Secret Redbridge: The social centre powered by community spirit

PUBLISHED: 07:42 30 May 2017 | UPDATED: 09:42 30 May 2017

Redbridge Social Club in Beehive Lane, which has been going since the war. The Bowls group.All Pictures: Ellie Hoskins

Redbridge Social Club in Beehive Lane, which has been going since the war. The Bowls group.All Pictures: Ellie Hoskins


Nestled in the leafy suburbs between Redbridge and Gants Hill, The Redbridge Social Centre is a hidden gem of the borough writes ELLENA CRUSE.

Alec Cushway, David Walker and John Booth who are part of the woodwork group.Alec Cushway, David Walker and John Booth who are part of the woodwork group.

Founded in 1944 by a group of residents, the community association provides a much needed sanctuary for people to unwind, socialise and learn new skills in Beehive Lane.

From marquetry and dress making to short matt bowls, and line dancing, the Redbridge Social Centre serves as a meeting place for more than 400 members.

The association, in Beehive Lane, Redbridge, despite being one of the borough’s best kept secrets, is openings its door to new members, so other generations can enjoy the facilities.

The dress making class, is one of the most popular groups and unlike other activities has a five year waiting list.

Roy Murton playing bowls.Roy Murton playing bowls.

It is taught by Joan Dalby, who was a Hardy Amies apprentice and created gowns for the Queen and couture houses such as Chanel.

“I am trying to pass some of my knowledge on before I pass on,” she said.

“The waiting list is so long I can’t physically sit them all down in one room.”

Paulette Malmquist, 67, enjoys going to the session and said Joan can teach you “27 ways to stitch a collar on”.

The dress making group.The dress making group.

“I won’t go to another class, she teaches you the couture way,” she told the Recorder.

“She is an absolute inspiration, so adored and always very encouraging.

“The cameraderie there is great and you get to meet a great cross section of people while you learn.”

Paulette added that everyone has such a good time at the session that nobody wants to leave. The only way a space becomes available is often when someone dies.

Chris Regan, chairman of the club.Chris Regan, chairman of the club.

Chris Regan, chairman of Redbridge Social Centre, came across the club by chance.

“I initially went there to play badminton,” said the 70-year-old.

“But once I started I couldn’t stop and got involved with quizzes and sorting out coach outings.

“It is good for making friends and a valuable asset for the community.”

The association is completely self-funded and is welcoming new residents in a bid to preserve the centre for generations to come.

Membership is open to those aged 16 and over and has an annual cost of £5.

Over 65s pay a reduced rate and most activities cost £2.

“It is good to be part of something for general health and wellbeing and it combats loneliness,” explained Chris

“It is fantastic for people to come together, make friends and take part in activities that they enjoy.”

Described as a self help organisation, to keep costs down, everybody in each class helps to set up where they can.

John Taylor, known as the “computer man” helps the association tick over by putting things online.

He said the club has given him purpose during retirement.

“It has given me something to do now I am 83,” he commented.

“If you are retired you can sit at home and do nothing but this gets you out the house.”

His wife, Audrey, 80, discovered the club when her children went to school and she needed an activity that was just for her.

“I just wanted some ‘me time’ and came here to play badminton,” she told the Recorder.

“Now I go to the Wednesday club and enjoy watching entertainment and listening to singers.”

But what is so special about the “secret” association is that it is so full of energy and fun.

Members have great rapport with one another and for some it has become a extended family. With community associations folding across the UK, you may thing it is impressive that the Redbridge Social Club is still standing.

What I find more impressive is the people behind the centre, who talk so passionately and vivaciously about friendship and fun.

Just visiting the site is infectious and I truly hope the centre will still be around and enjoyed by hundreds more in the next 50 years.

“We have classes for children such as chess club,” said sectary Christine Gwilliam, 72, of Ilford.

“It would be nice to get more young people here so they can enjoy it too.”

Visit or call 02085507467.

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