Shock as village club closes down after 80 years

middy - Haywards Heath''Franklands Village
middy - Haywards Heath''Franklands Village

A social club that has served generations of families in Haywards Heath over the past 80 years has shut its doors for the final time.

Franklands Village Club closed down last week following an emergency meeting of trustees.

The club first opened in 1936 and in its heydey proved a thriving community hub. But now - after 80 years - it has finally folded.

Club steward Ray Baker, 57, who has worked at the club since 1980 said: “It’s all very sad.”

He is now worried that he will lose his ‘tied’ home as well as his job.

He said the club had folded because of dwindling membership and it was no longer financially viable.

Franklands Village was originally built in the 1930s as a result of an initiative by the local Rotary Club and the Hardy family because of a need for low cost rented housing during the Great Depression.

All tenants over the age of 18 were eligible to join the village social club which included meeting rooms, a licensed bar, snooker and pool tables and darts. Regular entertainment events were held throughout the year.

At its peak, said Ray, “it was very busy, it was choc-a-bloc. There were around 1,800 members with a waiting list for people wanting to join.”

The club even had its own football club with senior and junior sides, there were dancing groups and amateur dramatic groups using the club.

“Over the years it’s all died, it’s all leaked away,” said Ray. Recently membership had dwindled to around 350.

“Trade has dropped over the years but we’re no different to other people in this trade.

“Pubs are closing by the dozen because of supermarkets selling cheap beer, the smoking ban, drink-driving - it’s all chipped away.”

And he added: “It’s the same old story: use it or lose it. It’s a shame. This is a nice little area, absolutely beautiful.”

Ray, a widower, who lives with his two daughters in a tied house opposite the club, now faces a worrying future.

“It’s all been very emotional,” he said.

He is now having to look for a new job “but there’s not many prospects for me,” he said. “It will be a new start.”

But, he said, he had lots of happy memories of his time at the club, “and some sad ones. We have lost many over the years.”

Many, he said, would miss the club. “Some have been members for 50 years or more.”