Oughtrington Community Centre wholly owns the building and land (we rent the field from Warrington Borough Council, and the Community Orchard is owned by “The Church”).
In the late 1970’s the former Oughtrington Primary School
was purchased by local residents from Cheshire County Council for use as a Community Centre. It has been owned by the community ever since.
The Centre receives no grants from Lymm Parish Council or any other state funding. All expenditure has to be met from fundraising and income from room rentals.
In the early 1970s, the 19th Century former Oughtrington Primary School (previously Oughtrington Elementary School ) became redundant on completion of the new Howard Avenue School site (the present Oughtrington Primary School). For several years the ‘old school’ was left empty, as the Cheshire County Council decided what to do with it. Matters came to a head when the council indicated that its preferred option was development for housing. A small group of local people began to collect signatures, protesting that a greater priority would be use of the building and field for the benefit of the community.
Persuading the County Authorities was not easy but with increasing local support, and the crucial intervention of the late Sir Oswald (‘Ozzie’) Davies (head of the AMEC construction firm and a former pupil of the school) funds were found which allowed the purchase of the building and the lease of the field.
In 1979 Oughtrington Community Association (O.C.A.) was formally registered as a charity with a small group of trustees including Sir Oswald. They immediately engaged government employment schemes to rehabilitate the neglected premises. An early highpoint came in 1983 when the shiny, newly refurbished building was opened by Sir Bobby Charlton and his wife Norma.
Over more than 40 years Oughtrington Centre has been home to a wide range of local groups – from pre-school to older people, from uniformed youth groups to a pigeon club. From time to time it has also provided ‘shelter’ to numerous local campaigns and concerns. In the 1980s the focus was on the physical and social environment, culminating in the publication of a ‘Village Study’. Many of the key individuals from this activity maintained their connections in the 1990s; three local histories were published, and a vigorous campaign for a community wood resulted in the Woodland Trust’s Spud Wood. At over 40 acres, it is one of the largest local woodlands of its kind in Britain.
The year 2000 marked a turning point. The retiring chair of O.C.A. Joyce Penlington received an MBE for services to the community in Oughtrington, Heatley and Lymm. The trustees decided that it was time to map out new directions for the now over used Community Centre. At the November 2000 A.G.M. of the O.C.A. a development group was formed, with a primary aim of arresting the physical deterioration of the west end of the centre; the ‘West Enders’ development group had arrived!
The development group quickly identified a number of strategic needs – the rehabilitation of the present building, the need for new space to respond to enthusiasms for day time adult education and to encourage a mix of environmental education, art and craft interests.
Advice was sought about funding, and an application was made to the National Lottery for a £5,000 ‘Awards for All’ grant. In the summer of 2001 this proved successful. The immediate tasks, therefore, were to work with a local architect on three related fronts i.e.
1. A full structural survey of the existing building
2. A preliminary identification of how future needs might be accommodated in expanded premises, and (crucially) likely costs.
3. A consultation with existing and potential users, to identify future needs
The development group engaged an architect and plans were drawn for the expanded and refurbished Centre. In 2003 Warrington Borough Council approved and granted planning permission.
In order to raise the required finance, the development group set up two fund raising teams. The Strategic fund raising team targeted major source of funding and the Local fund raising team held local events. These teams raised over £300,000.
In December 2007 the builders started on site, demolishing the pre-existing single story toilet extension and laying new foundations. The builder handed over the new extension and refurbished west end in November 2008. This gave OCC two new multi-function rooms, new toilet facilities and two rooms upstairs that have been structurally built, but still not fitted out.
Soon after the completion of the new build the old gas boiler that served the main hall, kitchen and pre-school rooms failed and the building was left with no heat. An emergency appeal to the community raised over £13,500 within 6 weeks and enabled a new modern and efficient heating system to be installed. This just shows the tremendous support the Community Centre has within the local community.
Fundraising teams again went to work over the spring of 2010 to raise the enough money to replace the roof. This important project was completed over the summer of 2011.
In August 2013, the main hall floor was replaced. The previous oak floor had been installed around 30 years previously and was very badly worn.
Since mid 2023 there has been a renewed focus on a maintenance strategy. Independent advice has been sought on current and pending building requirements.
A new fire alarm system to meet current standards has been installed, covering the whole building.
Emergency lighting has been replaced throughout, again to meet current standards.
Roof repairs are being undertaken, including work to stabilise the chimney stacks, two of which have degraded to a poor state of repair. We will remove the iconic but inappropriate small tree growing out of one of our chimney stacks.
The hall floor is being assessed for restoration, as the surface finish has been worn away to bare wood since it was laid.
Heating repairs & improvements have been made across the three independent heating systems we operate, to help manage our energy costs and ensure a consistently comfortable environment for our visitors.
We are assessing our doors to comply with fire regulations. Having started with advice to replace existing doors with fire doors, we now expect to retain most of our existing doors, with a reduced need for fire-rated doors (our un-finished first floor still needs attention to install appropriate fire barriers before it can be used other than for occasional storage).
There are further significant works identified for the pre-school rooms that we hope to undertake over the summer of 2024.
The decor and carpets in the main hall and annexe are in need of replacement, we accept that these do make the interior look tired (‘grotty’ has been mentioned), however the priority is first of all to cover off the works that ensure the safety of the building, but more importantly that of our hirers and visitors – whilst not ideal, these areas do not affect safety or functionality (and… we need to address issues with the previous hall paint finish before we redecorate this area).