New community centre thanks to The Connolly Foundation

A village has now re opened its community centre after a lengthy programme of refurbishment.

The Harrold Centre or The Institute as it is also known, was originally built and donated to the village by a local family in 1904.

The Centre needed significant improvements to upgrade it and enlarge the building to better serve the community.

After a number of years of fund raising work finally began late last year and the Centre now includes a much larger hall, which can seat up to 130 people, a new atrium and bar facilities, making it suitable for wedding receptions, other parties and celebrations.

There are two committee rooms, an improved billiards room and a special medical consulting room. There is also a caretaker’s flat as part of the complex.

The refurbishment was made possible thanks to generous donors including a £50,000 donation by the Connolly Foundation. The total cost is expected to be just under £400,000. The main hall in the Centre will be named The Connolly Hall in recognition of the Foundation’s contribution.

The refurbished building was formally opened last week (September 2).

Alison Foster, Borough Councillor for Harrold, Carlton and Odell opened the revamped Centre.

Cllr Foster said: “The Harrold Institute is an iconic building at the heart of the village. The many people who have worked so hard to preserve it represent all that is good about Harrold and its community. Confidence was boosted enormously by the donation from the Connolly Trust.

“The Institute Trustees have decided that the main hall in the Institute (The Centre) will be named The Connolly Hall in gratitude.”

John Tusting, a Trustee whose great grandfather Charles Pettit donated the land and built the Centre, said: “The Centre forms a significant part of the village’s heritage. It was built in 1901 out of the prosperity created by the five local leather factories together employing about 400 people.

“The renewal and rejuvenation of the Centre we hope will mark a new beginning; building on the past but looking forward to new life for Harrold, a cohesive and welcoming community.”

The Connolly Foundation is a Bedfordshire Charity dedicated to helping young people in education, care for the elderly and local community projects.