The William Burt Centre
The 4th May 1974 was a red letter day for West Winch for at 3 o’clock in the afternoon Osbert Lancaster, the well known cartoonist, formally opened the newly built William Burt Centre, a facility which has provided the social heart of the village for more than 35 years!
For those reponsible for its creation, the opening represented close on a decade of determined effort characterised by the all too familiar pattern of setbacks and triumphs which accompany such community projects.
Prior to 1922, people had relied mainly on the church, the school and the three public houses for places to meet. In 1916, a committee was formed to raise funds to provide the village with a building for entertainment and on the 6th September 1922 the hall known as the Institute was opened. Over the years this building played a vital part in village life but by the 1950’s the village institute concept had become outmoded and other organisations started using the hall.
One of these, the West Winch Players under the leadership of Alex Sandover, found the old institute building too small for their productions. As a result, a fund raising committee was setup with the aim of what ultimately became the William Burt Centre. Starting with a Tombola, money was raised from a variety of events, some successful, some less so.
By 1968 there was sufficient money in the kitty to contemplate producing a design although this proved to be too revolutionary for the grant giving bodies and it was not until late 1971 that an acceptable scheme was agreed. A model of the hall, to enable people to comment on the design, was produced for the 1972 Gala Day.
Brick shortages delayed matters but in January 1973 a start was made and the hall opened for its first public function on 31 December 1973 under the name “William Burt Centre”, acknowledging a substantial donation from the estate of the late William Burt.
Sadly, Alex Sandover died in October 1972 without seeing building work start on the project he had been so instrumental in setting up.
The running of the new Centre was placed in the hands of the William Burt Management Committee and under its guidance it quickly became the venue for meetings of a wide range of village groups and organisations covering the greatest possible age range, from toddlers groups to the Each for All group.
Among these organisations was the Parish Council, which moved from the Institute building, and the West Winch Sports and Social Club later to become the William Burt Social Club.
No sooner than the hall had been opened than there was talk of extending it. New toilets, a storeroom and another bar were quickly added, success breeding success, with the major impetus for growth coming from the thriving Social Club.
The William Burt Social Club
To start with the Social Club used the hall in the same way as any other organisation, utilising the small bar at the southern end. This however was very limiting and as a result plans were made to make a lounge extension with its own bar on the back of the hall, for the sole use of the Social Club.
This was completed in 1980 and added to in 1983 when a games room was built onto the side of the lounge bar. In 1985, with membership continuing to increase and with demands for more space, especially for entertainment, the Club decided to add a multi-purpose extension on the south side of the lounge, including in the design a patio and committee room.
This was completed in 1986 and around the same time the Committee recommended that the Club appoint a full time manager as the day to day running of the Club was becoming too much for volunteers to deal with effectively.
Over the next twelve years, the Social Club’s membership increased threefold, improvements were made to all its facilities and the lounge bar was completely redecorated and refurbished. Air conditioning was installed in 1996 and the extension and refurbishement of the games room was completed in 1998.
The Social Club continues to go forward and the facilities it provides for the people of West Winch, North Runcton and Setchey are the envy of many other villages in West Norfolk.
With a refurbishment of the William Burt Centre completed in 2007, the William Burt Complex should continue to thrive as the focus for village activity and is well placed to face the challenges of the new millenium.