IT was an empty church hall that had been standing empty for years.
Now local freemasons have turned part of the former Purbook Methodist Church, in Stakes Road, Purbrook, into a community hall which everyone can enjoy.
Residents got their first good look around the building and were given tours of the whole development during an open day on Saturday.
As previously reported in The News, part of the church has been turned into a meeting place for lodges across the area.
There are also conference rooms and a lounge bar which people can hire.
The church was bought last year by Portsmouth Cornerstone Limited, a group set up by freemasons to help look for more accommodation after a lodge in Guildhall Walk, Southsea, was sold about 12 years ago.
Richard Durrell, 72, who is chairman of Portsmouth Cornerstone Limited, said: ‘The response from everyone at the open day was very good.
‘We’ve had a lot of interest already from various community organisations such as dance and amateur dramatic groups and The Rowans Hospice about use of the hall.
‘These are exactly the kind of groups we wanted to attract.
‘We also hope to attract weddings and dinner dances too.
‘We have community halls at other freemason lodges so this isn’t something new.
‘We try to do a lot in terms of integrating with local people.
‘There are suspicions about freemasons and this helps to break down any barriers.
‘People get to know more about what we are all about.
‘This event also gave our members the chance to come along and see the development.
‘It’s been a culmination of a lot of hard work and we’ve had help from volunteers as well.’
The combined cost of purchasing the church, which had been empty for five years, and the refurbishment was £600,000.
The work was finished in about ten months.
The money came from the sale of the Guildhall Walk site and donations from freemasons.
Though final bits of painting and decorating still need to be done in the community hall, it is now available for hire.
The Mayor and Mayoress of Havant borough, Gerald and Elaine Shimbart, also attended the open day.