Ninfield is on a major fundraising mission to raise £200,000 towards the restoration of the historic Memorial Hall.
The Memorial Hall is the only community building that holds more than 30 people.
As such, it is in demand by not just Ninfield residents, but those from towns and villages in the surrounding area as far away as Battle, Bexhill, Hastings and Hailsham, for all clubs and activities, ranging from parents and toddlers, a pre-school in the attached cottage, Cubs, Brownies, Guides and Scouts, art groups, dance tuition, horticultural and flower group demonstrations, exhibitions and shows, local history, Christmas shows, music concerts and Parish Council community meetings.
The hall is therefore a vital hub in village life, enabling residents to always have a choice of activities to entice them away from daily cares and out of the same four walls.
But that exerts a financial strain as those running the hall want to keep hire costs as low as possible, which then allows the clubs to keep their membership fees low for people on low incomes, families on tight budgets or those on pensions.
Any increase will invariably reduce membership and potentially a club might close.
The hall is an 1870s Victorian Drill Shed, built with surplus material from Normanhurst Court, the magnificent stately home built for the Brassey family of railway entrepreneurs in Catsfield.
This was during and after the Napoleonic Wars when Britain needed an army of volunteers for Home Defence in the absence of the regular Army fighting overseas.
Many of the aristocracy and gentry joined, and no doubt the colourful uniforms were an added attraction.
On the South Coast, the Cinque Ports Volunteers were formed, the infantry based on the numerous Martello Towers, but Ninfield, only a short horse ride from Normanhurst, was an artillery base, sufficiently near the coast to rush to the aid of any Martello Tower under attack from an invader.
As such, it had already seen 50 years of hard military service before being handed over to the village when the Brassey male line died out after WW1.
After some repairs, it became a Memorial Hall to the many villagers, male and female, who did their duty for King and Country. Many of them served in the South Downs Battalions later becoming the 11th , 12th and 13th Battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment.
Those behind the Memorial Hall are actively fundraising and have been awarded a £4,000 grant from the Chalk Cliff Foundation for desperately needed new chairs to replace the dingy hard plastic ones that generations of villagers have squirmed uncomfortably on.
They are also putting together a plan to refurbish the rear of the hall to bring it from the Victorian era to the 21st Century.
The urgent need is to bring the Memorial Hall up to, and preferably ahead of, current and foreseeable legislation and sensible requirements.
Not only will toilet facilities need to be upgraded for all sections of the community, and to provide disabled access and nappy changing facilities and disposal, but also the opportunity to improve the catering facilities.
It must also be considered that should severe weather affect electricity supplies or other serious incident occur, the Memorial Hall will provide a central location for emergency and other services from which to organise any relief efforts, as well as providing a safe refuge for those affected.
Fundraisers will also examine if there are any impediments to visually, auditory or mobility impaired access with a view to ensuring that within reason, those facilities can be provided for the benefit of most.
This will examine the need for a Hearing Loop or additional speakers to augment or upgrade the existing system. This will allow the Memorial Hall to expand its facilities to improve the quality of life of many of the elderly and less mobile members by providing a regular meeting place.
As will be deduced from its accounts, the Memorial Hall does not make a ‘profit’ from village-related activities, sufficient to ensure the operating costs are covered, but insufficient to build up a Contingency Reserve Fund.
It is hoped that upgrading the facilities will enable the Hall Committee to attract more high income producing activities such as wedding fayres, auctions and the like, as just one or two such events will likely considerably boost the income, while still permitting maximum access for the village societies and activities.
They are also urging people to use the hall, as they need to fill it as often as possible for much-needed income. Call 07393 494055 to book the hall.