‘Deep regret’ as charitable group Woodbridge Community Council brings 50-year history to an end

The last AGM of Woodbridge Community Council

The last AGM of Woodbridge Community Council - Credit: Archant

A charitable group has been officially wound up after almost 50 years of raising funds for the benefit of a Suffolk town.

Soprano Anna Cooper, granddaughter of the late Gerry Cooper, a founding member of Woodbridge Communi

Soprano Anna Cooper, granddaughter of the late Gerry Cooper, a founding member of Woodbridge Community Council, performs at the opening of the new bandstand in Elmhurst Park - Credit: Archant

Woodbridge Community Council (WCC) formally concluded operations after announcing its fate to members and supporters last year.

Since forming in 1966, it helped build the community hall, Deben Pool and, most recently, a bandstand in Elmhurst Park. But, in the absence of new members, it was decided to wind things up, having raised almost £300,000 for the town.

Peter Bacon, chairman, and husband of honorary treasurer, Georgina, said: “The final pieces in the long, sad and complex jigsaw of the process of dissolution have finally fallen into place – and we can now confirm that, with deep regret, we have totally ceased all of our charitable activities in Woodbridge.”

WCC was formed under Sir Ian Jacob to provide leisure and recreational facilities for the town and surrounding area. A referendum determined the wishes of the people to be a heated swimming pool, followed by a large community hall.

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Fundraising activities included regular bingo sessions, a ‘Little Ernie’ lottery scheme, and a series of 50/50 shops in empty premises.

After six years, Deben Pool was completed. Originally open-air, it was given a roof by the district council after opening. WCC, which raised £26,445 of its total £64,545 cost, continued efforts to fund the community hall, which opened to the public on New Year’s Day, 1981. It cost £128,350, with WCC contributing £82,698, plus additional funding for some 45 improvements over the years.

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More recently, volunteers ran stalls at street fairs and Woodbridge Regatta, and organised an annual spring concert and New Year’s Day Viennese Concert with orchestra and singers drawn from the local area.

In 1993, WCC held its first Mammoth Second Hand Bazaar – the last of which, in 2009, raised £12,000.

Donations were made to the Disability Advice Service, the skatepark, Cedar House Trust, Melton playing fields and parish rooms, Woodbridge Excelsior Band, the scouts and sea scouts, as well as major funding to the Tide Mill Trust (£26,400), the town council (£25,474) for repairs to the Shire Hall and help towards the cost of mayoral robes, and more than £20,000 to community hall projects.

Mr Bacon said: “In recent years, we have been unable to attract enough willing souls to support all of our events and to fill vacancies on our committee, with some members having to hold multiple posts to enable us to keep going – and with Old Father Time playing a part, we found ourselves in an ever worsening and impossible position.

“We put the problems to our committee members at the last meeting attended by our late president, Gerry Cooper, and by unanimous agreement, it was decided to dissolve our organisation in accordance with our constitution.”

WCC presented one final gift to the town – a £45,720 bandstand unveiled in Elmhurst Park last September.

Mr Bacon said: “I have considered it an honour to be the chairman of WCC during such a highly successful period its life – so being at the helm when we have had to close operations has been a devastatingly cruel blow to myself and the remaining members of our committee after all these years and after all of the efforts that we have made to improve the quality of life for people in this area.”

A journal of activities from 1966 to 2016 can be accessed through the town council, Woodbridge Library or the Suffolk Record Office.

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