The Village Hall has gone by many names since its inception in 1966. In its latest incarnation the Charity which runs it, is called "Debenham Village Hall & Playing Field Trust" and known locally as "Debenham Sports & Leisure", Debenham Leisure Centre" and "Debenham Community Centre".


  • 1966 - Debenham and District Sports Association began to raise funds towards building a Community Centre on a ten-acre site on the Stowmarket Road, owned by Mr. Clement Orford Styles1
  • 1966 - 21st September - Debenham Recreational Development Council registered with Charity Commission (Charity 304741)
  • 1967 - 3rd April.  Land is purchased from Mr. Styles by Walter William Biggs, Victor Henry Irving Knowland and Noel Francis Eaton for the purposes of establishing a "recreation ground" for the inhabitants of Debenham.   The cost of the land is £4,000.  New Charity (Debenham Playing Field) to be formed as soon as practical after this date.
  • 1967 - 22nd June - "Debenham Playing Field" Charity Number 307740 registered with the Charity Commission.2
  • 1967 - 1970.  the Charity (Debenham Playing Field) exists for the benefit of the parish of Debenham and use of the recreation ground is taken up by the Cricket Club, Hockey Club and other interested parties.
  • 1970 - 1971.  Plans are laid to build the original Community centre (largely funded by the three named above who bought the land and a Mid Suffolk District Council Grant).  The Debenham Recreational Development Council (DRDC) oversees the project through to completion.
  • 1972 - 3rd May.  Lease agreed and a further charity (Debenham Village Hall) is formed to oversee the management of the newly built village hall.  The three original funder of the land, gifted the land and the community centre to the village, ruling that it should be managed by trustees representing the various user organisations.
  • 1972 - 23rd May.  The Community Centre was opened by its first public event, an Old Time Music Hall.1
  • 1972 - 19th September - Debenham Village Hall (Charity 1006907) registered with the Charity Commission.2
  • 1972 - The DRDC run the community centre for the benefit of the village and surrounding area.
  • 1975 - 1st June.  The Community Centre was burnt down.  Damage was estimated at £70,000.1
  • 1976 - The re-built Community Centre was handed over on Christmas Eve.1
  • 1977 - 6th February.  The rebuilt Community Centre was officially opened by Lord Tollemache, and dedicated by the Reverend Vic Steynor.1
  • 1985 - 1986.  Plans are drawn up by Mid Suffolk District Council in conjunction with a "Design & Build" Contractor to develop the Community Centre site to contain a Sports Hall that would be annexed to the existing Community Centre.  It was accepted by MSDC that there was a "black hole" of recreation provision in Debenham and the surrounding area.  After much lobbying by the then District Councillor (Eddy Alcock), MSDC allocated £390,000 (the anticipated cost).  So MSDC owned the Sports Hall and the DRDC owned the land.  MSDC quickly realised that they could not legally exercise their right of ownership of the Sports Hall as they would have to "trespass" on DRDC land in order to do so, so they "gifted" the Sports Hall to the the DRDC.
  • 1987 - The new sports hall was completed and officially opened by Trevor Brooking MBE, assisted by Paul Chapman, Chairman of Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC), and Councillor Eddy Alcock, Local MSDC Member.  Last minute funding difficulties meant that although sufficient capital funding was made available, there was not sufficient funding overall to furnish the centre with the sporting equipment that was required for the centre to function effectively from day one.  The Debenham Sports and Social Club, which had been very actively raising funds toward the centre for many years, overcame the shortfall by donating 30,000 to the charity so that the required equipment could be purchased in time for the opening.   This money was originally meant to be donated to form the working capital for the centre to see it over the first few years of operation. The loss of this "reserve" has meant that the centre, from day one, has had to operate without any reserves whatsoever.  It is this little known fact that is the root cause of the centre's financial difficulties today.  Instead of the centre operating with a healthy bank balance to start with, the management committee were faced with opening the centre on an overdraft which has required servicing ever since.
  • 1988 - A Sports Hall was added to the Community Centre, and the complex was renamed the Leisure Centre.  On the 5th October it was officially opened by Cllr. Paul Chapman, Chairman of the Mid Suffolk  District Council, with Trevor Brooking MBE representing the Sports Council, Eddy Alcock, District Councillor, and Steve Palfreyman, Chairman of the Leisure Centre Management Committee.  The project was grant-aided by Mid Suffolk, and the Sports Council with the Debenham Village Hall & Playing Field Trust providing the land.1
  • 1988 - 4th July.  Charity Commissioners for England & Wales confirm that the 2 above charities should merge to form one charity known as The Debenham Village Hall & Playing Field Trust (Charity 304742).
    The formation of the charity involved the parish council being established as the "custodial trustees" of the charity.
    The DVH&PFT (Charity no. 304742) had a management committee that oversees the running of the centre. The members of the management committee have to be registered as trustees of the charity and as such can be held personally liable if the charity were to get into difficulties. The mantle of custodial trustees*, held by the parish council, offered some degree of security to the management committee in this regard, but did place potential financial responsibilities upon the Parish Council in the event the organisation ran into financial difficulties. The custodial trustees also enabled the charity, through the management committee, to take on bank loans to expand the activities of the charity.
  • 1991 - 13th September.  The Charity Commission expressed a concern that too much of the DVH&PFT income was being generated from the sale of alcohol.  The Charity Commission do not allow a charity to derive the majority of its income from the sale of alcohol, so it was a requirement of the charity commission that a separate company, wholly owned by DVH&PFT charity, be formed to operate the bar areas of the centre. Debenham Community Centre Ltd, was formed to fulfil this function and it donates, via gift aid, any profits directly to the DVH&PFT charity.
    The company was formed (company number 2645737) and registered with Companies House accordingly.
  • 1992 - 4th January - Debenham Playing Field (Charity 304740), amalgamated with Debenham Village Hall (Charity 1006907) to form Debenham Village Hall & Playing Field Trust (Charity 1099705).  The two original charities are removed from the Register.2
  • 1992 - Debenham wins the Sports Council's East of England Sports Award as the village that has made the most significant contribution towards community sport.1
  • 1993 - 12th October.  The River Deben burst its banks.  The following month saw the naming of the Lounge Bar as "The Deben Lounge".
  • 1994 - Sports award won for the second time.1
  • 1994 - 9th April.  The refurbished Deben Lounge at the Leisure Centre was opened by John Gummer MP, Secretary of State for the Environment.  The refurbishment was sponsored by the brewers, Greene King.1
  • 1994 - 16th May.  Michael Lord MP opens two squash courts, built on land provided by the Leisure Centre, and with the support of various grant-aided bodies including £20,000 from Greene King.1
  • 1995 - June.  The Leisure Centre was awarded nearly £40,000 from the National Lottery towards the provision of an all weather artificial surface bowling green, with Mid Suffolk District Council providing £35,000 and the Leisure Centre providing the site.  It was opened on 7th August.  The Debenham Bowls Club President, Percy Rowe welcomed many distinguished figures from the world of Bowls. Three time champion Richard Corsie, from Scotland, bowled the 1st wood.1
  • 1996 - 17th January - Debenham Recreational Development Council removed from the Charity Commission register.2
  • 2001 - Community Centre refurbished.
  • 2002 - June.  Fitness Studio refurbished.
  • 2004.  Advice received from the Charity Commission that to continue running the DVH&PFT charity (304742) as an "unincorporated charity" was not recommended. Like all other small to medium sized charities, the Charity Commission were recommending that the charity become a "Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee". This has the effect of removing the personal liability from management committee members and the Parish Council, something that had, nationwide, prevented people from taking an active role in charity work.  The Charitable Company limited by guarantee would have a board of directors that would require registering with Companies House. Normal rules for directors of companies have to be followed.
  • 2007 - 27th November - New Charity Limited By Guarantee (1099705) registered with the Charity Commission2 and all funds transferred into the new Charity.

Citations

  1. [S176] Pauline Heywood, A Short History Of Debenham (n.p.: The Debenham Heritage Committee, 2nd Edition, 1996), page 17 & 18. Hereinafter cited as A Short History Of Debenham.
  2. [S177] Website Charity Commission (http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/).