IT WAS a sad day for Tonbridge as the historic Teen and Twenty youth club closed its doors after more than half a century serving the community.
Established in 1960, members of the club would meet at various locations in the town before a permanent home was built in River Lawn Road – opening in 1966.
Since then, countless friendships, and even marriages, have been formed as a massive range of sports, activity clubs and social evenings brought the youth of Tonbridge under one roof.
On Friday, they held an open day for members past and present to say goodbye.
Andy and Deborah Comben revisited the place where they first met in 1978. The couple, who still live in Tonbridge, have now been married for 32 years and have two daughters, aged 27 and 24.
Standing in the spot where he first saw his future wife, Mr Comben reminisced: “I was playing table football with my mates, I must have been 17 at the time, and I saw Deborah talking to a friend. I thought to myself, ‘she is quite cute’ and, well, things moved on from there.
“Friendships that were forged here have lasted forever. We can’t walk through the High Street without seeing people who we first met here.
“I could name four or five couples that have met at the club, too.”
‘A happy place’
Jean Munday, 82, who has been on the organising committee for 35 years, said she would be ‘sad to see the club go’, adding: “I’ve got some very good memories here, and it’s been such a happy place.
“The hirers who use the club are friends more than anything, really, and I’ll miss them greatly.
“Things change, and I know you have to move with the times. The only tragedy is that we won’t have a community centre in Tonbridge any more.”
She warned that a number of the clubs that used the building are struggling to find replacement premises with affordable rents.
Teen and Twenty, which is a charity, always endeavoured to charge minimal prices. For example, a four-hour booking on a Wednesday night would cost the table tennis club just £45. They have looked further afield in Tunbridge Wells and Southborough but have been quoted up to three times the amount for the same time slot.
An alternative youth centre in Avebury Avenue, opened by Kent County Council four years ago, offers young people a free space to socialise. The boxing club recently relocated there from the Teen and Twenty.
The sale of the much-loved former club’s site, which is owned by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, was announced in December last year.
It will be used by the Tonbridge Medical Group to build a ‘state of the art’ medical centre, replacing their two surgeries in Higham Lane and Pembury Road.