Demolition of BRJ Club “imminent”

THE defunct BRJ Club is to be demolished “imminently” to make way for an extension to a nearby school.

Cambridgeshire County Council told The Hunts Post that they had submitted notice to Huntingdonshire District Council that the site, on Sallowbush Road, Oxmoor, is to be cleared. Detailed plans are currently being drawn up that will provide an extension to St John’s Church of England School, which is situated behind the former sports and social club. Headteacher Helen Curtis was unavailable to discuss the extension but a spokesman for the school confirmed that the site was subject to “county council plans”.

The BRJ club was founded by Maurice Bastini, Tony Rigden and Charlie Jacques in 1972 and the club quickly became a popular focal point for the community.

However, as the years went by, the popularity dwindled and the owners struggled to pay its mounting costs. Despite, enlisting the help of a local businessman, who pledged to turn the club’s fortunes around, the BRJ closed its doors in October 2010 amidst spiralling debts. It was later served with a Fire Safety Order and police and bailiffs raided the premises in December 2010.

On hearing the news that the building was to be demolished, locals organised a final farewell outside the former clubhouse.

Rob Robbins, chef at the nearby Lord Protector pub, said: “A lot of people wanted to say goodbye. It is a bit sad, really. It was a big part of the community. People are annoyed that the council didn’t do more to try and save it as a community centre. They didn’t have to run it as a business.

“Lots of people have lots of memories there. People had their wedding receptions there, birthdays, their children’s birthdays, and a lot of people had their first jobs there.

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“Once it’s gone, it’s gone. At least it’s going to be a school so the site will still be serving the community.”

Case Studies

In decline

The Montagu Working Men’s Club, in Huntingdon’s Hartford Road, is struggling.

Founded in the late 19th century, at the peak of its popularity it had 900 members. Now, the number is a third of that, with only 30 to 40 people regularly visiting the club.

Alan Clasper told The Hunts Post: “We have been in Huntingdon since 1987 and we are one of the oldest clubs in town. We have a darts, a pool table, two snooker tables, a bowling green and drinks are a lot cheaper here than in pubs. We would welcome ideas on how to improve things. We book bands but at the last one only 31 people turned up; doing that we are losing money hand over fist.

“It appears the youngsters of the town are not interested in club life. It would be a shame to see facilities like ours and theirs go under, so the local people should use what they have to keep history and old traditions going.”

On the rise

The Comrades Club has been in Godmanchester for 90 years.

Vice president Martin Cooper said: “There was a small decline in numbers but we have diversified and looked at ways to attract new people. We have invited other clubs to use our facilities; we have a very large hall here which was never used during the day but now we have Slimming World here, the WI and playgroups using it. They bring new people to the club who see what we have to offer and footfall is now higher than it’s ever been. Clubs used to run on beer sales and what they took out of the slot machines and we used to take �26,000 a year but we don’t get a tenth of that out of the machines now.

“We are fighting back and that’s the way we will survive. We took the decision to diversify but we have the usual things here: three darts teams, a pool team, three large snooker tables, big screen television showing sports and three bars. Our main asset is the hall and club members can book that for private events.

“We have about 700 members. We used to get 30-40 people in on a Saturday night but now it is 80-90.”