Tory club's Saffron Walden headquarters to close after 124 years
OVER 120 years of history will soon come to an end after Saffron Walden Conservative Club announced this week that it will be moving out of its current Georgian building. Concerns within the club have been mounting for some time over dwindling membership
OVER 120 years of history will soon come to an end after Saffron Walden Conservative Club announced this week that it will be moving out of its current Georgian building.
Concerns within the club have been mounting for some time over dwindling membership and expensive running and refurbishment costs, and chairman Cllr Keith Eden said it was "inevitable" that the club would have to move out of the ancient building in Museum Street.
He confirmed that, following an "emotional meeting" of the club's committee on Monday, a difficult decision has been taken to leave the building it has occupied since 1885. Its 400 members were notified on Tuesday.
"Besides the expensive upkeep, the rents, rates and lighting, the building is quite old and in need of some repair. There is real financial pressure in terms of capital needed for its refurbishment," Cllr Eden told the Reporter.
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"The building was purchased when the club had 2500 members and it now has about 400 members. So it is too big for our needs.
"It is a sad reality across the country. Political party membership has declined over the last 30 years, in all parties, which is a sign of the changing face of Britain."
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In its current guise, the club will close at the end of September and the building will go up for sale.
The race is now on for the club to find a new base.
"We want to close sooner rather than later but we're not in an advanced stage in finding an alternative," said Cllr Eden. "We're seeking to find smaller property more suitable for the 21st century."
He added: "I don't think it [the building] is likely to be of any use as a commercial property but it is a magnificent spacious building. When restored it will be one of the last grand houses in Saffron Walden.
"It is sad to move out because the club is embedded in the social fabric and history of the town. It feels like an aristocrat having to sell off a castle.