By Kevin Unitt 30/12 Updated: 02/01 12:00
A WOODEN hut used in Belgium during the First World War before being flat-packed and shipped to Southam is set to be preserved in the town for future generations.
The Craven Lane Hall, believed to be the only surviving and accessible First World War billet hut in England in its original layout, was shipped from Belgium to Sutton Coldfield before being bought by Southam residents in 1921 as a recreation hall for returning servicemen.
Over the last 90 years in the town it has been used by social clubs and for group meetings, parties, mini-markets and even wedding receptions. In the 1940s it was known as ‘the Infant Welfare Hut’ because children were weighed and inoculated there.
In 2007 it was going to be demolished by a developer but with the help of a local secret benefactor it was spared.
Now a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of almost £25,000 has been secured, boosting hopes a bid for a grant of £250,000 can eventually be secured to fully restore the army hut.
Kate Mulkern, director of the Heart of England Community Foundation which helped secure the initial grant, said: “The hall is amazingly well preserved but is increasingly fragile and I don’t think it would survive much longer without sensitive and expert renovation.
“It is a vital part of Southam’s community life, and it also directly links us to the Great War.
“The hope is a full grant will follow and the fabric and reputation of this much-loved community centre will be safe for years to come.”
Town resident Jim Steele, who for several years has been chairman of hall's management committee, expressed his delight at the grant.
He said he hoped the “small part of Southam's history would be saved for posterity”.
Anyone with old stories or photographs of the hall and or of Southam during the First World War have been urged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chairman of the Craven Lane Hall management committee Jim Steele with secretary Diane Ellard and bookings secretary Pauline Meade outside the old hall. Picture by Jon Mullis 52.011.001.leam.jm2 (www.buyphotos247.com)
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