Jeremy Dhondy to launch Preston Bridge Club’s new facilities

Members of Preston Bridge Club at St Walburge's Centre
Members of Preston Bridge Club at St Walburge's Centre

It’s been a long slog, but Preston Bridge Club is finally able to unveil its new premises – with a visit from a top bridge player.

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An early photograph of Preston Bridge Club in action showing Peggy Woodcock and Hilda Bell

An early photograph of Preston Bridge Club in action showing Peggy Woodcock and Hilda Bell

English Bridge Union (EBU) chairman Jeremy Dhondy will launch the club’s refurbished rooms during an open day at St Walburge’s Centre, in Preston, on Saturday, March 17, from 10.30am.

The open day also includes a buffet and guests can play duplicate bridge sessions from 1pm.

There are games for beginners and for more advanced levels, all with prizes on offer.

Since the group formed more than 60 years ago, members had been camped out at various locations including the Masonic Temple, Ashton and Lea Golf Club and Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club, but they were finally able to call St Walburge’s Centre their home in 2011.

The club must have been well established in 1950, when the magnificent Championship Pairs Trophy was presented to Mrs J Lowe and Mrs A Wilson. “The club’s trophies give a good indication of the people influential in its development, as important competitions and their trophies have those illustrious names linked to them.

Christine Booth

The club was originally based upstairs above the library, but members were able to renovate and move into a bigger room downstairs last year following help from The Big Lottery.

Chairman Christine Booth says: “The move to St Walburge’s Centre back in 2011 was great. We could offer sessions throughout the week and at weekends and start using hand-held bridge mates to provide instant scoring and results.

“The only issue was that the room was upstairs – a real deterrent to a largely older membership. Additionally we only had one room, so couldn’t hold simultaneous competitions or run parallel teaching sessions or meetings.

“2015 was a significant year in the club’s history, when we became a registered charity which enabled us to apply for grant funding.

An early presentation at Preston Bridge Club, showing Marjory Hester and Bill Woodcock

An early presentation at Preston Bridge Club, showing Marjory Hester and Bill Woodcock

“We also learnt the library downstairs was moving and realised it was an opportunity for us to keep our central location and have more rooms for playing and teaching. All we had to do was secure the lease and raise the money to adapt and update the premises.

“After grant aid support from The Big Lottery and a successful appeal to members for financial support for the adaptations and improvements, work began in early 2017 and we moved into its new premises in December.

“Our new premises, part of a Grade two listed building, are a great improvement on our previous ones.

“Although we have only moved to the ground floor in the same building, we now have exclusive use of four rooms, with IT facilities, one of which has a fully equipped meal servery, and toilets.

“We are grateful to a number of members who have generously loaned the club money to supplement our re-location budget and the Big Lottery which awarded us a grant of nearly £10,000 to help us buy equipment. Without this support we would not have been able to move.”

Christine adds over the years the club has attracted top county players, including Hilda Bell, Andrew Woodcock and Catherine Draper who played for England at international level.

She adds: “The club must have been well established in 1950, when the magnificent Championship Pairs Trophy was presented to Mrs J Lowe and Mrs A Wilson.

“The club’s trophies give a good indication of the people influential in its development, as important competitions and their trophies have those illustrious names linked to them.

“One example is the Woodcocks, where on two occasions, three generations of the family won a team trophy.”

Members meet at regular sessions across the week: Monday afternoons are supervised play sessions, aimed at players who have completed a beginners course; Monday evenings are intermediate standard; Wednesday afternoons and Friday evenings are general standard, with experienced and intermediate players and Thursday evenings offer higher standard session.

Afternoon sessions start at 1pm; evenings start 7.15pm prompt.

Visitors are welcome. The fee is £1 plus £3 table money. Annual membership is £20.

To register your interest in the open day, email gillarmstrong72@gmail.com.