Refurbishment project – update August 2023


TITHE BARN IMPROVEMENTS: UPDATE AUGUST 2023

Background

In May 2017 the Tithe Barn Committee (TBC) wrote to all villagers and users of the Tithe Barn to suggest major improvements, including new and improved heating and lighting, fixing damp problems, renewing and upgrading the kitchen, toilets and mezzanine and decorating the whole barn.

The proposals were to comply with the requirements of our lease agreement with the Diocese, insurance and legal agreements and to make it more attractive to hire and competitive with other neighbouring village halls.

At this stage, proposals were aspirational; dependent upon fundraising and lottery bids.

Working with the Community Council for Somerset, a survey was sent out to residents and users of the Tithe Barn to identify thoughts on proposals and any other requirements. These were sent out in May 2017 and a report on the consultation published by the Community Council in July2017.

Findings

  • The overwhelming majority of respondents agreed that the Tithe Barn is a valuable community asset, with around 3 out of 4 strongly agreeing; 
  • More than 9 in 10 respondents supported sympathetic refurbishment of the Tithe Barn. Many remarked on the current condition of the hall, especially the lack of heating and kitchen facilities; 
  • A sizeable majority (67%) felt the Tithe Barn was less attractive to hire because of its state of repair.

What happened next?

Following the consultation the TBC as lessee (along with the Parish Council), together with the Diocese and the PCC, employed Thread Architects to progress alternative options for refurbishing the Tithe Barn in line with the community consultation, and a further event was held in November 2017.

A number of comments were received. Whilst there was no definite consensus on proposals, the general preferences and comments were:

  • A new entrance from the churchyard and glazed window to the road (south elevation) to let in more daylight, consistent with the original Tithe Barn openings. However, cost of this and a reduction of usable space within the hall was a negative factor;
  • The wooden floor should be kept but with a preference for underfloor heating, although it was recognised that underfloor heating needed a long time to heat up and therefore may not be economical as the hall wasn’t in constant use;
  • The fireplace needed replacing and remodelling;
  • The kitchen and toilets needed upgrading but the kitchen did not need to be bigger;
  • The wood panelling should remain with the general consensus that it should be lightened;
  • Improvements to the mezzanine were welcomed with a general consensus to make the bar area smaller with a better use of the space;
  • Whilst the provision of parking was not likely, the removal of the grass verge to road level was considered an option.

The next stage

Thread Architects and then Levitate Architects worked up the proposals into an ‘aspirational scheme’ dependent on fundraising and successful lottery grant bids. This came to around £340,000, clearly in excess of likely funding.

As short term priorities, during 2022 a new dishwasher was installed as the old one was not fit for purpose, new tables to replace the old wooden trestles were purchased and, to comply with planning requirements for any longer term new access to the Tithe Barn from the churchyard, a new hardstanding was created on the highway verge between the entrance door and the Lich gate.

The TBC decided to focus our limited financial resources on areas that the consultations identified as making the biggest potential impact on the hiring of the hall. Principally, improving the heating and repainting the interior of the Tithe Barn. These elements were completed over the spring and summer of 2023. Replacing the flooring in the toilets and new curtains are also programmed for late summer 2023. In order to create a sense of local identity, historic and recent photos of the village will be hung on walls along with the Coronation banner and Coronation street party photo of residents already on display.

Other short term priorities to address include the damp issues on the north and kitchen walls, refurbishing the mezzanine to create an attractive meeting space/café bar area, new chairs to replace the plastic ones currently in use and a general upgrade of the kitchen facilities including worktops, a new fridge and matching cupboard doors. Cost estimates have been sought and have been budgeted for. Such improvements will be met from our available funds.

It should be noted that architect and other professional fees have been met through funding from various bodies, including the local Council and Covid grants during lockdown. Improvements to the Tithe Barn, including new heating, tables and kitchen appliances etc have been met through community fundraising, the fete and other donations.

The Future

As financial resources permit, further improvements to the Tithe Barn will be undertaken, although elements such as a new entrance, including windows and doors from the churchyard are extremely expensive and cannot prioritise over ongoing maintenance required from a medieval building.

We are extremely lucky to have a village community that ‘pulls-together’ to raise funds for this community space. The fete and plant sales are two cases in point. It is hoped that these improvements will make the Tithe Barn more attractive for hire for social and religious events but the viability of the Tithe Barn as a community asset depends on your participation, both through organising and attending village events. The Tithe Barn Committee would therefore also like to attract new members to help with the Tithe Barn management, this ongoing project and fundraising events generally. If you are interested, please contact:

Ian Coombes: ian121@hotmail.co.uk

John Murphy: john441murphy@btinternet.com

 

Community Fund
With thanks from the National Lottery for their financial support