Second stage of revamp work on track at Public Hall

The Public Hall in Beccles is almost unrecognisable as the second phase of work gets under way.

The Public Hall in Beccles is almost unrecognisable as the second phase of work gets under way. - Credit: Archant

The Public Hall in Beccles is almost unrecognisable following four weeks of destruction by an army of volunteers and two week’s work by the builders.

The work is part of a £180,000 project to revamp the hall, with the second phase focussing on the foyer and balcony to open up both areas and create more space.

By the end of the first week in August, volunteers had filled three skips with lath and plaster, brick, rubble and years of dust, plus the bar and the old toilet. Two lorry-loads of plasterboard were bagged up and taken away by the builders and three loads of timber, including floorboards and old panelling, were sold to reclaim. The rest of the timber and fittings were put out in the car park, free to anyone who wanted it.

The electrics were then stripped out, including the failing stage lighting dimmer boards which were installed in 1970. It is estimated that with help from volunteers, over £40,000 has been saved on the original quotes.

Suffolk based builders J H Vaudreys moved in at 6am on August 10, and by the end of the day had removed all the structure, joists and most of the walls ready to start putting in the five steel beams that would support the new balcony floor.

By the end of week one, three steel beams were in place with the fourth ready to be installed. It was also agreed with the builders that the wall between the hall and foyer needed replacing so the volunteers stepped in once again and removed it ready for Vaudreys to build a new wall to incorporate automatic sliding doors.

By the end of week two, all the steel was in place, the joists installed and the flooring down. Internal walls have gone up and the new fire exit has been cut through, with Suffolk Highways due to move the lamppost that is in the way on September 1. The road will be closed for half a day.

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Hall director Terry Dentith said: “I was very impressed with the work of the builders who put in eleven and twelve hour days to get to the stage they are at. The building presented some problems but they rose to the challenge – particularly installing vertical walls when they need to match the outside wall that is six inches further out at the top than at the bottom.”

Mr Dentith said none of the work would have been possible without the “tremendous support” of funders and the hall’s team that have contributed £26,000 to the project, along with the donation from Boysie’s Bucket List. The balance of the £180,000 needed has been met with grants from Viridor Credits, The Colin and Alan Thomas Memorial Fund, Beccles Townlands Charity, Geoffrey Watling Charity, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The Paul Bassham Trust and Saffron Community Foundation. The balcony will have a new front commissioned by Barry at Martincraft and funded by the Beccles Music Festival.

Hall director John Cushing added