THE Budworth Hall has served as the community heart of Ongar since Victorian times.

Built in 1886 by public subscription and named after local figure Captain Philip John Budworth, the High Street-based hall still fulfils its original purpose as a centre for functions, meetings, and music.

Extended in the 1920s the building now contains a ball room, concert room, and committee room, and is well-used to the present day by many local societies from art clubs to jazz bands, keep-fit classes to bingo.

The only interruption to the building's constant public use came during the two World Wars.

In the First World War, Budworth Hall served as a hospital with local women working as nurses while in the Second the hall was requisitioned by the army and troops were billeted there.

The Hall has been managed since 1968 by the Ongar and District Community Association and serves as its home.

Association administrator Jenny Heymer said: “Things are on the up, and it's looking positive considering we had a recession. We have got quite a lot of local support which has been generously received. Bookings are up and we have a range of regular customers.

“The position of Bedworth Hall as the community centre is its main attraction. Everyone can pop in as it's just on the door step.”

Membership of the community association is £2 a year or £1 for people over 65.

To join, or to book Budworth Hall for an event call 01277 363888.