The story of CHAIN 1977 -2012

by Ron Rowlands

The  Office


A centrally located office was an essential requirement for the new management committee and they were fortunate in being offered a small room rent free by Dennis Cryer behind his offices at 107 High Street.  It needed much clearing out before being suitable but this was not a problem for the enthusiastic volunteers under the guidance of John Wilson, CHAIN’s first Office Manager, who wanted to see the organisation up and running. Some of the volunteers decorating the room were local scouts organised by Town and Manor Bellman, Robin Tubb.

As soon as it was ready, just five months after the steering committee first met, there was a formal opening. This was on 1st November 1977 when the Hungerford Town Mayor, Councillor Ron Tarry, and Hugh Hassall, Constable of the Town and Manor, formally ‘Welded the last Link in the CHAIN’

The opening, reported in The Newbury  Weekly News with a photograph (see left) showing Ron Tarry appropriately  dressed as a blacksmith, undertaking  the ceremonial welding. The equipment was kindly loaned by Oakes Bros.  agricultural suppliers located near Hungerford Railway station.

From the outset it was realised that larger premises were needed; especially as it was the committee’s aim to encourage volunteers, particularly the Links, and others to visit the office – all with the aim of encouraging

Community Involvement.

In 1997  it became possible to move to slightly larger premises at Unit 9, Kennet House,    High  Street, Hungerford, the office still occupied in 2012.  However, the search for even more space continued  and the management committee  held meetings with local authority officials and regularly reviewed the position.

A paper presented at the 1997 Annual General Meeting gives an insight into the efforts put in to achieve the aims.  It reads:-

Chairman’s Report on Future Long Term Premises

Whilst CHAIN is pleased to have found new office accommodation within Paul Burroughs buildings just off Church Street we accept that this still only offers a relatively short term answer to our needs.

 Newbury District Council has made a commitment, in principle, to assist us in finding long term space for our office within a building that is jointly available to the District Council for its Community Information Centre, to the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, to Red Cross and, when in due course it is felt necessary, the Town Council.  It is expected that some of the facilities would be shared and it would clearly be advantageous for these organisations, and in future perhaps other groups, to work under one roof where staff can be mutually supportive and where cross referrals of clients’ needs can be met.

 Berkshire County Council currently owns Hungerford Library and the site on which it sits  and Newbury District Council is negotiating for some additional space to be added to the building which could form the first phase of our community needs.  However the cost of  achieving this will have to be met, in major part, by the District Council and at the time of our AGM,  estimates are being sought and the future remains uncertain.

 Postscript at 4/11/1997.

The District Council have just learned that even the modest extension to the library that was being considered would cost some £52,000 and that sum was not available.  Indeed doubts seem to exist in some District Councillors’ minds that the library site is the right one for these joint purposes.

 I can see no more appropriate site becoming available and strongly believe that we should continue to hold the new West Berkshire Unitary Authority to the District’s commitment to help us achieve our aim in the near future and urge those concerned to maintain the pressure.

Bill Acworth – Chairman

Discussions with Newbury District Council continued beyond 1997 but the prospect of purpose built accommodation being supplied by the Local Authority seemed to be constantly receding.  At the same time, office staff, via their office manager, were constantly expressing their concern over lack of space, so in 1999 it was decided to upgrade the existing accommodation.

Dennis Simmonds and Ron Rowland raised the floor level of Unit 9, Kennet House  to rectify  a deep step down into the office.  They also laid new carpet tiles and redecorated the room etc.  Ron and Betty Grant, the Office Manager, then identified and purchased new desks.  Dennis Simmonds organised a system enabling wheelchair users to ring for attention and new directional signs were put up.  Betty was able to report at a Management Committee meeting in 2000 that the office staff were delighted with their upgraded accommodation.

Not long after the office refurbishment the management committee learnt of a change on the part of Newbury District Council with proposals for the development of Hungerford Library site.  However, faced with probably having to share limited accommodation and unknown financial commitments it was decided to stay with the refurbished office at Unit 9.


Opening times for the office have remained constant for the last thirty three years, i.e. 9 to 11am Mondays to Fridays, although for a short period in 1977/8 it was also open for an hour or more on Friday evenings.

Two volunteers normally working just one two hour session per week has been the norm and a key post has been that of the Office Organiser (Office Manager) to arrange the rota, train newcomers etc. etcbut, mainly to be the public contact and the day to day decision maker on all matters CHAIN .

CHAIN has been very fortunate in identifying volunteers of outstanding calibre and commitment to manage this key post of office manager.  They have been:-
John Wilson
Claire  Toole
June Blakeway
Betty Grant
June Tubb
Gill Moore.

In more recent years the office activity has revolved around arranging transport although a report of activity in the very early years indicates staff organising letter writing, reading letters to the blind, arranging gardening and odd job help, baby sitting, shopping trips etc.  This wider activity probably arose from the publicity generated by the inaugural public meeting.

Over the thirty three years there has been help given from time to time on aspects outside the present transport remit but these have been very much ‘one off’ tasks undertaken by the office manager or an individual staff member with knowledge of e.g. social services, able to refer requests to the appropriate source of assistance.

Updates from 2021

Deanne Cripps became Office Manager in