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Goodbye to The Links

PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 April 2009 | UPDATED: 08:59 06 July 2010

Marion Small hands over the keys to the Travelcare minibus to Dawn Pointon at Harry Chamberlain Court, Sheila Stewart is pictured at the back pushing the wheelchair

Marion Small hands over the keys to the Travelcare minibus to Dawn Pointon at Harry Chamberlain Court, Sheila Stewart is pictured at the back pushing the wheelchair

THE end of an era has been marked in Lowestoft with The Links Club closing its doors for the final time.

For 34 years the club had provided a home to numerous clubs and associations but after the death of a much-loved and hard working volunteer, the committee took the decision to allow their lease to expire.

The Links Club

THE end of an era has been marked in Lowestoft with The Links Club closing its doors for the final time.

For 34 years the club had provided a home to numerous clubs and associations but after the death of a much-loved and hard working volunteer, the committee took the decision to allow their lease to expire.

During the 1970s the North Suffolk Federation of Handicapped Groups were on the look out for potential sites and premises that could be used as a permanent headquarters for the disabled people of Waveney.

Unable to find a fitting location, the federation decided to look for a more temporary solution and in 1975 the newly formed Waveney District Council agreed to rent out the former premises of Corton Golf Club to the group for six months.

Driven forward by Joy Wiseman, a small team of dedicated volunteers worked for hundreds of hours to transform a dilapidated shell into a welcoming centre that could benefit the community. Such was the success of their work that a five year lease was granted of the building, and the Links Club was officially opened on July 6, 1975, by Sir Douglas Bader.

In 1983 Waveney Council approached the club's committee with the intention of building five specially adapted bungalows for the disabled and adapting the first floor of the club into a warden's flat.

The following year the bungalows were completed and, with a full-time on-site warden and caretaker, the club was able to expand. It offered day care and lunch clubs to a wide range of locals, with around 200 people a week estimated to be passing through the front doors.

Behind the growing success was Sheila Stewart. Mrs Stewart was bought into the club as a warden, but became so much more than that, as her life and that of her family were consumed by the club.

Her daughter Jane Vincent said: “She was basically there 24/7 - it was her life. She opened the doors, kept the place clean, kept direct dealings with everyone who used the club, cooked lunches, raised money to get the minibus on the road - you couldn't stop her.

“All the family were involved. She had a good way of organising things. She'd ask you to come and do something and before you knew it you were totally involved.”

But it wasn't just members of the Stewart family who became encapsulated by The Links Club.

Chairman Tony Wilson said: “I volunteered to help when I saw a piece in The Journal asking for drivers, and it went from there. This place had that effect on you.”

Mrs Stewart retired as the warden five years ago, but agreed to stay on as caretaker. Her enthusiasm and commitment to the club saw it continue to offer a home to many clubs and associations, but her sudden death on Christmas Eve left a huge hole that could not be filled.

The committee had to take the decision to terminate their lease with Waveney Council and on Wednesday, March 25, it welcomed members of the public for the final time.

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