WORK has started on modernising Shiplake Memorial Hall.
After four years of planning and fund-raising, the first phase of the £395,800 overhaul began last week.
This involves an extension with a catering standard kitchen with direct access to the hall, new toilets, foyer and an entrance with disabled access, a storeroom and new boiler.
Phase A is being funded with grants, donations and money from fund-raising events.
The second phase of the work, which will cost £20,200, involves replacing the existing flat roofs with insulated pitched roofs.
The work is being carried out by Blue Qube Design, of Surrey, and is due to be completed by the end of August. Trustee Bob Partridge, who is also project manager, said: “We made the decision to start because if we leave it, the building costs will keep rising and we liked this particular builder because they came with extremely good references and had competitive prices.
“What we are trying to do is invest in the infrastructure of the hall to bring it up to the very best standards.
“We really want to safeguard the building for the decades to come and for future generations to use. It is a very exciting time for everyone and when we saw the work starting it was fantastic. A vast amount of work has been put in by a lot of people and it has been hard to fund-raise, apply for grants, plan the job and do everything that needs to be done to make sure that we can keep the hall working.
“We cannot close it while the extension is being completed as we cannot afford to lose the income.”
Mr Partridge said the bad weather over the past year had led the project group to push for the second phase of the modernisation to be completed immediately after the first.
He said: “We knew last summer that the roof needed replacing because we had buckets underneath it every time it rained. That is why we are so keen to complete phase B while the builders are here. It works out a lot cheaper that way.”
Phase C, which includes the creation of an additional multi-purpose meeting room for functions involving up to 30 people and the building of a small office for use by the Shiplake parish clerk, has been shelved.
The hall is used by a number of groups, including the Shiplake and Dunsden Amateur Dramatic Organisation, and is hired out for parties and private events.
It was built in 1925 by the Mardon family in memory of their son, who was killed in the First World War.
Donations for the work can be made by visiting www.future.shiplakehall.com or by calling 0118 940 1907.