December 10 2013 Latest news:
Emma Hardwick, Reporter
Friday, August 30, 2013
IT was years in the making but the Finchingfield Guildhall has been finally been re-opened to the public after a massive restoration project.
Guests were welcomed into the historic building following its £1.8million makeover.
In 2006 the Grade I-listed building had to be closed as it was declared ‘At Risk’ by English Heritage, but now it is back to its former glory.
Sir Timothy Ruggles-Brise, who has been a trustee of The Guildhall Trust for six years, said: “I think it is immensely satisfying to see a building which was nearly derelict, on the point of nearly collapsing, restored.
“It will become a vital part of village life and our community.”
The money to fund the seven-year project had to be raised but the Lottery Heritage Fund contributed £1.4m of the total. The donations helped to repair the dangerous roof and improve the kitchen and toilet facilities. The venue is now transformed into a community hub for the village and boasts a library, museum and hall space.
The work has also impressed experts so much that the Guildhall is in the running for best craftsmanship in the English Heritage Angel Awards.
It was not an official unveiling – that will come later this year – but the event to mark the opening of its doors to the public for the first time was attended by more than 100 people. Team member Des Fahy said: “What has been great is people coming here and bumping into people they haven’t seen for years and talking about old times.
“I think it is going to mean a lot to the village. The community will be back to using the building they own.”
Discoveries were made throughout the restoration – building on the history of the Guildhall – and efforts have been made to retain as many of the historic features as possible.
But technology has played a vital role. In the new museum, for instance, there were interactive boards to keep visitors informed and entertained.
Jenny Davies, a resident in the village Finchingfield, told the Broadcast: “I think it is brilliant as it brings together the old and the new. Children are going to really love it here now.”
Andrew Tate added that there “was nothing here before, but now it is very good”.