If you would like to read more about the story of the Community Centre, our longstanding secretary Richard Bryant has just published a history with Parchment Press.
Entitled We Refuse to Accept That Ours is a Back Alley Community Centre: A History of the Bullingdon Community Centre, it is available to download for free below.
The Bullingdon Community Centre is located in what today is known as Lye Valley but which, in past years, has been variously called the Bullingdon Field estate, Bullingdon Green or the Bullingdon estate. The name Bullingdon derives from an ancient administrative unit, the Bullingdon Hundred, which dates from Saxon times. Housing for owner occupation started to be built in the area in the 1920s and council housing started to be built at Peat Moors in the late 1930s. The postwar Labour government encouraged the building of community centres on new estates, and local residents, supported by the Oxford City Council, started building the Bullingdon Community Centre in the late 1940s.
The community centre opened in the early 1950s. It had one hall and served an estate of around 560 houses. During the 1950s and 1960s the regular activities included bingo, old time dancing, sewing classes, Ladies Night, a youth club, senior citizens groups, the 7o’clock Club (MENCAP) and family and children’s parties. Summer fetes were held at the Peat Moors recreation ground. In 1963 a second smaller hall was opened at the community centre, which was jointly funded by the Bullingdon Community Association (BCA) and the City Council.
In the 1950s and 1960s new council estates were built at Wood Farm and Town Furze and in 1964 a small community centre was opened in Wood Farm, on the corner of Nuffield Road. During the 1970s more council housing was built at Slade Park and a local pressure group, the Wood Farm Action Group, campaigned for a new community centre for Wood Farm and Lye Valley, as the existing centres were considered too small to meet the needs of the expanding population. The City Council did not agree to provide a new community centre. This decision prompted the BCA to improve the facilities at Bullingdon. In 1983 the Sports Council funded (£40,000) the building of an all-weather sports area at Peat Moors and in 1985 the City Council funded (£73,000) a major renovation of the community centre, which included new toilets, kitchen, bar and changing rooms. During the 1980s new activities started at the community centre, including the Bar and Social Club, the Ad Hoc Theatre Group, Bullingdon Boys (junior football), Parent and Toddler Group and the Afternoon Group (senior citizens).
During the 1990s new housing and halls of residence for students was built on the former sites of the Morris Sports ground, the Slade hospital and the Cowley Barracks. The BCA lobbied for the planning gain from these developments to be spent on improving facilities on Wood Farm and Lye Valley. In 1993 a spate of joy riding in Wood Farm resulted in the BCA and other local groups forming the Wood Farm Youth Campaign to lobby for improved facilities for young people. In 1997 the rear hall of the community centre opened as a Social Club, following a renovation undertaken by volunteers from the football club.
In the early 2000s a review of Oxford’s community centres proposed that Bullingdon should be merged with the Wood Farm Community Centre and that the site could be used for housing. The BCA organized a successful lobby opposing the proposal. During the decade a number of new activities started at the community centre, including Orinoco—the Oxfordshire Scrapstore, the Studio Theatre Group and ORK Martial Arts. In 2009 the Slade Children’s Centre was relocated to Bullingdon, for two years, because of the redevelopment of the Wood Farm School. In 2010 the Wood Farm Community Centre was closed, leaving Bullingdon as the only community centre in the Lye Valley and Churchill wards. The population of the wards was over 14,000. After 25 years Bullingdon Boys stopped playing football at Peat Moors in 2011 and a new team, Bullingdon Youth, started up two years later.
In 2016 cracks appeared in the walls of the main hall and it was recommended that “demolition and construction should be considered”. The BCA started a campaign for the renovation of the hall and, working with Andrea Placidi from Brookes University, prepared a design for the renovation of the building. The Council agreed to renovate the hall at the cost of £500.000 and there was an expectation that the renovation would start in 2018. In June of that year the renovation was suspended because it is was over – budget and this triggered more lobbying from the BCA. In September 2018 the Council announced a major change in policy, instead of renovating the main hall the community centre would be completely demolished and re – built. In the same year the 7o’ Clock Club (MENCAP) celebrated 50 years of meeting at Bullingdon.
In July 2019 the plans and design of the new centre were displayed at Bullingdon but, in September, the BCA were informed that the project was again over budget and that, to reduce the cost, the rear hall would be cut out of the plans for the new centre. This triggered another round of lobbying, which eventually resulted in the Council agreeing to make extra funding available.
In January 2020 the Council agreed a budget of £1.5 million for the rebuild and the BCA was informed that the work would be started in the spring. By March COVID-19 was spreading across the UK and the first national lock down started. Community Centre’s were closed and the rebuild was put on hold. Before the lockdown the groups using the centre included Bullingdon Youth (football), Hogley Bogstars (over-60s), Parent and Toddler group, Date Palm Tree (parent and toddler), ORK Martial Arts, Orinoco, Creative Writing, SWAP SHOP, Fix It Café, 7o’clock club and the Studio Theatre Group.
In March 2021 the BCA was informed that the redevelopment would begin in the spring. The community centre was cleared and the keys handed over in May. In August the work on the site started and was completed by the end November 2022. In December the new building was handed over to the trustees and opened in January 2023. It was over five years since the cracks first appeared in the main hall of the old community centre.
Richard Bryant, 20.11.2022