HUNDREDS of villagers greeted the opening of Barnham Community Hall.
The large crowd, probably some 500 strong, watched as three decades of planning came to fruition.
Long-serving councillor Jean Goad joined Barnham Primary School Year 4 pupils Emily Hammond and Alex Chapman to cut the two red ribbons to officially open the £1.1m building.
Cllr Mrs Goad said: “It gives me enormous pleasure to declare this hall formally open.
“I know all the hard work which has been going into this. Well done everybody.”
David Phillips, Barnham Parish Council’s chairman, told the crowd: “Just over 90 years ago, we opened the last hall.
“We have opened this one just in time because the old one is going to fall down.
“It’s going to be knocked down next week. It’s a question of whether it will fall down first. Hopefully, this one will last a lot longer.”
It was on May 26, 1983, the Bognor Regis Observer carried what was believed to have been its first report of the desire for a new community building in Barnham.
The campaigning and fundraising ebbed and flowed during the following 30 years.
The formation of Barnham Leisure Amenities Development Enterprise (BLADE) in the mid-1990s provided a further impetus.
West Sussex County Council granted the group the lease to Murrells Field in 1998 to provide the first visible progress.
A major village survey to gauge the need for the hall took place in 2004 and a development team was formed the next year.
The next five years were spent compiling plans.
A children’s playground and trim trail around Murrells Field were opened in 2011, followed by a multi-use games area last year as stepping stones towards the hall and pushing the project’s total cost to £1.5m.
That meant a massive village-wide effort was needed to reach last Saturday’s (May 4) proud and historic moment on Murrells Field when the crowd poured through the hall doors for the first time.
They were treated to a short concert from the 45-strong Barnham Primary School choir.
Singer Louis Willimott, nine, said: “It was probably the biggest audience I’ve sung in front of. It was great fun and an honour to perform at the opening of the village hall.”
School deputy headteacher Martin Draper said: “Singing here helps to develop the children’s self-esteem. It also raises their awareness of being part of a larger community.”
Those visitors who looked around saw a 21st-century building with a large and small hall, a club room, new facilities for Barnham Pre-School, a stage, catering facilities, changing rooms for the adjoining leisure site and plenty of parking.
They replaced a single-storey corrugated tin-roof building put up in 1927 on Yapton Road at the entrance to the field.
The new hall will be run by a charitable trust which was finalised the day before the opening. It will be chaired by Chris Allington, Eastergate Parish Council’s chairman.
He said: “I feel slightly emotional standing here.
“It has been a massive community initiative. Everyone has played their part in some way.
“We have set up the hall as a social enterprise, which will be run on business-like lines to mean the hall should be here for a long time.”