by GARETH DENNISON
CAMPAIGNERS’ efforts to reopen Greasbrough Public Hall were thrown into a spin when it was decided that the building would be replaced with a roundabout.
A group which was formed by concerned residents to save the venue suddenly found its reason for existing taken away.
Greasbrough Public Hall Community Trust formed when Rotherham Borough Council invited groups to take over the building in 2016.
But weeks later, the authority had to apologise after a U-turn in which it decided the land would be needed for a £1 million roundabout instead.
Trust chairman Graham Hobson said: “Our original aim was to respond to an invitation issued by RMBC to express an interest in taking control of the Greasbrough Public Hall under a community asset transfer.
“Our plan was to take over the day-to-day running and restore the hall to its former glory as a community hub. But eight weeks after the invite, RMBC withdrew the offer.
“The trust fought got over a year to try and save the public hall from demolition. But after much debate and discussion with the council, the trust failed in this undertaking.”
The hall was built in 1925 from £7,000 of public subscriptions. It was used as a doctors’ surgery and library, has hosted tea dances, concerts, play groups, wedding receptions, presentation nights and jumble sales and served as a polling station.
The emotional attachment with the building remained strong in the village even though the hall was closed by the council in 2014.
Some people who shared their memories with the trust told how they would not even have been born without the hall — because it was where their parents met and fell in love.
Conservative peer William Hague backed the campaign in 2017. He said: “The hall means a great deal to many of us who grew up in Greasbrough.
“When it was a library, I went there every week as a young boy with my mother to find the next history book I wanted to read. So my own work in government and in writing books began there in many ways.”
As the hall was demolished in late 2017, the trust began to focus on creating a lasting reminder and the idea was raised of a memorial made of the distinctive stone facade.
A suitable site was chosen at the corner of Fenton Road and Coach Road, a couple of minutes’ walk from where the hall had stood for more than 90 years.
Graham said: “After the disappointment of not saving the hall, the good news was that we successfully negotiated being able to salvage the stonework, which now makes up the memorial.
“It took two years’ dedicated hard work from a lot of people.
“The memorial means the stonework is re-sited close to where it stood for nearly 100 years.
“Hopefully this memorial will stand for another hundred years and serve as a permanent reminder to the people who use this busy main road that Greasbrough once had a much-loved, much-cherished and much-used community hub, where thousands of people enjoyed many happy memories.”
Architect Peter Sanderson, who drew up the plans for the memorial, had a family connection with the building — his grandad Arthur Victor Hardy carved the original stonework.
Wentworth Fitzwilliam Amenity Trust gave a grant of £2,900 towards the project and crowd-funding brought in another £475.
Clients at Oaks — a day centre in Wath for adults with learning disabilities — added another £162 by selling keyrings they made from wood salvaged from the hall.
The memorial was installed in late 2018 — with a time capsule underneath documenting the hall and village — and an opening ceremony was held in December.