In the period leading up to 1957 the leading figure in the drive for a meeting place in Bilton for the elderly of the district was Mrs Nellie Tagg, better know to everyone as Nurse Tagg who, from the first world war, endeared herself to the people of Bilton by her work as a nurse and midwife.
Accordingly, on the 27th February 1957 a meeting was held in Bilton Grange School, where it was agreed to proceed with the idea of establishing a community centre in Bilton. The meeting elected Miss Tagg as Chairman, Reg Schofield as Vice Chairman, Alec Currie as Secretary and Mr C Burton as Treasurer. Starting with a collection on the night, which raised £4-10-6d, numerous fund raising activities commenced. After much work and negotiation, the first Centre was opened in Elm Road, Bilton on ground leased from the Harrogate Corporation at a peppercorn rent. Two ‘nissen type’ huts were purchased from the council at a total cost of £80.00 which, at the time, left a remaining balance in the Centre’s accounts of thirteen shillings (or 65 pence in today’s decimal currency).
On the 14 February 1959 the Centre opened for business and, in those early days, many trials and tribulations were experienced. In very cold winter weather the water supply often froze and in wet weather, the electrical system would frequently fuse. Nevertheless those first ‘pioneers of the Centre’, under the leadership of their first Chairperson Miss Nellie Tagg, carried on the good work for the community however, by early 1960, it was evident that more suitable premises were required and, although everyone worked towards this next goal, it wasn’t until 1965 that the almost unthinkable occurred.
As a result of a coffee evening held at Elm Road, H H Walker of the ‘Jottings’ fame gave the Centre much needed publicity in the Harrogate Advertiser. This in turn was read by Mr Charles Napper, a resident of Bilton and retired businessman, who offered the committee a detached bungalow at 48, Bilton Lane, free of charge, for the continued use of the community. Following alterations to the inside structure and installation of central heating the Centre commenced operations from its new home. However, in 1978 it again became clear that major re-structural work was required to the bungalow in order to maintain the existing recreations of the user groups and also to extend the scope of such activities where possible. Based on advice from surveyors it was clear that it would be cheaper to demolish the existing bungalow and erect a more purpose built Centre. Coincidentally, at this time an amount of money became available in the Social Services account of the North Yorkshire County Council, for just such projects. The total cost of all work and equipment for the new, purpose built, Centre amounted to £40,000. A strong structured case was raised, convincing the NYCC of the value of the Centre to the community and the project was approved. The resulting building, which is the one we see today, was officially opened by the Mayor of Harrogate on 1st March 1980.
The Centre’s original constitution was approved and adopted by the Charity Commissioners on the 8th November 1969, and duly entered in their Central Register of Charities on the 4th March 1970, with Registration No 244898 being allocated.
The Community Centre is largely self-financing, apart from a possible annual grant from the Charles and Elsie Sykes Trust, with money being raised through subscriptions, user group rental, and from various donations. By striving to keep facilities rental at a most desirable level, together with ensuring the building itself remains clean, fresh and welcoming, we are proud to be able to claim we currently have 22 regular user groups using our Centre, together with numerous ad-hoc activities ranging from christening teas and birthday celebrations through to many different charity functions.
The work of the Centre’s dedicated committee never stops and, to be able to keep up with the projected future demands, we may soon need to look towards some form of an extension to our building; but that’s the start of another chapter...