A VILLAGE hall once threatened with closure has won a top design award.

The 100-year-old Victoria Hall in Hartley Wintney has been voted best new building in the prestigious Hart Design Awards.

The popular building was saved from demolition ten years ago and is now at the heart of the community — thanks to the vision and inspired leadership of the charity’s chairman, Chris Francis, and through the hard work of trustees and volunteers.

Competition judges were impressed with how the building had been given a new lease of life, serving as an example for others.

They also noted how great care had been taken to safeguard the character of the earlier building, originally designed by the royal gold medal winning architect TE Callcutt at the end of the 19th century.

The hall was originally called Jubilee Hall, but was later renamed Victoria Hall to celebrate Queen Victoria’s jubilee.

In 1996 the trustees of the Victoria Hall charity sent out a village questionnaire to find out what villagers wanted their hall to provide for them.

Architects Somorjay Talliss drew up a plan for the Victoria Hall and the Appleton Hall — built in 1940 as a decont-amination centre for gas injuries and burns.

Sadly, some of the Victoria Hall’s original features had been changed over the years and the flat roofed extensions were in a poor condition.

The kitchen was also condemned and the toilets were in a poor state.

The chief objective of the design was to expose the perimeter of the listed building, concealed by 1960s and 1970s extensions, link the two halls to provide a new shared entrance, and replace the twin towers which were destroyed in the 1960s.

The upgrading of the interior and general improv-ements, including the provision of ramps for the disabled, have now brought the hall firmly into the 21st century.

Funding came from grants from Hartley Wintney Parish Council, Hart Council, Ham-pshire County Council, the Countryside Agency and local community donations and charities, as well as from a number of community fundraising events.

Funds are now being raised to upgrade the stage and install new heating, and a new lighting and sound system, including an audio loop.

The panel of judges said: “A bold approach and a tasteful and sympathetic result. We were most impressed.

“An innovative and well executed design solution which has integrated two architecturally contrasting buildings into a single form that is truly greater than the sum of the parts.”

Other winners of the Hart Design Awards 2002 include Charltons Bakery in Odiham, for the best village or town centre project, and The Mounts in Elvetham Heath, Fleet, for the best housing layout.