Former SAFC ground celebrates 60 years as community hub

Thompson Park Community Centre chairman Jan Pringle. right, joins founder members Marion Lewis, Moira Dixon and Margaret Dagg, to look at some memorabillia celebrating the centre's 60th anniversary.
Thompson Park Community Centre chairman Jan Pringle. right, joins founder members Marion Lewis, Moira Dixon and Margaret Dagg, to look at some memorabillia celebrating the centre's 60th anniversary.
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A former SAFC ground has been celebrating 60 years at the heart of its community.

Thousands have come through the doors of Thompson Park Community Centre in Monkwearmouth over the years and many of those faces, old and new, gathered at a fun day to mark its milestone birthday.

Rewind six decades and the community clubbed together to build the centre off Newbold Avenue back in 1956 on the site of the Black Cats’ sixth ground, which the team used from 1886-1898.

It was founded by Nan Freeman, Arthur Cuddeford and Jack Duery, whose descendants still use the centre.

Chairman Jan Pringle said: “The committee were overjoyed at the response shown by our local community and would like to thank everyone who volunteered their time and services in what was a momentous day for the centre.”

The centre is a meeting place for a host of groups including bingo groups, football fans who use the bar before matches, self defence and martial arts groups, mum and toddler groups and Little Dribbler footballers who use the site’s grounds.

“It’s a really well-used centre and is in use by various groups every day, groups who span all ages,” added Jan, who’s been a member for 50 years. “The idea for the centre actually started in 1946. The founders went to the nearby Grange Park School and held coffee mornings and whist sessions to raise the money to build the centre.

“We’re really proud of the community spirit behind the centre, everyone mucked in and tradespeople gave their time for free to build it.”

Treasurer Kath Hodgson said: “This community centre is unique in the city because it’s the only one that’s independent and self-sufficient. Other community centres will have window and roof repairs paid for by the council. Although we do get some funding from the Community Chest fund, we’ve paid our own way from the beginning.”

One of the biggest fundraisers for the centre is its annual pantomime, performed on its large stage with costumes hand-made by members, which draws in families from around Monkwearmouth, Southwick and Fulwell.

Members hope the fun day will encourage even more people to use the community hub.