The Reading Room - Village Hall

We are very privileged to have access to a superb Victorian hall known as HELMDON READING ROOM. In addition to hosted Post Office facilities, this is the hub and meeting place for many community groups within Helmdon.

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What's Going on in the Reading Room? - posted 04 April 2023

Users of the Reading Room can't have missed the fact that something is going on, but they may not have picked up how much is planned and why.

Changing Uses for the Reading Room
For many years, the Reading Room has been seen as a venue that people could hire and use for clubs, society and private events. Recently, and especially since the CoVid pandemic, things have been changing. There have been fewer regular society meetings and more informal activities like the book swap, the Community Larder and the Thursday soup lunches.

Recently the Council has recognised the Reading Room as a "warm space" – somewhere people can go to be warm, mix with others and save on their own heating bills. They have given a grant to help us make the space more welcoming. The Trustees want to encourage this informal use and hope to be able to have the Reading Room open more often.

Options for Change
You may have seen last year the suggestions made by an architect for ways the Reading Room could be improved to meet a wider range of uses and the Trustees have started a project to pick up on some of these and other ideas. Some of the main ones are:

New Chairs
We have replaced all of the old heavy chairs with new lighter weight ones which will be stored in cupboards to make the extension tidier and a more attractive space for people to rent. The old chairs have been passed on to local churches in Helmdon and Everdon Warm Space. We plan to put carpet tiles in the extension along with some comfortable chairs to make an informal space that people can use to meet friends in the warm.

More Space for Users
Also in the extension we are looking to provide more storage for the different groups using the Reading Room, like the guides and the history group.

Getting In and Out
We want to improve the process of getting in and out of the Reading Room. The door into the main hall opens outwards and onto a step making it very awkward, especially for those who need a baby buggy or walking sticks. We will change the door so that it opens inwards and fit a glass panel in the top half so that people can see if anyone is on the other side.

The back door into the extension is very leaky and can only be opened from the inside. Since this is the entrance for those with restricted mobility or wheelchairs we are replacing the door with a draft- proof metal door which can be opened from the outside and will also have a glass panel.
We are also replacing the internal sliding door from the hall to the kitchen with one that works.

Improving Ventilation
As well as keeping heat in during the winter, we want to be able to let heat out in our warmer summers. At present there are no nopening windows in the main Hall or the Extension. We have ordered new ones that will open to let fresh air in when we need it.

Saving Energy
To cut down on energy use – and the running costs of the Reading Room we have replaced the old hot water tanks with a new water heater under the kitchen sink and we have added insulation to those parts of the roof space that had none.
We will also fit solar panels to the roof and install a battery so that we can cut down on our electricity usage, make some income from selling any excess generation and take advantage of cheap off peak electricity rates.

Improving the Main Hall
In the main hall we will be having the oak floor sanded and re-sealed.
We have relocated the radiators so that one long wall can be used for displays and exhibitions, possibly including more space for notices and information about village events.

Supporting the Community Larder
The Community Larder has proved a popular addition to the facilities for the village. They have asked if there could be a freezer in the Reading Room so that they can offer chilled and frozen foods too. We are looking to rearrange things in the kitchen to allow that and investigating other storage options too.

General Maintenance
We have a long list of general maintenance jobs, which we are working through giving priority to things which have safety implications, like painting the edges of steps and clearing moss. As well as repairing flaking paint in the kitchen.

How is this being paid for?
Over the last few years the Reading Room has been able to build up a fund mainly from payments received during the CoVid pandemic. It is not enough to cover all the work we would like to do, but it has been enough to get us started. We have also been applying for grants from various places, which we hope will be successful and allow us to keep making progress. So far we have received grants from Thrive – a renewable energy company for energy efficiency improvements and from West Northants Council for our warm space project. We are continuing to apply to others – like HS2 – to keep up the work and hopefully allow us to do some other things on our wish list.

Contact Us
If you would like any more information, have suggestions for other improvements, or better still would be willing to help with the improvement work, enabling us to keep the room open for longer or joining the Trustees please contact us by speaking to Morag Underwood or emailing us at

(More information: Reading Room website)

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