A village hall for Newbiggin was first proposed in 1946, but it was not until 1956 that sufficient funds were raised to begin construction. The original hall was built by a local contractor, Jos Watson (still in business in the village today), on land donated by Harrison's Limeworks. It cost the princely sum of £3,000 . The opening, on 26th April, was carried out by Mr and Mrs J Harrison of Inglewood.
The original building had brick footings to the one meter level, then cedar planking above. The internal walls were just hardboard and the dance floor was Tasmanian oak.
The hall was always a popular venue. Dances were held every Saturday night and it was not unusual for over three hundred to attend. The organisers provided a bus (from Titteringtons – still in business today) to ferry dancers to and from the surrounding villages. The old accounts book shows that the most popular band were The Modernaires. Refreshments provided at the dances consisted of nothing stronger than minerals and crisps!
The popularity of the hall was such that there was soon a demand for more space and a kitchen. In 1961 it was extended to provide a stage, a kitchen and a supper room. This extension was opened by the local MP, Willie Whitelaw (photo, left.)
However, by 2002 the hall was beginning to look its age. It had started to leak. It was uninsulated , cold, and draughty and user groups were beginning to leave. Several structural surveys advised that repair would be uneconomic. Accordingly, the trustees decided to seek to rebuild the Hall, and embarked on a campaign of fund-raising. In excess of £20,000 was raised, but it was clear that it would never be possible to rebuild the hall by fund-raising alone. Grants were sought from a variety of funding agencies.
The first successful grant application was to Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust. The award stipulated that the new Hall should aim to meet or exceed the current targets for thermal efficiency and low-carbon operation. After studying a wide variety of options, the trustees opted to meet the low-carbon requirement by installing a ground-source heat pump, to provide central heating and hot water; and photo-voltaic roof panels to reduce electricity consumption and provide income from electricity sales to the National Grid.
Over the next three years the trustees were delighted to receive a constant stream of grants and loans, and by the beginning of 2010 had reached their funding target (£450,000), finalised the architectural drawings and appointed a contractor. Demolition of the old hall began in February (photo, right.) The new building was handed over to the trustees on November 19th, 2010. No formal opening ceremony took place, but the whole village came to an opening party.
The new hall was constructed to extremely high standards of insulation. Even in the coldest weather the heat requirements of the hall are very small, so it is always warm.
The entire heating requirements are supplied by a ground-source heat pump installed by Geowarmth of Newcastle upon Tyne. This system is essentially a refrigerator in reverse. It pumps out heat from the ground using coils of salt-filled tubes buried two meters deep in the field behind the hall. The heat is then concentrated and used to supply the central heating and hot water systems in the hall. The ground-source system uses electricity to drive it, but produces 4.5kw of heat for every 1kw of electricity, thereby saving energy.
The roof of the hall hosts an array of 33 photo-voltaic panels which are capable of producing up to 7.5kw energy per hour. Supplied by Sundog Energy, a local company, these operate best in bright sunlight, but will produce energy even on dull days. The electricity they generate is fed into the normal electricity circuits of the hall. Any electricity that is not used is exported to the National Grid. It is forecast that the system will produce over 6000kW per year, with an annual income for the hall of over £2,000. To date, the system has exceeded its targets.