concluded that because of its very awkward access and no parking space it would be better to dispose of the premises.”
[Letter from Mike Longstaff of the Methodist Church, Banbury Circuit, to Rev. Malcolm Beech of Kingsthorpe, Northampton, and copied to Wiliam Burke, Circuit Property Secretary.]