Bickerton Village Hall was built during the 1890s and formally opened in June 1899 by Mrs George Barbour of Bolesworth Castle. Its purpose was to be a place of recreation and education for the inhabitants of the villages of Bickerton, Broxton, Duckington, Larkton, Bulkeley, Egerton and Harthill. It was called the Bickerton Institute and served a purpose similar to that of the Mechanics Institutes in industrial areas.
The name of the road opposite the village hall, Reading Room Lane, perfectly illustrates one of the primary functions of the Institute, catering as it did primarily for local farm labourers and railway workers.
In a lease dated 2 August 1898 the tenure and management of the Institute were transferred from Sir Philip le Belward Grey Egerton (the local estate owner) to five nominated trustees, Lord Arthur Grosvenor, William Denson Haswell, Robert Barbour, George Henry Proudlove and the Reverend Charles Robert McKee. The lease was for a period of 42 years and the annual rent was £2.00. On 7 March 1923, in an important development, the lease was vested in the Institute Trustees for the remainder of the 42 years. Finally, in this first phase of the Hall’s history, under the terms of the Settled Land Act 1925 and the Property Act 1925, the Bickerton Institute was sold on 27 February 1927 to the Trustees for the sum of £50.00.
The wording of the 1927 Trust Deed that legalised the sale of the Institute is still relevant and features almost verbatim in the new Trust Deed that was drawn up in 2008. In particular, the Trustees were required “to permit the Institute to be used in perpetuity as a place of recreation and social intercourse and to serve any religious, educational or charitable purpose for the advantage or benefit of the inhabitants” of the seven villages listed above.
In 1927, the Institute comprised the Main Hall, the upstairs element, which was originally the two Reading Rooms and later became the Billiards and Snooker Room, and the Caretaker’s Cottage. During World War II the Institute was used for Home Guard training in addition to limited wartime social functions. Later, the kitchen was added to assist the WRVS Meals Service and an outside lavatory was constructed. A so-called Committee Room was also built onto the south-east corner of the building, and the Main Hall was extended by the addition of a stage to cater for the very popular dances held on Saturday nights.
Financial constraints limited the amount of work done on the building until recent years, and even then anticipated lottery funding did not materialise much to the dismay of the Management Committee. It was only after 2003 that funds became available for some of the projects prepared by the committee. In 2003-04 the toilets were refurbished and a disabled facility installed.
In 2006, thanks to a grant from DEFRA, a loan from ACRE, and a local “Buy-a-Brick” funding exercise the by now damp and unattractive Committee Room and the outside lavatory were removed and in their place the Community Room was built giving a whole new dimension to the facilities.
In 2007 new furniture was acquired for the three rooms. In 2008, after many months of wrangling, a new Trust Deed was agreed with the Charity Commission and the Bickerton Institute was officially renamed Bickerton Village Hall.
Since that date, the kitchen has been completely refurbished and re-equipped with modern facilities. As a step towards renewable energy and sustainability, in 2009, thanks to funding from the Lottery and the Carbon Trust, photovoltaic panels were fitted on the roof of the Community Room enabling the village hall to generate its own electricity and sell to the grid what it did not use.
This facility was enhanced in 2010 when funding from Tarporley Rotary Club and the Northern Marches Leader Programme provided solar heating for the water used in the hall, thereby further reducing dependence on heating oil. Bickerton Village Hall is now the subject of considerable interest and visits from sustainability and eco-friendly groups and individuals.