Village Halls: St Patrick’s Community Hall, Pennar
Pennar’s is an example of a Pembrokeshire hall with simple needs. Tony Wilcox explained that the hall is efficiently run by a committee of six: “Any more would be unwieldy.”
It meets monthly and holds its AGM at the end of June.
Tony says the committee is a small and happy band of volunteers and they employ an excellent part-time paid caretaker who also deals with their bookings.
Built-in 1923, the hall was part of the school across the road and was used as extra classrooms or for school lunches. It was utilised in the war when the oil storage tanks were bombed locally. There is still a bomb shelter below the stage.
In 1998 the church proposed knocking the building down. Public meetings were held and some small grants were awarded. Local businesses and local people took it on.
The hall committee has never felt that huge grants would benefit it but have had sums from South Hook and the power station which have helped over the years.
“We have very little in the way of expense, “Tony explained, “ and the hall is well used by local people all the year-round. The hall has a licence for 200, and we have seated as many as 120 comfortably. The back meeting room is also well used by craft groups and ranger guides as well as providing premises for meetings.”
He said the hall is leased and, while there are only six years left on that lease, the option to increase it is agreed. As part of its agreement, the community hall sees to the maintenance of the church grounds.
Is there a newsletter?
“We have produced them from time to time,” said Tony. “But they are very time-consuming and we are very busy. We sent out our last survey and letterbox drop about eight or nine years ago. We might consider doing that again. People are very generous.”
I asked about the heating. Often in these old buildings heating is a problem. I am assured that there are no complaints here and that the gas central heating works well, even in the coldest days of the winter.
The building is largely accessible, though parking is on the busy main road. Work is being undertaken to make the backroom easier to access, as at the moment there are a few steps. The cellar is being used as a studio and a study by Pauline, a local artist.
There is no hearing loop but it is something that some thought has been given to.
The kitchen is well equipped and could be used as a café for anyone interested in pop-ups or one-off events and the Gallery comes in handy as a storage area.
The Hall is committed to recycling and deals with all waste itself.
This is the largest ward in Pembrokeshire and not the most affluent. I asked Tony if there were any problems with vandalism.
“While most of the community value the hall and use it appropriately, we have had some issues with broken windows and the like. It’s not a massive problem but it does mean that our insurance is high, and we are currently considering installing CCTV. We have had generous grants from a number of local organisations who recognise the good work that goes on here, so we could meet the cost of that if we decided to go ahead.”
Pennar likes to keep rents low to encourage use of the hall. There are at least eight or nine regular groups meeting weekly, including a number of NHS groups, one being a pain clinic.
“We let the big hall for £10 per hour and the backroom for £8. This revenue helps us to build up a bit of a fighting fund. Anyone wanting to book can do so with Sally.”
The centre has been used for craft fairs with varying degrees of success over the years, and a host of other events. It is popular for parties and local bands.
The stage has good lighting and a sound system is hired when needed. For performances, bands and plays, the back room is used as the green room. A drama group uses the facilities to rehearse on a Sunday and has performed here.
The Fun Day is a popular annual event, with bouncy castles and shows, and dancing. Tony tells me that everyone gets involved.
“We know it’s not the Ritz,” Tony said with a laugh, “but it’s warm and dry.”
And I can see that he is being modest. St Patrick’s Community Hall in Pennar is not the poshest, plushest community centre in Pembrokeshire, but it is full of life – a cherished gem that the community knows it is fortunate to have.
Facebook St Patrick’s Community Hall, Treowen Road.
For booking and prices, call Sally on 07595984144
Address: Treowen Road, Pennar, Pembroke Dock, SA72 6NY.