The site of the current village hall is not its first location in Evenley. The original site utilised by the community was the building which has been known for many years as the village shop, now the Forge Coffee Shop. That original building, previously a social club, had been a village hall long before the outbreak of the second world war and was gifted to Evenley Parish Council on 27th October 1960 by its owner, Antony William Allen (1912-2003). A deed of trust was created which made the Parish Council the custodial trustee and established an independent management committee. This earlier building was then subsequently sold by the Parish Council to raise funds towards the purchase of a new facility.
The Allen family has had a long association with Evenley. Anthony William Allen’s grandfather, William Allen (1823-1905), was a former owner of Evenley Hall. William and his wife Ellen had two sons, one was an engineer whilst the other, William Henry Allen (1870-1936), took up farming and it was he who inherited Evenley Hall and the surrounding estate. Following his death, the estate passed to his son Anthony William Allen and it was he who sold Evenley Hall and the majority of its estate in 1938. A few properties in Evenley were retained by the Allen family; one of those was the building being used as a social club, later to become the first village hall and then the shop.
The present village hall (previously the village School since 1834), was purchased by the Parish Council on behalf of residents of Evenley in 1963. The buildings were owned leasehold by Northants County Council Education Department with Mr H.A.F. Ward Jackson, Mrs M.D. Blackiston (wife of John Blackiston) and William Henry Allen named as the landowners. Full settlement to purchase the buildings and land totalled £850. This sum and the refurbishment cost of the old school building, added up to a total of £1600 and was raised from the proceeds of the sale of the original village hall across the green and a loan taken out by the custodial trustees, which was subsequently paid back by the village hall management committee over subsequent years via village fundraising activities.
A second supplementary deed was raised relating to this purchase but this did not change the management arrangements. The deeds were amended in 2018 removing reference to the Education Department and making other administrative and management changes.
An archived auction catalogue, produced by Messrs Fox & Sons in 1938, presents the sale of Evenley Hall Estate which included Evenley Hall, three first class farms and the old-world village of Evenley. Lot 52 of that auction was the Schoolhouse and lot 53 was Evenley School (see photographs). Included with the outhouses of lot 53 were ‘pail closets’ and there was a right of way granted to Northampton County Council across the allotments (Lot 55) ‘for the purpose of conveying the pails used in the closets of Evenley School’. It is not known where the pails were emptied but the present allotments clearly have quite fertile ground!
Since the school buildings were acquired as a village hall, massive improvements have taken place including a new storage facility, new front entrance, new toilets, changing room with shower facilities, new kitchen, repeated ongoing redecoration inside and out and a resurfaced car park. Funding for these capital projects has come from fundraising activities by past trustees sitting on EVHMC, local residents, the National Lottery Fund, WREN, South Northants Council, local banks, local retailers and many other small organisations.
The hall has received financial support to purchase fixtures and fittings from bodies such as Evenley PC, Evenley Matters, the Gardening Society, the Film Club, the WI and many individual residents far too many to list and donations of equipment from residents and user groups. All their contributions have been much appreciated.
The hall, although not listed, lies within the conservation area and is designated as 'an important other building' and work to the exterior is dependent upon Local Authority Planning approval and Heritage agreement.