Run on a not-for-profit basis by professional staff and volunteers, Charlbury Community Centre is the result of many years of fundraising and hard work. It is owned and managed by the Thomas Gifford Trust, a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registration no: 1155669. More information about the Thomas Gifford Trust and its Trustees can be found here.
The building was officially opened on 9 September 2017 by former Prime Minister, David Cameron. He was joined by Freddie Jones, actor of screen and stage and previous Charlbury resident, who cut the ribbon. Rev Sally Welch blessed the centre on behalf of Charlbury Churches Together.
Mr Cameron had dug the first patch of ground twelve months earlier to mark the start of the building project. At the opening he said “I am thrilled to see Charlbury Community Centre finished and open to visitors. This project demonstrates what I love about our community and why I am so proud to call it home. It’s a fantastic facility made possible by all those who have volunteered their time and energy – as well as generosity – to provide our community with a space that everyone will benefit from. I’m so glad to be here and share this moment with you all. I look forward to seeing what the people of Charlbury can achieve next!”
Jenny Chambers, Manager
Jenny represented the Army at hockey, tennis, athletics and skiing and went on to become a member of the first England Women’s rugby squad, leading the team to victory in the 1994 Women’s Rugby World Championship. Always passionate about sport, she particularly enjoys helping youngsters to get into sport too and is an enthusiastic cricket and football coach, including co-coach of Charlbury U13s girls’ football team last season. Jenny has previously held management roles at leisure centres in West London and Dorset, where she was responsible for developing activity programmes for all user groups, along with staging events and maximising centre usage. Jenny is also a professional horticulturalist.
Jason Biles, Wellness manager
Jason was most recently the gym manager at Heythrop Park where he was responsible for fitness assessments, personal training and teaching a variety of exercise classes. From his early days as a PT instructor with the Royal Air Force, Jason has spent more than 20 years in senior roles within the leisure centre scene in Oxfordshire. He is a former board member of the Fitness Industry Association, director of leisure operations at Oxford Airport Leisure Centre and has a wealth of experience in the fields of personal fitness and sports training for both adults and children. Jason, who lives in Chipping Norton, is also a talented musician, having managed Chipping Norton School jazz band and played in bands himself.
Click here to watch a time lapse video of Charlbury Community Centre being built, the library being installed and the lines being painted on the sports hall floor. It’s quite entertaining!
This Centre is built on what was known as Spendlove’s Close. It was owned by Quaker Robert Spendlove, a baker, who lived at the Corner House in the late 18th century. He bequeathed £100 towards the building of the Charlbury British School on the lower side of The Playing Close. In the 1930s teacher Bill Campbell and his pupils made the beautiful flower and vegetable School Gardens on this site which were also enjoyed by townspeople. Due to the rising of the school leaving age and growing pupil numbers, the Spendlove County Secondary School was built here in 1958. Pupils were taken from the town and all surrounding villages and a swimming pool was soon built in the grounds from public subscription. Despite much local protest, the 400+ pupil school closed in 1982 as a result of education cuts, pupils transferring to Chipping Norton and Woodstock. The site was sold to a private company and the building was used as offices, with some further education classes, antique fairs, concerts, etc, until it was demolished in 1998.
Primary school education in Charlbury was moved in 1987 to its present site at Crawborough. The old primary school, on the south east edge of the Playing Close, built on land partly owned by the Thomas Gifford Trust, was then used for adult education and leisure activities until it was sold in 1998 by the County Council for redevelopment as private houses. The proceeds from this sale enabled the Gifford Trust to acquire the Spendlove site for future development. Following consultations with the townspeople, the Trust developed plans for a new Community Centre on the site to help restore the indoor sports and leisure facilities lost to the town when the two schools were demolished . After many years of fund raising this new Community Centre was built and opened in 2017.
Compiled by the Thomas Gifford Trust in association with the Charlbury Museum
It seems appropriate now that the new Charlbury Community Centre is open to spend a few moments to reflect, and acknowledge the people who had the vision in those early days to create a new community centre following the loss of the public facilities on the Spendlove site in the mid 1990s.
When the anticipated Lottery grant was not awarded, the scheme to build a new multi-use community centre on the newly acquired Spendlove site had to be abandoned due to a lack of funds. Shortly afterwards, the Charity Commission recommended that the Gifford Trust, then the sole responsibility of the town council, required a new governance structure and that the council should nominate up to three of its members to a newly formed independent Gifford Trust. Trevor Jones became the chairman and other trustees included Willem Hackmann, Ian Cox, Russell Robson, Rosalind Scott, Tony Morgan, Liz Reason and with Audrey Hereford as secretary.
In 2004 a number of determined Charlbury residents led by Lynette Murphy decided to start fund-raising for a replacement project for the Spendlove site. The Charlbury Community Centre Appeal was formed as subcommittee of the Trust with the aim to raise £250,000 to assist with the construction costs of a new centre. This committee included Diana Potten, Richard Neville, Ed Fenton, Pat Court, Alan Hanks, Susie Finch, Liz Reason, Nicola Morgan and John Ord (OCC rep).
An inaugural military band concert in April 2004 organised and donated by Gen Sir Scott Grant raised over £5,000 and by the end of the first financial year £35,000 had been donated to the Appeal.
During this period the county council agreed to invest its share of the Beechcroft proceeds into a new library and adult education facilities within a new community centre on the Spendlove site. The scheme also involved residential development to provide enabling funding. However the financial crisis in 2008 adversely impacted on the delivery of enabling funds and OCC withdrew its support. Thanks to the considerable help by Brian Hodgson, the local county councillor, the Trust managed to retain a commitment from the OCC to the use of the library funding element for future facilities on the Spendlove site.
Due to the financial crisis and the fact that the Trust no longer had a viable project, the CCCA ceased active fund raising in 2008 having accumulated over £140,000 towards the building costs of a new centre.
In 2010 the trustees, now led by Liz Reason, embarked on a plan involving a large multi-purpose sports hall alongside a community area and a library. The scheme allowed for some of the site to be sold off for residential development to help fund the building costs of the new centre. At the time it was believed that this proposal provided the best compliment to the town’s existing public facilities.
From 2011/13, the Trust was chaired by Ian Cox and trustees during this period included Chris Potts, Jim Clemence, Willem Hackmann , Jim Holah, Russell Robson, Rosalind Scott, Jill Judson, Mary Ann Robertson and Marjorie Glasgow. A revised scheme was developed without the residential element and was based on the realistic prospect of support grants and donations from various national and local funding agencies such as Sport England to make it financially viable. Hywel Davies, Glena Chadwick, Mike Breakell, Gareth Epps (all WODC) and Rodney Rose (OCC) as local councillors during this period, provided the vital links and support to their respective councils to such an extent that they and the trustees managed to persuade both authorities to commit funds again for this revised scheme.
The CCCA reformed in 2012 under Alan Hanks’ chairmanship and began fund raising events again. In addition to the previous committee members, the CCCA recruited others over the next few years including:- Ant and Jessie Horn, Sheila and Charlie Peacock, Anna Cherry, Jim Holah, Sarah Eaton, Philippa Phelan and Susan Ledgard-Hoile. Diana Potten took over the chair in 2014. Considerable help with fundraising was also given by Nicola Morgan. By this date over £187,000 had been donated by the local community towards the building costs. Tanya Stevenson joined in 2013 and Jenny Chambers shortly afterwards. Tanya became the chair of the committee in late 2014.
Marjorie Glasgow became the chair of the Trust in October 2013. Other trustees during the period were, Chris Potts, Jim Clemence, Jim Holah, Kate Smith, Paul Jenkins, Simon Walker, Eileen Kenrick, Tanya Stevenson, Sue Terry, Richard Lewis, Roger Venthen, Richard Neville, Robin Puttick, Alice Brander, Tony Morgan and Rosalind Scott. In conjunction with the relevant authorities including support from the town council, together with specialist building advice from Kate Smith, Paul Jenkins and Angus Fletcher, the Trust developed the plans for an energy efficient state of the art leisure/sports building. The decision to merge the funds from the Charlbury Old Fire Brigade Building Trust into the project added confidence to the scheme’s financial viability.
The trustees worked tirelessly on grant funding sources as potential investors in the project. It is to the committee’s credit that over £1 million has been achieved from these efforts and that Daniela Jenkins in particular played a significant part in applying for these crucial grants and donations. She was helped in this by Lise Venthen, who also offered much support in communications, publicity and website development. Graham Terry deserves our thanks too for all the work he put in to get the Legend booking system operational.
By 2016 the Trust, still chaired by Margie Glasgow, had acquired sufficient commitment of funds together with the £250,000 plus raised by the CCCA, to enter into a design and build contract. The new Charlbury Community Centre on the Spendlove site was completed in 2017 and opened on time and budget.
Charlbury Art Society has completed the first phase of a Community Art Project to make and install swoops of swifts. The individual birds have been made from mosaic and the first swoop has been placed on the Nine Acres Pavilion wall in our courtyard outside the library. They look fantastic!
We now have a magnificent Christmas tree just outside the front door. Thanks to Halcyon farm discounting and delivering it, House and Carriage/MySTORE for sponsoring it and our doughty team of volunteers for erecting and decorating it. It will make a festive setting for our carol singing on Friday 14th at 8pm.
Please join us and the Charlbury School Choir to sing carols at 8pm on Friday 14th. There will be mince pies and mulled wine too - generously sponsored by the Font Cafe.
TG's cafe is now offering baked potatoes at lunch time, with a choice of fillings: cheese, baked beans (or both), tuna and sweetcorn with mayo. Why not stay for lunch after your sporting activities, or drop in for a tasty, warming lunch?
We'd love to reunite you with your possessions! Most items will be kept for 14 days. Valuables such as watches, jewellery and expensive sports equipment will be kept for 28 days. Each Wednesday between 1 - 5pm unclaimed items will be displayed in the centre and can be purchased for a nominal amount. After this, they will be given to charity.
The Christmas quiz night will be Wed 12th November, set by Tom Smith. The café and bar open at 7.30pm for a prompt start at 8pm. Priced only £5 per player, these quizzes are usually a sell-out so get your tickets soon from reception. More details here. A big thank you to Derek Collett for hosting last month's event.