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Final curtain call for a much loved social club

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THE final act in a remarkable 70 years of memories at Warrington’s Gas Social Club is taking place this week, as the now derelict building is demolished to make way for a new office facility.
Described by former members as “the Phoenix Nights of its day”, the Winwick Road club first opened in 1952. It became the “go-to” place for workers on the gas site, as well as the local community.
But, struggling to compete against the increasingly easy availability of cheaper, shop-bought alcohol, and the falling popularity of such venues, it closed its doors for the last time in 2012.
Now gas network Cadent, which owns the gas depot and wider site the derelict building sits on, is demolishing it so that a new single-storey office facility can be built for its employees.
To mark the ccasion, senior Cadent engineers Mark Berry and Nick Jerman invited former committee members to have a last look around and retrieve some mementoes that remained inside.
The trio – Dave Peers, 57, Ronnie Park, 77, and Dave Ovington, 73 – beamed with obvious pride and joy as they regaled the current Cadent team with memories from the club’s heyday.
They explained that Rick Astley – from nearby Newton-le-Willows – had performed there before becoming a household name, as well as a string of great singers, comedians and other local acts. The venue was often bursting at the seams and was very popular for parties and other celebrations.
Dave Ovington, former treasurer, brought with him documents to show the initial membership fee was 1d, rising to 3d, taken direct from the gas workers’ wages. He had figures to show that, in 1972, the committee was given the shock news that prices were rising – bottled Guinness was to go to £1.94 per dozen, pale ale up to £1.30 per dozen, and draught hiked to £10 for 66 pints…
“This was like the Phoenix Nights of its day,” said Dave Peers. “It was always a good atmosphere, popular with workers on site, and also the local community. It was just a mates club. You didn’t have WhatsApp then, you just came to the club, met your mates and had a great time.”
Work to prepare for the demolition of the building started earlier last week and, by the end of this week, it should all be down. The new office facility will be constructed in the New Year.
Warrington was a pioneer town for the introduction of gas to the UK. It established a public gas supply in 1820, becoming one of the first towns in the North West to do so. Today, 89 per cent of Warrington’s 85,140 homes use gas for central heating and cooking meals.

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