Historic hall saved from closure after outpouring of support
PUBLISHED: 16:43 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:43 19 February 2020
A community effort to save an historic public hall has succeeded after sufficient funds were generated - much to the delight of trustees.
The Rifle Hall, in London Road, Halesworth, was scheduled to close on March 31 after a significant decrease in bookings and income.
However, trustees of the hall have announced they have garnered enough support among the community for the venue to remain open until at least March 2021.
Simon Weeks, a member of the Rifle Hall Trust, said the group met last week and declared there had been enough new bookings to prevent the venue closing.
Dr Weeks said: "We feel very pleased that there's been such a positive response.
"There was a lot of affection towards the building, which we're glad has translated into concrete action.
"Hopefully, by the end of the year, business will be strong enough to carry forward."
Halesworth's Rifle Hall dates back to its origins as a theatre in 1792 before being converted into an infantry drill hall 70 years later.
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It was renamed 'Rifle Hall' in memory of then-Commanding Officer Andrew Johnston.
Waveney District Council owned the building until 2011 when it handed over responsibility to the Rifle Hall Trust - who spent thousands on a refurbishment to make it a more attractive venue.
Despite the trust's best efforts, it was announced in December that the hall was set to close at the end of March due to an anticipated financial shortfall of £2,000 per year
The news of the impending closure prompted a wave of sadness throughout the community - with Dr Weeks previously describing the hall being at "the centre of the life of the town".
However, a movement to save the hall has gathered momentum over recent weeks, with the venue hosting various meetings and events since December.
Businesses in the town have also got involved - including electronics store Hughes, who have been collecting donations.
Dr Weeks added: "There's still a lot of work to be done in terms of improving the building.
"The challenge now is to build on this and ensure the level of activity is sustainable.
"A big thank you goes to the people of Halesworth for stepping forward."