Bishop of Huntingdon opens newly refurbished community hall

Rt Revd Dr David Thomson Bishop of Huntingdon at official opening of Fenstanton Church Centre

Rt Revd Dr David Thomson Bishop of Huntingdon at official opening of Fenstanton Church Centre - Credit: Archant

It was back to school for several older Fenstanton residents on Thursday when the Bishop of Huntingdon officially re-opened their former primary school as a community hall.

The old Victorian school was sold to the parish church more than 40 years ago when the present Fenstanton and Hilton Primary School opened in 1973. Since then the Church Centre has been used as the church hall and for community groups including Fenstanton Morris and a pre-school playgroup.

But, according to church centre committee chairman Ian Hucklesby: “It was becoming very tired, and people were not hiring the building because of that.”

The re-opening by the Rt Revd David Thomson, Bishop of Huntingdon, followed a £250,000 refurbishment that will allow the two ground floor rooms to be used as one or separately, and also created an upstairs committee room dedicated to long-serving churchwarden Martyn Saunders, who died a year ago.

Bishop David described the transformation as “an awesome project” that brought church and village community closer together.

He said: “When this school was founded, society held its faith and community life much closer than we do now. That reminds me that life does not come in compartments: we have spiritual lives and active lives – the church and community belong together.

“The stronger we are in our faith the more our facilities are there not for ourselves but for everybody,” he told the 80-strong audience of villagers, sponsors and suppliers. “As you have received bountifully from God, so you will be inspired to open your doors to others.”

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The project was funded by money from the church council, grants of more than £100,000, donations totalling nearly £20,000 and more that raised through two years of fund-raising events in the village.

The church council now plans to promote the centre as part of a package that offers a low-cost venue for celebrating marriages that have taken place in church – increasing the potential attraction of church weddings. In the same way, it will be a convenient venue of post-baptism celebrations and post-funeral wakes.