Professor is thanked during unveiling of plaque at Eastrea Village Centre

Eastrea presentation, Ritchie Walton (chair of trustees at Eastrea Village Hall Trust) Brian Ford,J

Eastrea presentation, Ritchie Walton (chair of trustees at Eastrea Village Hall Trust) Brian Ford,Jan Ford, Marsha and Mac Erysthee (trustees) Mrs Maureen Watson , - Credit: Archant

A leading figure who helped drive a mission to get a village hall opened after nearly 70 years of fund raising was given a surprise when a plaque was unveiled at the Eastrea Village Centre.

The plaque is in honour of Professor Brian Ford who, for a quarter of a century, helped drive the project to fruition.

He said: “I was utterly astonished by this presentation.

“It is 25 years since I took on the project and I retired last year though I remain their honorary director.

“The committee presented Jan and me with an immensely generous gift of wine, and revealed a plaque for the wall.

“I was dumbfounded. What an honour.”

The hall was opened in 2013 with a grand royal celebration after 68 years of fund raising to make the dream a reality.

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The hall was described at the time as a future-proof community focal point for generations to come.

A campaign for a village hall began during the Second World War and people struggled with rationing and nightly black-outs.

As war raged across Europe a local woman with a big dream opened a village hall savings account in January 1945 with just £1.

Years later the late Annie Tinkler’s £1 deposit became a seven decade battle of money spinning ideas and fighting with local planners which ended in the prestigious opening of the Eastrea Centre by HRH the Duke of Gloucester.

Annie Tinkler’s £1 deposit grew and shrank and by the 80s new committee members pushed the fund raising to £35,000 with events like the infamous Its a Knock-Out challenges, bingo nights, fairs, dances and cake stalls.

In 2008 the village hall campaign stepped up a gear when land was donated by a local farmer and developers, Rose Homes of Whittlesey, agreed to fund the hall to the tune of £250,000 in exchange for planning permission for 14 homes next door.

After intense legal wrangling with Fenland planners and scores of applications for grant money, the hall designs were approved.

The hall includes state of the art digital technology, gallery space, exhibition space. meeting rooms, a kitchen and bar facilities.