Arson attack devastates Sunderland bowls club

Chairman George Gibson (right) with Billy Lawrence and Arnold Thompson outside the bowls pavilion in Barley Mow Park which has been wrecked by fire.

Chairman George Gibson (right) with Billy Lawrence and Arnold Thompson outside the bowls pavilion in Barley Mow Park which has been wrecked by fire.

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ARSONISTS have destroyed a newly-renovated bowls clubhouse causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Club members are distraught at the senseless attack which ripped the roof off the building in Barley Mow Park, Hendon.

Firefighters spent two-and-a-half hours tackling the blaze, just off Ryhope Road, with crews remaining on the scene for six hours to dampen down the remains of the building.

The attack comes just two weeks after the clubhouse underwent a major renovation.

“I got a phone call and came down straight away,” said club chairman George Gibson.

“I cannot believe that these hooligans could do this. Everyone is absolutely disgusted by it.

“We had just had it renovated too and the repairs were only completed two weeks ago. It’s unbelievable.”

As well as being left without a base, the 25 members are also counting the cost of the equipment and personal items left inside.

“It’s terrible,” said Gordon Reay, 79, a member since 1992.

“A lot of people use this and there’s all of our equipment, which costs a lot, like bowls and shoes.

“It’s a real shame.”

The arsonists smashed their way into the building starting the fire in the roof at about 11pm on Tuesday.

Sunderland Council structural engineers secured the site and are due to carry out an investigation to establish the extent of the damage.

Mr Gibson, 75, a club member for 18 years, said: “This building has been here since 1928 and now it’s been burnt down. It’s shocking.”

He was forced to cancel last night’s (WED) league game and Saturday’s match with Sunderland district, that were both scheduled to take place at the club.

“All of the catering and everything will have to be cancelled,” he added.

“We have people down here twice a day, everyday apart from Sundays, so this will definitely interfere with people’s lives.

“We can’t even begin to think about how much this has cost. The damage to the roof alone will be in the thousands.”

Club members said they have been plagued with trouble from booze-fuelled yobs trashing the bowling green, vandalising the park and even breaking into the pavilion.

“This has been waiting to happen for a long time,” Mr Gibson said.

Anyone with information is asked to phone Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.