Hermitage Hall given new lease of life by £15,000 revamp

Speakers at the reopening of Hermitage Hall, from left, John Scott, Sarah Exton, Eric Robson, Ron Smyth, David Knight, and Gerry Campbell.
Speakers at the reopening of Hermitage Hall, from left, John Scott, Sarah Exton, Eric Robson, Ron Smyth, David Knight, and Gerry Campbell.

A village hall is once again ready to take its place at the heart of a Borders community after a £15,000 revamp.

The refurbishment of Hermitage Hall, south of Hawick, was carried out after it became apparent that it was needed to make the 117-year-old building fit for the 21st century.

Hermitage Hall, near Hawick.

Hermitage Hall, near Hawick.

The work involved renewal of the hall’s exterior, installation of a new water system, an upgrade to its bar and kitchen, installation of an audio and video system and restoration of its original air ventilator.

The work was funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme, Scottish Borders Council and the Roxburgh Federation of Village and Community Halls.

It could not have been achieved without the support of volunteers, tradespeople, trustees and patrons either.

Members of Hawick’s green team also built new planters and mechanical engineering students from Carlisle College restored the ventilator.

The work was overseen by the nine-strong Hermitage Hall committee.

Its chairman, John Scott, said: “We are celebrating today an appreciation of all that has been achieved in the last year. The hall is buzzing now.

“We started the work in the spring of 2016, when we had all our funding in place.

“We are a very remote community hall, and now the hall has the infrastructures and facilities to put it back at the heart of the community. This was an active community hall, but it was going down. It was in pretty bad shape.

“A new committee became involved about three years ago with a new enthusiasm, and we got charitable status.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved.

“Hermitage Hall is now refreshed, renewed and well positioned to provide a central role in the local community life for many years to come.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Ron Smith said: “We have to bring the community here and make full use of this hall.

“There has been a feeling of new energy around this Upper Liddesdale and Hermitage area in recent years, and I hope that can be fostered and continue into the future.

“Today, this is very much the shop window for the community, and everybody looking in that shop window will be hugely satisfied, I’m sure, and will be able to put their faith in the hall committee for many years to come.”

Eric Robson, host of Gardeners’ Question Time on BBC Radio 4, whose grandfather was a local station master, was on hand to unveil a citation to mark the opening.

He said: “Having been chairman of Gardeners’ Question Time for 22 years, I can without fear of contradiction say that I have seen more village halls than anyone else in the room.

“But looking back 20 years, many of those village halls are in the sort of state that yours was before you took it in hand.

“They were mouldering, they were rotten, they were in a time warp and they weren’t fit for purpose, and because they were cold and uncomfortable, the community didn’t use them.

“But then the communities up and down the country realised what an asset they were wasting because this really is the beating heart of the community and what you have done here is a lesson to people up and down the land on how to go about it.”

The hall was officially opened on March 18, 1910, by John Milne Home and the then duke of Buccleuch.

The cost to build and outfit the hall, including a full library, was £250.

A deed of trust was signed by the duke granting the title of the land and the building to the founding trustees.

The deed dedicated Hermitage Hall for the “purpose of physical and mental training and recreation, and social and moral and intellectual development through the medium of reading and recreation rooms, library, lectures, classes or otherwise as may be found expedient by the inhabitants of the district of Hermitage”.

Now that tradition is to continue with a series of lectures, concerts and other events being lined up at the revitalised village and community hall in the weeks and months to come.