Staff at the Alton Assembly Rooms had to mop up raw sewage after a blockage caused it to overflow inside the building on January 2.

Clearance of the blockage was undertaken by specialist company Metro Rod and it was found that work had to be done to remove a broken pipe, re-lay pipework and install a new manhole chamber.

Alton Town Council officers, in agreement with Alton town mayor Cllr Ben Hamlin, used emergency powers to authorise Metro Rod to carry out this work, which began on January 8 and took five days.

It was completed in time for the Warm Winter Community Lunch and the Jane Austen Birthday Ball last Saturday.

At the council meeting on January 10, interim town clerk Pat Harris said: “It’s an old building with Victorian drainage systems and we can’t guarantee there will be no pipe breaks.”

Responding to a suggestion that the staff should get a special payment, Cllr Graham Hill said: “They went above and beyond and it was a particularly unpleasant task.

“For the council to acknowledge this financially is the right thing to do.”