Phase two of Matthews Hall refurb has started

THE second phase of work planned to modernise Matthews Hall has started. Construction firms are busy redeveloping the building, on Fore Street, to make the hall better suited to be used as a place of entertainment, culture and community activities.

THE second phase of work planned to modernise Matthews Hall has started. Construction firms are busy redeveloping the building, on Fore Street, to make the hall better suited to be used as a place of entertainment, culture and community activities.

The second of three phases of modernisation work is when most of the alterations will be carried out. It is hoped the phase will be completed by September.

Steve Preston, chairman of the hall management committee, who is responsible for the project, said a number of changes were needed to modernise the building, which opened in 1928.

"Before we started the work we were keen to redress the historical side of the building: what it was used for in the past and what the use is now.


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"It was felt that changes were needed to make the place more tailored to be a place for entertainment, culture and community activities."

The hall is leased to the Topsham Community Association by Exeter City Council as part of a 28-year agreement. Phase two of the project will involve a ramp being built for wheelchair access to the main entrance.

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The ground floor area will house a new cafe with access to refurbished male, female and disabled toilets, a new kitchen and bar.

A chair lift will be installed, providing better access to the first floor council chamber, with a fire protected lobby and chair park. The roof space above the main hall and chamber will be insulated.

And, the police office will be relocated to the existing kitchen behind the stage, with an external door fitted to allow independent use of the office when the hall is not open to the public.

Steve said while construction work was being undertaken, the main entrance would have to be closed but the main hall could still be used.

"Events that do not need the present facilities of the entrance area, including the Saturday market, will be able to continue."

He explained that phase three would not start until the final cost of work for part two was finalised.

To fund the redevelopment project, the hall management committee first applied for a National Lottery grant three years ago. This, however, was turned down.

The committee, therefore, decided to launch a fundraising campaign in May last year. More than �200,000 has been raised for the project which had an initial estimate of �350,000.

Steve said it was thanks to money from clubs and societies, many of whom were based in the town, and donations and fundraising events that the work could take place.

He added: "We were particularly fortunate to receive a grant of �100,000 from Devon County Council from their sale of Exeter Airport." The city council also donated �15,000 towards the scheme.

Meanwhile, figures from the Topsham Community Association show a total of �5,821 was paid by clubs, societies and charities, which included the town's flower club, museum society and Guides, Brownies and Rainbows.

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