Torridge Vale Social Club celebrated its 60th anniversary on 13th June 2009. An open day was held from noon until late. Over 200 former dairy workers came along to look at a display of old photographs and to reminisce over a pint (not milk!) with former colleagues. Evening entertainment was provided by the band ‘Morpheous’.
In around 1865 the Bible-Christian Methodists erected a chapel on a site purchased from the Torrington Town Trustees in South Street, on which formerly stood an inn called The Boot. A building was later added at the rear for a Sunday School, which had a library of some 200 books, and a residence for the pastor. This chapel was opened for public worship in October 1866. In 1927 the Bible-Christians united with the United Methodist New Connection which, in turn, united with the Wesleyan Methodists in 1932. Public worship was discontinued here and the chapel building was sold to the Torridge Vale Dairies Company for use as a packing station and store. It is believed the building was used during the Second World War to pack parachutes.
In 1949 the building became the Unigate and Torridge Vale Social Club. After the dairy closed, in 1993 the members purchased the Social Club building from the Company and continued to run it as a members’ club.
The building originally had a snooker room but no bar or function room. Jim Thacker, who worked at the dairy from 1957 until its closure, is still on the committee. He says, ‘In the 1960s a licence was difficult to get – we had to go to court a few times.’ Eventually, the club got its licence and a bar and skittle alley were put into the building. In the early 1970s a lounge bar was built and, as with the skittle alley, the work was done mainly by volunteers.
When the dairy closed, Jim Thacker, together with other local men, Graham Martin, Chris Stacey and Roy Lee, bought the club for members. People who were not former dairy employees were invited to join the club. The function room provides a good venue for celebrations. Jim Thacker says, ‘It is a vital part of the town and we are very proud of what we have done to turn it into a thriving club that serves the community.’ Profits made go back into the club and decisions are made democratically.
The present chairman, Roger Payne, was approached in late 2013 by the Torrington Police Amateur Boxing Club who were looking for a permanent place to have their gym. After discussions with the committee, the boxers were offered an unused storeroom at the front of the building. They themselves converted it into a fantastic gym, complete with practice ring and exercise machines, for use by junior to senior boxers. This is a credit to Torridge Vale Social Club.
Torridge Vale Social Club has approx. 900/1000 members at the moment. In 2019 the club will have existed for 70 years, but no plans have yet been made to celebrate this.