Dame Ellen MacArthur reopened the oldest village hall in the country – which has undergone a £250,000 revamp.
The round-the-world yachtswoman cut the ribbon at St Margaret’s Hall, in Alderwasley, on Sunday.
The Grade II-listed building has undergone a total refurbishment funded by a Big Lottery Fund grant.
Ellen MacArthur said: “The result of this project is magnificent. To achieve something like this you need vision and without the team of people with that vision this would not have happened.”
She said when she was younger, while walking in the hills with her dog, she used to look down on the former chapel and passed it every day on her bus ride to school.
“It has been an incredible task but now there is a new future for the building and it is there for everyone to use. I am very proud to have been asked to open it,” she added.
Records show the scheduled Ancient Monument has a fascinating history including 16th and 19th century alterations, periods of decline and disuse and in the 1970s it became Alderwasley’s village hall.
The building hosts weekly Young Farmers’ meetings while other user groups including ‘keep fit’, bridge and a luncheon club will soon start
Hilary Wordley, chairman of the parish council, said they had worked closely with English Heritage to provide facilities fit for the 21st century and address the medieval building’s many health and safety issues including crumbling, damp walls and a condemned outside toilet.
Walls have now been plastered, a kitchen and inside toilet fitted, under-floor heating installed and the community facility has a new Wi-Fi connection.
Cllr Wordley said at the opening ceremony: “It is amazing to see so many people here. The whole parish has turned out and it has made the whole project worthwhile.
“We feel that with this funding the whole parish has had a big win on the lottery.”