Historic Norwich social club looks set to close city home

The Norwich Church of England Young Men’s Society (CEYMS) on Brigg Street. Photo: Courtney Pochin

The Norwich Church of England Young Men's Society (CEYMS) Brigg Street premises pictured in 2017 - Credit: Archant

A Norwich sport and social club which has more than 150 years of history looks set to close its city centre presence.

The Norwich Church of England Young Men's Society (CEYMS) premises in Brigg Street, which offers facilities for table tennis, snooker, squash and a newly refurbished gym, has been closed since March 2020. 

Members received a letter from trustees in October 2020 saying a decision has been made to close the club permanently. 

A meeting with trustees and members will be taking place at the Brigg Street premises on Monday to explain the decision. 

The CEYMS Hilltop Sports Ground in Swardeston, where cricket and football is played, will continue to run as normal. 

The Norwich Church of England Young Men’s Society (CEYMS) on Brigg Street. Photo: Courtney Pochin

The Norwich CEYMS premises in Brigg Street are on the brink of closure as a sports and social club - Credit: Archant

David Clarke, 75, whose son, father and grandfather have had memberships since the 1890s, said he felt the trustees had not made enough effort to promote membership.

He said improvements could be made - including giving the society a website and email address, and taking subscription funds by card. 

Mr Clarke, who owns the City Bookshop on Davey Place, said: "There are no facilities for direct debit or standing order. Who carries £50 in cash or a chequebook these days? It has been moribund.

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"This meeting on Monday is an opportunity to discuss if there is an alternative to reinvigorate the club. It has a hell of a lot of history." 

Another member leading the action group, Mike Kett, 77, said: "At one time it was a lot more popular than in recent times, but those of us with long-standing memberships, some 50 years and longer, feel that it is a facility that should be maintained. 

"The decision came out of the blue and the members' action group believes the trustees made sporadic efforts to keep it open.

"We feel the club could continue for a considerable while even though it is losing money if more efforts were made to increase membership." 

The Norwich Church of England Young Men’s Society (CEYMS) on Brigg Street. Photo: Courtney Pochin

The Norwich Church of England Young Mens Society (CEYMS) on Brigg Street. Photo: Courtney Pochin - Credit: Archant

Chairman Peter Thomas said he is very upset by the closure which will explained to members during the meeting on Monday, but he added that the decision of the trustees was unanimous.

The history of CEYMS at Brigg Street

The social and sports club moved to the Brigg Street premises in the 1950s after it was rebuilt alongside Debenhams following the Baedeker Raids during the Second World War. 

Norwich CEYMS played a formative role in the history of Norwich City FC after several members decided to form the club at Newmarket Road before it became professional. 

Former Norwich City players such as Kevin Bond, Barry Buttler, Joe Royal and Justin Fashanu all used the Brigg Street club during its heyday. 

But membership has dwindled in recent years.

Ceyms 1913.jpg

The CEYMS football team from 1913. - Credit: Archant Library

The premises has two shops on the street frontage, with trustees considering letting them as an office investment rather than continuing its present role as a sporting and social club.

CEYMS has long provided teams in Norfolk leagues with five table tennis teams in the Norwich and District leagues together with squash, snooker and billiards. 

Football and cricket continue to be played at Swardeston.