The original village hall was built in 1939 to serve as a meeting place for residents of the village. Major Luttrell of Edington donated the plot of land and villagers themselves raised the money for the building. The original was a simple wooden building with a shingle roof. The Church administered the hall for the first few years but it was soon passed over to a Management committee and arrangement that continues to the present day.
Opening of the Hall in 1939
The hall was used as temporary accommodation for evacuees during the second world war. The hall was extended in the 1960s and the ladies toilet was moved from the back of the stage to the old kitchen area on the side of the hall.
A new kitchen extension was built on the side of the hall making another entrance door on the front. This arrangement remained until the refurbishment in 2008/9. Burtle Village Hall was an extremely popular venue in the early sixties with regular dances taking place. Music was provided by ?? Ireland’s Band. They were quite lively affairs and local man Wyndham Puddy acted as ‘Bouncer’ on the door. In the 1990s it was realised that the Hall was in serious need of replacement or major updating and fund raising was started. Many events were held in the Hall but it was a long process as the amount required was so large. A planning application was submitted to Sedgemoor district Council in 2004 and permission was granted to demolish the existing hall and replace it with a steel framed modular building. Following this an application was made to the Lottery Fund for a grant but hopes were dashed when the application was declined because there was a new hall in Edington! The people from the lottery had obviously not realised that Burtle was a very strong independent community. During all this the hall was still well used but was deteriorating rapidly.
The inside of the main hall was alright but it was cold and draughty. We joked that people put their coats on when they went into the hall not when they came out. We had to develop a unique security system too.
The electricity supply was interesting often tripping out when too many sockets were in use. This was often during a disco or the pantomime. A broom was kept handy to flip the switch and restore the power together with a pile of £1 coins to feed the meter. The kitchen was difficult to work in too. You couldn’t have both cookers on at the same time – it was one or the other.
Just as the prospect of a new hall seemed further away than ever a local man, Robin Howell who is a retired builder came forward with an unusual plan for an affordable solution.
He had devised an innovative design using straw bales, sheep fleece and old wine bottles to build a new hall around the old one. The first step would be to ‘drop’ an agricultural type roof over the old hall and extensions. This new roof would be supported on metal posts and the new walls constructed from straw bales.
Robin is a very charismatic fellow and he quickly gained the support of the local community..
With the help of Community Council for Somerset match funding grants were secured from Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council, planning consent for the revised design was obtained by Burtle Parish Council and work was set to begin.
The footings were dug to support the new walls. Volunteers turned up on site to help tamp down the concrete. Whilst inside another local man Dudley White was doing the clever bit, working out exactly where the fixings for the metal posts had to be placed.Checks were made to ensure the fixings for the posts were in the correct place and the job was signed off!Wine bottles were used to fill the gaps in the base wall. Villagers rallied round and it didn’t take long to collect the number needed – the sign was soon altered to say ‘no more please’ .The uprights were installed and then the crane could lift the roof beams in place.With the beams in place the roofing sheets were fixed and our old hall looked dwarfed by the new structure.
The walls of the old hall were covered in a special mesh before a wooden frame was built in which to place the bales of locally grown straw that would form the ‘new ‘ walls. Straw bales were compacted down into the wooden frame and then we were nearly ready to plaster the outside.
Another of Robin’s notices let villagers know their help was needed. Local clay was sourced and after some experimentation the perfect recipe was developed with which to coat the straw bales. Villager , Nathan Henderson, designed and made a special mixing machine named Betty to do the mixing. Putting the clay on was a messy job but everyone enjoyed it!Once the clay was dry it was time to put the new windows in and fix the cladding.
The hall was still being used during all this work. A truth window was made in the front of the hall showing all the various stages of building the walls. The hall was weather tight and it was time to start on the inside.The inside was stripped of all the old cladding and one internal wall demolished to link the extra space on the side to the main hall. New walls and doorways were made.All the internal walls were lined with board and then plastered.
A new ceiling was put over the main hall and all the timber had to be fire proofed.The new kitchen was fitted and a bar built.Local sheep fleece had to be checked and all dags removed before they were hauled up into the roof.Once up in the roof they packed into channels to provide insulation.
Once the hall was decorated the original wooden floor was professionally cleaned and treated. During all the renovations we carried on using the hall but after eighteen months of hard work Cafe Burtle could be held in the finished Hall. Robin was very proud of the fact that everything was recycled if at all possible and villagers could even buy parts of the old hall for kindling wood!
In Spring 2014 the steps up to the kitchen were regularised and extended to give a proper ‘landing’ at the top level, and the ramp to the main doors is the correct gradient and formed from slip-resistant textured concrete with hand rails to both sides of both access points.