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Jo Storey
Jo Storey
Crondall Entertainers > The Old Gym Restoration

The Old Gym Restoration

Finding a home

Since we formed in 1982 we have staged our productions in the Village Hall and until 1995 our scenery was stored and constructed in a variety of old barns and sheds kindly lent to us by local farmers. Costumes were piled away in the roof space of the Village Hall. The owners of the last barn we were using told us in 1994 that they would soon be requiring it for development and so it became important for us to find a permanent home. Luckily there was an ideal spot within 30 yards of the Village Hall � The building known as The Old Gym. However unfortunately the building had not been used for some time and had been badly vandalised.

Old Gym Kitchen

The history of The Old Gym building

The main hall of the building started out as the gymnasium for a local private school which opened sometime in the 1890s and closed in 1912.
During the First World War it was used as an exercise centre for German prisoners of war. In the twenties and thirties we believe it was used by a farmer as a tobacco barn. In the Second World War it was again used by the military.

Entrance and path prior to restoration

After the war it was used by an orphanage run by a group called �The Good Templars�. During the nineteen sixties it was given by the then owner to Trustees who started the Crondall & Ewshot Boys� Club. This was a large and successful group and they were able to add the single storey extension which runs along the length and one end of the building. Sadly the Boys� Club folded in 1992 and gradually the building fell into a state of disrepair and by 1995 had become badly damaged through vandalism.

Trashed Interior

We approached the Trustees of the building and negotiated a lease agreement. Our aim was to restore the building so that it could act as a base for ourselves and be used by children and the wider community once again.

Clearing up after the vandals

Before we could use the building ourselves, let alone open it to the public, we had to clear up the vandalism and make it habitable and then begin the process of a full restoration. In February 1995 and over the next few months we were able to achieve the initial clean-up with the help of over 40 people from within our group..

This tidy up enabled us to create a safe and secure base for our own rehearsals and set construction etc

However our aim when agreeing the leasehold was to seek to restore the building so that it could once again be used by children and other community groups.

The professional renovation

The renovation of the Old Gym was clearly a major undertaking. We managed to interest and gain the support of Hart District Council. They pledged a �45000 grant and advised us to become a registered charity to achieve our aims. After a lot of work by the committee, The Crondall Entertainers Community Association (C.E.C.A. - Reg. Charity no. 1063032) was formed in September 1997. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts we were delighted to receive �100,000 grant from the National Lottery Charities Commission. These monies, together with substantial financial investment from our own fundraising activities enabled us to hire an architect and coordinate the professional restoration and refurbishment of the building. This process, supported by thousands of man hours of work by members of our group, finally enabled the building to be opened on the 15th November 2000.

For further details of the building and the facilities that it now offers please see the How to Book page..

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