Blaze damages village hall and war memorial in west Suffolk

A FIRE has ravaged part of a west Suffolk village hall and war memorial described as the “heart” of the community.

Yesterday , firefighters were battling to put out the blaze at Drinkstone Village Hall, which is a timber-framed building also serving as a memorial to the First and Second World Wars.

The fire service said 50% of the building had been involved in the fire, which began in an electrical box just after 9am, and as a result substantial damage had been caused - including a hole in the roof - and it was not safe to go inside.

Sue Foulsham, vice chair of the village hall committee, said the well-used hall - a First World War RAF officers’ mess hut - was the focal point for the community, and is now urging for help in rehousing classes and events planned to take place at the facility.

A new village hall - in land behind the current one - has been on the cards for many years, but more funds need to be raised before it can go ahead.

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Mrs Foulsham said: “When you think the village has got nothing, no facilities, it is really the heart of the village. And it nearly tore my heart out this morning when I saw it. But there you are, life goes on.”

Yoga teacher Kath Clare, who runs classes twice a week there, told how she heard what she described as a “noise” after she turned the electric heaters on yesterday morning, and then saw flames leaping out of the fuse box at the hall entrance.

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Mrs Clare, who was the only one there at the time, said she set off the fire alarm and called the fire service straight away.

Crews from Elmswell, Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds, as well as a turntable ladder from Bury St Edmunds, attended the scene.

It took the firefighters two hours to deal with the blaze.

Mrs Clare said: “I just feel it’s just so sad it has been damaged like that when we have been trying for so many years to get a new village hall.

“And it would have been nice to close it and dismantle it [to move to a new location], rather than see it damaged.”

She added how the main thing was nobody got hurt.

The cost of the damage, and the future of the building, depended on the verdict by the insurers, Mrs Foulsham said.

She added how the kitchen area of the hall had only just been redecorated.

A meeting took place yesterday to discuss options for the The Drinkstone Craft Fair, Car Boot Sale and Dog Show - a big event for the village - which was due to take place on September 12 at the village hall.

It is hoped the event, which was to help raise money for a new facility, will now take place in the grounds of the village hall on the same date, with part of it taking place in marquees.

Anyone who may be able to help provide generators and portable toilets, or help in any way, should contact Mrs Foulsham on 01449 736314 or Liz Schmitt, secretary of the village hall committee, on 01449 737264.

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