A new community centre has opened its doors in Barrow after the completion of a village project that has been several years in the making.
Once it was the village school and in more recent years the Grade II listed Town Estate Room served as the local pre-school. Since 2011 however, the building, has stood redundant and in need of some major renovation.
Now, six years later, thanks to the efforts of the Barrow Town Estate Room Charity, local fundraising and grant support from a range of organisations including St Edmundsbury Borough Council, the building has been lovingly refurbished to provide a new meeting place in the village.
Rev Dr Barbara Sherlock, Trustee of the Charity and Chairman of the Town Estate Room Management Committee said: “This has been a long time coming and we are so grateful to all the local residents that supported our fundraising, and the local organisations that have helped us get to this stage. The aim is that this will become somewhere where young people, the elderly and families can all drop in and socialise. We want people to come together, to mix, to promote that sense of belonging and community, and we want to ensure that we do all that we can to prevent social isolation.”
As well as hosting activities for residents young and old, it is hoped that the centre can also be used by organisations such as West Suffolk College to provide further education classes, and Age UK Suffolk, Mind and Suffolk Constabulary to provide advice, information and support. St Nicholas Hospice Care will be holding an Open House monthly in the room starting on 17 July.
The renovation project has cost more than £60,000 with the registered charity, providing around a third of the funds. St Edmundsbury Borough Council gave a £10,000 Rural Initiatives Grant, while Councillor Ian Houlder, who represents the ward on the borough council, has given £2,800 over the past three years from his Locality Budget.
Mr Houlder said: “This is a real credit to the community and all those that have helped raise the funds to make this dream a reality. Villagers have helped raise funds through a number of activities including a highly successful scarecrow festival. The desire and effort to renovate this building and create a new community centre for Barrow and the surrounding villages has really brought everyone together and I am delighted to support this wonderful project.”
Other funders include Barrow-cum-Denham Parish Council, Havebury Housing Partnership, and £1,500 locality budget from former Suffolk County Councillor Terry Clements who used to represent the area and who has recently been elected as mayor of St Edmundsbury Borough.
Grants were also given by Suffolk Foundation, Bernard Sunley Foundation, Garfield Weston Charity and Hopkins Homes who donated a new kitchen.
The centre was formally opened on Saturday by the Bishop of Dunwich, The Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison.
West Suffolk College will be holding an open house at The Town Estate Room on June 27 from 10am to 1 pm, for villages to drop-in and discuss courses they would like to see on offer there.