Catholic club is torched by arson yobs

St Joseph's Club
St Joseph's Club
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Fed-up residents have demanded the Catholic Church demolishes a social club which has been torched twice by arsonists.

Householders in Cemetery Road, Preston are angry the burnt-out St Joseph’s Parish Centre has been allowed to stand empty for five years, attracting vandalism and vermin to their neighbourhood.

“It should be knocked down, we shouldn’t have to put up with this any longer,” said Margaret Copeland whose end terrace house adjoins the derelict club.

“We’ve got mice in the back yard and I’m certain they’re coming from that building. What’s next? Rats?

“The last fire badly damaged our gable end wall. It’s blackened with the heat and smoke. I’m scared someone is going to set it alight again.”

St Joseph’s, which is on the opposite side of Cemetery Road to the church and school of the same name, was one of the most successful social clubs in the east end of Preston in its heyday, with stars like Ken Dodd topping the bill.

But by April 2009 it was running at a loss and closed its doors for good. At the time comedian Jimmy Cricket, who appeared several times at the club, said: “It’s such a shame because St Joseph’s was a big club once upon a time. It was lovely. It was a beacon that stood out in that it got classy acts and held its own with a lot of bigger clubs.”

Preston city councillor Terry Cartwright, who was a St Joseph’s Club member for many years, said: “This place has been a club for more than 50 years and it used go be a top place to go. But it was also used for community use during the day and there aren’t too many places like that around anymore. It’s a sad end to a really good community facility.”

In 2012 intruders set fire to the building. It took fire crews five hours to bring the blaze under control and left the premises a charred shell.

Last week the club was attacked again by arsonists at 4am and once again firefighters were scrambled to deal with it. My big worry is that someone is going to get seriously hurt,” said next-door-neighbour Margaret. “If it’s kids playing in there they could be in real danger.

“But it is also a real eyesore and something needs doing as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for the property department of the Diocese of Lancaster was unavailable for comment.