Organisers at a landmark north Shropshire community building say they’re looking to the future, after the pandemic left them staring into the abyss.

All activity ceased at the Grade I listed Memorial Hall in Oswestry with the announcement of Covid-19 related restrictions in 2020, and many of the groups who traditionally used the building have never returned.

Now, the team behind the day-to-day running of the venue say it’s steadily reinventing itself once more as a thriving community hub, amid hopes that brighter days are ahead for the building which has served the town since 1905.

“After Covid it was basically empty,” said community manager Paul Newman.

“There’s been a lot of groups that have really embedded themselves into the building over the years, many of those groups have got older and many of those groups sadly suffered through Covid.

Border Counties Advertizer: Paul Newman, Community Manager at Oswestry Memorial Hall, on Friday, June 7, 2024 (Mike Sheridan/LDRS).Paul Newman, Community Manager at Oswestry Memorial Hall, on Friday, June 7, 2024 (Mike Sheridan/LDRS).

“For that traditional use of the building, it’s had a roller-coaster history of nearly closing, closing, and then re-opening – commercially it’s only ever operated as a village hall, so it’s covered its costs each month and those periods of times when it hasn’t done that it’s closed and had to re-open.

“Electric bills, energy bills in particular were killing the building, so we had to deal with some debt, we had to deal with some financial challenges, and we had to go back to our existing users and do something to make them more comfortable and help them to be better performing.”


A business recovery grant saw the first floor space renovated as a modern looking co-working hub in 2021, now occupied by a number of freelance workers, while the building’s traditional purpose as an events venue got back on its feet.

Border Counties Advertizer: Oswestry Memorial Hall. Pic: Mike Sheridan.Oswestry Memorial Hall. Pic: Mike Sheridan.

Around 400 people per week now pass through the imposing oak-framed double doors facing on to Smithfield Street in the centre of town, with a number of new organisations now joining long-standing users such as Oddfellows Friendly Society, U3a and the Oswestry Bridge Club.

Plans are currently being drawn up for the renovation of the downstairs spaces, which are largely unchanged since the building opened in the early 20th century.

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The building is set to host an open day on Saturday, June 15, and organisers say they want the people of Oswestry to come armed with ideas for how they want to see one of the town’s most storied venues used in future.

“We want to make the building visible and accessible to people in the community for anything no matter how big or small,” added Paul.

“We’re really gearing up the day to entice new people in the door who might be curious about what that corner building by Marks and Spencer’s actually is.

“There’s a lot happening on that day in Oswestry, we’re hoping a lot of people on the town will see the doors open, they’ll see the banners, they’ll hear the music playing and come in for the first time and realise what goes on here.”