Squires Cottages Charity
As the Second World War came to an end and life in Bury gradually returned to normal, Bury Parish Council began considering plans for the future of the village hall – at that time an ex-Army hut with primitive facilities. Ernest Sydney of Barn Cottage (Fogdens) in Bury offered to gift to the village five cottages he owned in The Street known as Squires Cottages.
This bequest, in memory of his son Peter, who died on active service in 1941, was conditional upon all profit arising from the rental and/or sale of the cottages being used to improve the existing hall or build a new one. The conveyance was completed in October 1947.
This essentially marked the beginning of Squires Cottages Charity (SCC), although initially these “ringfenced” funds were managed by the Parish Council’s Village Hall Committee, the charity being established in 1962 to take advantage of the then more favourable taxation applicable to such organisations.
The rental income from the cottages was low (at a rent review in 1957 the total income from all five amounted to £3-17-6d per week!) and was mostly used for the maintenance and refurbishment of the buildings themselves, so it became clear that building a new village hall would mean the sale of some or all of the cottages. In the event, nos. 3 and 4 were sold and combined with grants from district and county councils, a new village hall was built at a cost of £37,290 and officially declared open by Her Grace, Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk on 31st May 1975.
In subsequent years, SCC funded a number of minor improvements to the village hall and in 1996, no. 5 Squires Cottages was sold for £113,000 to fund a £60,000 project including a new heating system, complete re-wiring and a major alteration to the front of the building to accommodate the Post Office following the closure of the village shop in The Square.
Further improvements costing £40,000 were made to the hall in 2004 and, more recently, the two remaining cottages, nos. 1 and 2, have had a complete refurbishment and the village hall now has new fuseboards and emergency lighting, plus new LED lighting throughout and a new fire alarm installation.
Tribute must be paid to Ernest Sydney whose generosity has been – and will continue to be – of inestimable value to the village and its residents. SCC is a separate entity from Bury Parish Council although all current councillors act as trustees of the charity.