Petworth Youth Club marks 50th anniversary

Chairman Clive Fish with photographs compiled over the years of the various activities. ''C120637-1
Chairman Clive Fish with photographs compiled over the years of the various activities. ''C120637-1
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Petworth Youth Club has reached a landmark stage in its history.

It is now 50 years since it opened its doors in a former cinema building on the Midhurst Road – a building bought by the woman whose name it still bears, Sylvia Beaufoy, for the purpose of providing for the young people of Petworth.

It would be a big disappointment to Mrs Beaufoy to learn this is not the happiest of years for the club to be celebrating such an anniversary.

Cuts in public spending have led West Sussex County Council to axe its funding, which totals around £20,000 a year.

But the club, which is run by the Sylvia Beaufoy Trust, has hit choppy waters in the past and survived.

And its management committee is confident it will do so again.

History

But back to the start... Ken Lintill was 19 years old in 1962 when excited teenagers crossed the road from the Armoury, built into the wall of Petworth Park, to their youth club’s new home.

Mr Lintill was chairman of the club’s youth committee, which in turn was responsible to the management committee.

He recalled: “It was an enormous change when we moved from the Armoury.

“There were a lot of youngsters attending the club in those days and we were all very keen to get involved.”

The coffee bar, with its inevitable jukebox, was on the right of the club room.

There, a group of ladies were keeping the cups filled, people like Grace Fox and Mrs Stacey among them, and very often the benefactor herself.

New

Sylvia Beaufoy also funded the building of a swimming pool next to it, and there were squash courts at the back.

But in July 1994 – 32 years after her gift to successive generations of the town’s young people – the Sylvia Beaufoy Centre closed, its old building dilapidated and maintenance costs spiralling.

A target of £373,000 had been set to provide upgraded facilities.

The trust was to raise £260,000 of that by selling the swimming pool land to Chichester District Council for a car park but it was to be a few years before the latest Sylvia Beaufoy Centre emerged.

It was based on the old squash courts with an addition at the front.

Since then a further £80,000 has had to be raised, through grants, to renew the roof.

Today, the chairman of its management committee, Clive Fish, acknowledges there are tough times ahead as a result of the county’s funding axe.

But he declared: “It is imperative we keep the club going.

“We do pretty well in terms of membership, getting 20-25 young people up there in the evenings.

“We will need assistance but we are confident we can maintain a youth centre for Petworth.”