Obituary: Tile Hill Social Club, Coventry
It is very sad to learn of yet another club having to close its door on its members suddenly and without hope of them being opened again.
On November 3rd 2009, Tile Hill Social Club in Jardine Crescent, Coventry, was boarded up unexpectedly. Furniture and fittings were immediately removed which fits in with the depressing pattern we see across the country when a club is suddenly shut. There was little anyone could do to stop this happening at this point: it’s another sad statistic. Already the two storey premises are on the market. If they cannot be leased out then probably the land will be sold and, as with many other closed clubs, houses or flats built there instead.
The local newspaper, the Coventry Telegraph wrote: ‘The sudden closure has come as a shock to local people, who view the club with affection after decades serving at the heart of the community.’
Those who will particularly miss the club will be the less mobile residents who are unable to go too far from home. The elderly and frail are always hurt by club closures as they can’t simply get into a car and drive somewhere else to meet their friends and find a bit of company. They are increasingly forced to stay at home, often alone, when all the reports from Age Concern and Help the Aged emphasize the need for the elderly to try to retain a social life.
The current scene of desolation is a far cry from the heyday of the club, which served the large surrounding council estate of Tile Hill, which itself was seen as a model estate in the post war period. We have a vivid account of how children used to love this club here on the site, with Estelle’s memories.
The club first opened in 1962 after many years in the planning. It had been requested for some years but hadn’t moved forward though the land had been allocated by Coventry City Corporation just after the war.
John Reynolds, who went onto to be the President of the Warwickshire Branch of the CIU, was a founder member, becoming its first secretary. He told me of discussions, when the club was still being planned, about what name it should have. The original name was going to be Westwood Labour Club. This name wasn’t acceptable to everyone, however, due to obvious political links. The more neutral Tile Hill Social was selected. This was more in line with many of Coventry’s existing clubs, which were named after the estate where they were sited. A group of Scots also wanted to build a club there and call it the Scotia club but this was also rejected.
John Reynolds remembers that it was ‘much easier’ to set up and run a club in the old days. When he was involved in founding Tile Hill, he simply had to send 5 shillings and a list of 25 members to the Customs and Excise office and ‘that was it.’
It soon became popular with locals after it opened and joined a group of over 40 active CIU clubs across the city.
It became well known for its state of the art upper floor premises, built in 1971. Further extensions and refurbishments were undertaken in the 1970s making it one of the largest clubs in Coventry. The concert hall alone could seat 350 people and had a large games room. Tile Hill participated fully in local CIU clubs games and sports leagues with plenty of successes for angling, darts, football and so on. The club also hosted a number of important dinner events for local and national CIU officials as well as Lord Mayors and councillors. It has one of the biggest stages in the West Midlands and its facilities were frequently praised by visiting dignitaries.
The club provided discos for children on Saturday mornings, film clubs, boxing and all the usual parties and outings that our social clubs are famed for. Sadly, these all started to disappear as hard times came and fewer people used the club. It went into private ownership a few years ago and provided some of the old amenities for the locals, but on a much smaller scale. Now, even they are gone.
Chairman of Tile Hill North Residents’ Association, Terry Harvey, said that the closure was ‘a huge blow to the community. … I remember a time when you couldn’t get a seat in the club if you didn’t get in before 7 o’clock.’
He said that pensioners would be particularly hard hit but they would try to find somewhere for them to go. The area just won’t be the same, though, without the club. It was great place for families and provided a wonderful community venue. We all feel saddened by another great club being closed for good.
November 17th 2009
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