Closure of premises ends 74-year history of Manor Park branch

(L-R) Standard bearers Brian Merritt, Frank Whitlock, Jeff McHenry, Edward Barton, Linda Dopson & Mi

(L-R) Standard bearers Brian Merritt, Frank Whitlock, Jeff McHenry, Edward Barton, Linda Dopson & Mike Foster attending the laying up of the Standard of the Manor Park branch of the Royal British Legion as it is closing. St Mary's Church (photo: Arnaud Stephenson) - Credit: photo: Arnaud Stephenson

The Royal British Legion has ‘laid up’ the standard of one of its branches after it was forced to close premises which had been home since the 1950s.

The Manor Park branch of the legion handed over its standard to the vicar of St Mary’s Church on Friday in a “sad” and “dignified” service.

The branch, which has been using its Church Road premises since 1952, has been hit be falling membership and income for some time. It took the decision to close after Newham Council, which owns the building, asked it to take a 15-year lease at a higher rent. The branch said it could not afford the higher rent and decided to hand back the keys to the building.

Robert Strong, secretary of the branch, said: “It was a very quiet and dignified service carried out by Rev Brian Lewis.

“It was a very sad event because our standard bearer, Ted Barton, who has carried it for 14 years, gave it to the vicar to hold it in the church for ever. He has carried the standard to all the parades so it was quite touching.”

East Ham MP Stephen Timms, councillor Ken Clark, Cabinet Member for Building Communities and Public Affairs, joined legion members and local residents. Together with members of several other RBL branches, they heard speeches from the vicar and Graham Cuthbert, chairman of the Manor Park branch.

Keys to the branch will be handed back to the council on Monday September 29.

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Cllr Clark said: “I was honoured to attend the Laying Up of the Manor Park Branch Royal British Legion Standard. However I am truly saddened that after more than 70 years this branch is closing.

“I am sure there will be many people who owe a huge debt of thanks for everything the branch members have done in their community.

“We are working with the women’s section of the branch who wish to continue their meetings and are happy to provide them with free meeting space in the Jack Cornwell Centre so they can continue to provide vital support to our community.”