A village in east Suffolk has celebrated the reopening of its community hall – 16 months after arsonists destroyed the building and left its many users devastated.

East Anglian Daily Times: Official opening of Memorial Hall at Trimley St Martin after £289,000 rebuild following arson attack last year.Official opening of Memorial Hall at Trimley St Martin after £289,000 rebuild following arson attack last year.

The official opening of Trimley St Martin’s Memorial Hall on Saturday marked the culmination of a £289,000 restoration project, which began when the building was reduced to a charred shell in June 2013.

Heather Rodwell, the hall management committee’s secretary, said the fire had ripped a “huge hole” in the community and its resurrection had been long awaited.

“It’s been a very quiet time in the village with no community hall but now it’s back to businesses – my phone has been red-hot with people trying to book it,” she added.

The hall had been used regularly by a wide variety of groups and organisations including quilters, embroiderers, Trimley Saints Players, Trimley Wives and the parish council.

David Cook, who is the hall’s caretaker and a member of the Players theatre group, said the fire had come as a “big shock” for the village.

“It was in use virtually all the time and so it’s great to see all the groups that used to use it are coming back again and making use of the new building, which is absolutely brilliant,” he said. The original building had been built in honour of the village’s fallen soldiers who gave their lives fighting in the First World War and Saturday’s ceremony saw the new hall rededicated by the Rev Val White.

John Goodwin, who is the village’s county councillor, said it was fitting the building had been reinstated in the year of the Great War’s centenary. He added it was particularly pleasing that a tapestry, which hung in the old building to commemorate the soldiers’ sacrifice, and was one of the few items to survive the fire, had been hung in the new building.

“Everybody was bitterly disappointed when the fire happened but now it’s been redone, it looks fantastic,” he said.

The new hall, which features a larger stage area and enhanced kitchen facilities was built by construction form AC Harding Ltd with support from design consultants Concertus, which were each praised at Saturday’s celebration.

The £289,000 funding came from a number of grants and donations, with support from local authorities.

Mrs Rodwell paid thanks to the determination of the local community in following the project through. “Applying for some of these grants is like sitting an exam – they are not easy – but we got there in the end and the councillors have been wonderful in their support,” she said.