A SUFFOLK Royal British Legion club closed down at the weekend - the latest casualty to falling membership across the country which is prompting the demise of two groups a month.

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A SUFFOLK Royal British Legion club closed down at the weekend - the latest casualty to falling membership across the country which is prompting the demise of two groups a month.

Nationally, almost 200 of the once popular clubs have closed over the past five years and on Saturday the Newmarket Royal British Legion Club, in the town's Park Lane, shut its doors for the last time.

The Newmarket club's closure comes only a few months after the Royal British Legion Club in neighbouring Bury St Edmunds was forced to shut due to dwindling membership.

Bosses at the club said it had been struggling for more than two years and last year sold a gold racing trophy to help raise money.

Members held a party on Saturday to bid a final farewell to the building and now the furniture and fittings will be sold.

Janet Clarke, the club secretary, said: “It's terribly sad. But the advent of cheap pub chains hasn't helped clubs like ours.”

With fewer surviving veterans of the Second World War, the core membership of many clubs was falling, she said.

“We couldn't manage to stay open and have had to close on some evenings,” she said.

Tom Sharpley, who was a member of the Bury club, said it was sad to see the Guildhall Street venue close earlier in the year and he was sorry to hear of the same fate at the Newmarket club.

Mr Sharpley said while the Bury branch of the Royal British Legion was “very strong”, the same could not be said of the club and it had to close due to lack of support.

The Newmarket building was formerly jockey Willy Snaith's house and was converted into a club in 1972. Now, the local Royal British Legion branch, which owns the building, will decide what to do with it.

Bill Sadler, branch chairman, said: “I have sought the advice of the county president (of the legion) to see what options are available to us.

“Anything we get from the sale of the building will have to go towards benevolent funds.”

The closure of the club means the Newmarket branch of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) will have to switch meetings to the town's Conservative Club.

The next RAFA meeting will be at the Conservative Club at 8pm today.

james.mortlock@eadt.co.uk

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