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Proposed Matterdale Education / Community Building


Background / Case for support




Matterdale Parish Council (MPC) through Matterdale School Foundation (MSF) (MPC is the sole Trustee of MSF) wish to replace our lost village hall which was housed in “Matterdale Old School” with a state of the art building so that every person living or visiting Matterdale and its surrounds has access to high quality education, social and leisure opportunities. This will improve social cohesion, people’s health and wellbeing, reduce social isolation and contribute to a net zero Cumbria with a low carbon sustainable building which will serve the community for decades to come.




Matterdale had a village hall since the 1940’s, located in the Old School, owned by the County Council. It was a thriving community hub, a focal point for the valley hosting a variety of meetings, groups, music and drama performances, children’s parties, concerts and sports days. Over the years the fabric of the building deteriorated, it became uncomfortable to use and attendance declined. Eventually it was sold by the County Council in 2016, and our village hall was ‘lost’.


Matterdale also had an Educational Field Centre which was run from the New School after its closure as a school in the 1960s. This provided a space for schools and Scouts and Guides groups from across Cumbria. The spread of Foot and Mouth in 2001 initially temporarily closed the facility and led to the requirement for costly health and safety improvements which weren’t carried out. Sadly, the Educational Field Centre was as a result permanently closed and the fabric of the building deteriorated even further.


Despite the loss of two community buildings, the passion and commitment to providing a community hub that will bring people together and provide interesting, enjoyable, and stimulating activities in the area has always remained very strong. The Matterdale Community Association was set up in 2013 to make sure community activities continued to be organised. It is working tirelessly with Matterdale Parish Council, Matterdale School Foundation and others, to make sure that a replacement community facility is provided in Matterdale and a full programme of educational and leisure activities and events are available to all. Together they are planning to build a new replacement community and education centre in the Matterdale valley.


In 2016, Cumbria Council transferred ownership of the New School to Matterdale Parish Council and provided some modest funding following the sale of the Old School to allow for the development of a new community facility for residents and visitors to Matterdale. Initially the vision was to re-develop the New School to serve this purpose but the cost proved to be prohibitive and it was recognised that the funds available (or potentially available) would go nowhere to meet the costs of the refurbishment.


There followed intensive discussion at a community level to determine the way forward and after a lengthy debate it was agreed that the best option would be to sell the New School thereby releasing significant funds which could be used to develop a bespoke building on a new site designed to meet the specific needs of the local community.  A trawl of potential sites took place, there were a few false starts and finally the only possible site identified and available was the Recreation Field historically owned by Matterdale Parish Council.


The planners at the National Park Planning Authority were informally consulted about the potential sale of the New School which would involve “change of use” and Matterdale Parish Council was advised that this would be acceptable if MPC/ MSF committed to a new community building on a new site.  This is the approach which has been taken.


This site has been chosen in part  through the lack of suitable areas of level ground, sufficient to accommodate a reasonably sized building and provide the car parking area needed to avoid roadside parking (with the obstruction to traffic and damage to verges which follow where car parking within the site is not available). Level farm land is of such value for agriculture that any sizeable acquisition would be at prohibitive cost; indeed MPC/MSF were disappointed to be denied the opportunity of siting the new facility closer to the main village centre of Dockray. The chosen site has the advantage of allowing for small camping groups, as well as larger events, and is yet within the valley and a short distance from the villages of Dockray, Matterdale End and Ulcat Row, so convenient for local residents and visitors.


Matterdale School Foundation secured approval from the Charities Commission in 2018 to expand its objects to advance education (original object) and community activities (new object). This has allowed it to plan to develop a single replacement centre to both provide community activities and educational activities in line with the charity’s objects. It will combine the functions of the closed village hall and the closed educational centre.


Matterdale Parish Council owns the freehold of the Recreation Field, the chosen site and will provide it for the centre to be built on. Matterdale School Foundation have a significant amount of funding from the sale of the New School. The completed building will be leased to Matterdale Community Association (80-year lease expected). The Community Association will manage and maintain the building and site.



The project is run by a partnership of three organisations.

The site is to be developed by the Matterdale School Foundation (MSF), a charity which exists to promote education and provide recreation facilities for the benefit of the residents of Matterdale and the neighbourhood. Matterdale Parish Council (MPC) is sole trustee of MSF. MPC, as freeholder of the site, will lease the education and community centre to Matterdale Community Association (MCA) on an 80 year lease. MCA will maintain and manage the centre.

Matterdale Parish Council

MPC is sole trustee of Matterdale School Foundation. It is expected that the final ownership rights will be divided between MPC and MSF in proportion to their respective contributions to the development costs.


Matterdale School Foundation

MSF was set up in 1906 and had its charitable objectives amended in 2019 for the advancement of education and the provision of social and leisure time activities for the community.

Matterdale School Foundation (Charity no: 526809) intends to lease the Education and Community Centre to the Matterdale Community Association (Charitable Incorporated Organisation: 1151528) in accordance with the charitable aims of the Matterdale School Foundation.  It is expected that the lease will be for a period of 80 years and will be based on a peppercorn rent and a repairing provision. The lease has been agreed in principle by MSF and MCA but needs to be finalised.


Matterdale Community Association

Registered with the Charity Commission on 15 January 2013 as a Charity Incorporated Organisation. (Charity No 1151528).

The charity has over 100 members and 10 Trustees, including a Chair, Hon Secretary, and Treasurer, and has been filing annual returns to the Charity Commission since 2016. It has successfully run regular social and educational events and activities using existing facilities in the valley. These events have been a mix of social, leisure and educational events. It has an active group of trustees who represent significant skills in business, accounting, marketing, education, running charitable organisations, and a larger group of enthusiastic members who form the Events Committee.

It has set up a Virtual Village Hall Committee, a website for locals and visitors ( and Nextdoor Matterdale, an on-line community network, to engage with the community and provide a forum for people to communicate with each other. 

MCA will manage the Centre to provide and organise a range of community, leisure, social and artistic activities for the local community, adjacent parishes and visitors. Additionally, it will develop a wide ranging educational programme for children, young people and adults from the local area and from further afield.


Why is a Community Centre needed?


Evidence shows that communities with places where everyone can come together (in normal times) are connected, stronger, happier and healthier. Local authorities recognize the benefits of such facilities and MPC / MSF are pleased to have financial support for this proposal from Cumbria County Council and Eden District Council through their community grants programmes. There is well evidenced need to reduce rural isolation; this proposal will have the ability to help in that respect.


Matterdale although linked with Watermillock to form the Parish Council is a distinct community separated from Watermillock by a narrow single track road which winds over The Hawse. Each has its own longstanding church (and church community) and public house and each community functions in an autonomous fashion. There are no public transport links. Watermillock does have its village hall but for these reasons, there is little access for Matterdale residents.

There was a consultation with other local village halls them in 2015, before it was decided to develop a new village hall. This consultation concluded that they are all distinct in what they provide, and geographically distant from our community. Although other village halls within ten miles of Matterdale may have a small amount of capacity to support additional activities for the Matterdale community, they won’t meet our community needs. The Matterdale community has indicated that the times and places available are inconvenient, inflexible and too far to travel.


It is now accepted by the community, there is a need for a dedicated community hub in the valley that can provide recreational and educational activities to reach a wider section of our and other local communities. The community believe that this will contribute towards the ongoing life of the community, its sustainability, and help to make it a vibrant place to live, work and visit.

Since the community centre closed, the community through Matterdale Community Association has worked hard to keep it together using ‘pop up’ venues around the parish to meet our community’s needs. A limited programme of social, leisure and educational activities and events has been provided to help bring the community together.

In 2016 Matterdale Community Association, working with the Parish Council, kicked off the virtual Village Hall programme in a temporary marquee with ceilidhs, pop up restaurants, musical evenings, a local choir, bake offs , children’s games, salsa evenings etc. Since then, and without a venue of its own, it has organised activities in the Royal (pub quizzes, bake offs,) the Church and its meeting room (shared lunches, Easter egg competitions and hunts, community meetings), and worked with other charities e.g. Cruse, to host musical evenings in a local barn.

Since 2016 Matterdale Community Association has been running and supporting educational activities in the same ‘pop up’ venues. These are very limited by space. This included Easter egg painting, wreath making, paper making, singing, steel band practice, a sports day, and well-attended monthly breakfast meetings with talks and discussions led by local people on a variety of topics.


Although the community has been successful at organising community events in a variety of places, they all have drawbacks and limitations that hold the community back. It has worked hard to keep a programme of events alive, but the community are asking MPC/MSF to invest in a Community and Education Centre to develop more activities and events for the local community.


The educational aspect of the new centre will offer something completely different to local people that cannot be provided through pop up venues. It will involve children from nearby and further afield and visitors too. It will build on the field centre type aspects of learning that our old School provided. It will be available for schools and youth groups and will importantly focus on making the National Park open to a diverse range of people.


The centre will also become an exemplar and learning resource for sustainable building, renewable energy systems, biodiversity, traditional hedging, wet land area, community orchard and vegetable growing. The strong interest and passion Matterdale is very fortunate to have from people and organisations committed to developing a sustainable environment will be developed.


Over the last six years Matterdale Community Association has captured over three hundred local people’s priorities, needs and aspirations for a new community hub. This has shown strong and consistent support for the reinstatement of a community centre in the valley. Four consultations have been carried out, or commissioned by, the Matterdale Parish Council and the Matterdale School Foundation in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 which have confirmed this.

Attendance at the yearly programme of events put on by Matterdale Community Association from 2016 - 2019 provides further evidence that the community supports a range of social and leisure time activities which bring different sections of the community together.


Results of the consultations highlighted the range of activities that members of the community would attend:

  • Weekly: exercise/fitness/dance classes, art and music clubs, cooking, craft and educational classes. Pop up café.

  • Monthly: film/music nights, coffee mornings, lunch clubs, historical or other talks, dog training.

  • Occasionally: dance nights, BBQs and other social events.

Additionally, the community is keen to run activities and to be involved in the running of a centre.


Matterdale Community Association has prepared a Business Case for the running of the centre. This has been accepted by Matterdale School Foundation. This concluded that there was a strong need for it and that a centre would be financially sustainable. It would support a range of educational activities for children and children’s groups; provide educational, recreational and sporting activities for the local community; provide a venue for parties and celebrations; and where appropriate a venue for meetings and more commercial activities.




Matterdale is a small, close- knit community with a strong sense of identity. There was a village hall at the centre of the community for many years which served both local people and those from further afield. The new Education and Community Centre will not only rebuild on the previous success of the old village hall but will create a hub which will provide a wider range of facilities in keeping with the updated objectives of Matterdale School Foundation to meet the needs of the twenty first century.

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