Sturminster Newton RBL Club shuts down – for now…

THE Royal British Legion Club in Sturminster Newton has closed after more than a century serving punters.

Drinkers toasted the final serving at the Bath Road venue on April 28.

The closure is down to the building – affectionately known as ‘The Hut’ – falling into a state of disrepair, with remedial works estimated at around £100,000.

“While it may look, on the outside, reasonably sound, under the skin it is a 110-plus year old, ex-military wooden hut,” a spokesperson said.

“The estimated cost of work needed was in excess of £100,000 and with the underlying structure being so old and worn out, it was not a realistic business option to spend that sort of money.

“The decision was taken to close the club gracefully and not let it carry on until the maintenance costs forced it to fail financially.”

The club was founded after the First World War as an Old Comrades Club, before the British Legion was formed in 1921.

The Pitt Rivers estate gifted the land to the club and Colonel Whatman, the founding chair, arranged for a gang of ex-servicemen to go to Blandford Camp, dismantle it, move it to Stur and re-erect it in its current location in around 1919.

The Royal British Legion Club, in Bath Road, Sturminster Newton, will move if the site is sold. Picture: Google

The Royal British Legion Club, in Bath Road, Sturminster Newton, will move if the site is sold. Picture: Google

“The hut was originally used in Blandford to house men of the Royal Naval Division during WW1,” the spokesperson went on.

“It subsequently had a brick extension put on the front facing Bath Road, had an extension on the back that hosted a function room, a shell and new roof put around the building and various other modifications over the years.

“It was also the home of the town cinema on regular occasions and hosted many a school dance, wedding reception, funeral wake, family parties and town events. However, the underlying structure was still the wooden hut.”

Now, despite sadness over the closure, it is hoped the club may reemerge in the coming months.

A planning application has been submitted to Dorset Council for six homes on the Bath Road site, and it is hoped the sale of the land could finance a return at a new site, in a new building.

“Until anything is finalised, we can say nothing more,” the spokesperson added. “One point that is 100% guaranteed is that the Legion Branch, the part of the Legion that takes care of service and ex-service welfare, remembrance, the Poppy Appeal and generally the charitable side of the Legions activities in the town, will continue.

READ MORE: Six homes could be built on site of Sturminster Newton Royal British Legion Club

“They are still contactable via the same means as before. There will still be a Remembrance Parade in town, albeit leaving from the town council offices, and they will still be out raising funds for the Poppy Appeal all year round at various events and selling poppies in late October, early November.

“Finally, we would like to say thank you to everyone who has supported the club over the years, and a huge thank you to the various members of the community who have served on the club committee over the years and worked as members of staff behind the bar and behind the scenes, especially chair, Andy Conduit, and (at various times) secretary/treasurer/head steward Becky Cox, without whom the club would have closed down a long time ago.

“Hopefully it will rise again, and return to be that centre of hospitality with Stur.”

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.