History of much-loved community centre remembered after demolition

The Honeypot Centre, in Bungay, in August 1980.

The Honeypot Centre, in Bungay, in August 1980. - Credit: Courtesy of Martin Evans

For generations of Bungarians, the Honeypot Centre is a staple of town life.

From wedding receptions to funeral wakes, children's parties to mother and toddler groups, there are few in the town who have not visited the much-loved centre.

But with the new Bungay Community Centre opening its doors for the first time on polling day last month, demolition of the historic site swiftly began.

The land on which the centre has stood for almost 80 years in Upper Olland Street is now being developed to build four bungalows and garages by builders Sprake and Tyrrell, which built the new centre.

The Bungay Honeypot Centre, in Upper Olland Street. PHOTO: Archant

The Bungay Honeypot Centre, in Upper Olland Street. PHOTO: Archant - Credit: Archant

Bungay historian Christopher Reeve said early 20th century photographs show horses grazing on the open stretch of meadow, known as the Honeypot, between Upper and Lower Olland Streets, before a corrugated iron hut was built on the Bardolph Road side around the 1930s to be used as a community centre.

During the Second World War, a British restaurant opened at 48 St Mary's Street, organised by the Women's Voluntary Service on behalf of Bungay Urban District Council, offering food, hot drinks and somewhere warm for those in need during times.

The service was a huge success, serving more than 13,500 meals and 7,270 cups of tea in the last three months of 1942.

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However, a report in the Beccles and Bungay Journal in November 1942 reported there was little for the Armed Forces, including American airmen based at Flixton aerodrome, and young people to do in the town on Sundays.

An American airman in Bungay around 1944.

An American airman in Bungay around 1944. - Credit: Courtesy of Chris Reeve

After discussions with local churches, it was agreed the British restaurant would open on Sundays and, with the move proving extremely popular, a larger and more permanent venue was sought.

In February 1944, the Anglo-American Services Club opened on Honeypot Meadow and, after the war ended in 1945, the building was taken over as a Labour Exchange, before being renovated by the Bungay Rotary Club and extended for use as the town's community centre.

Having started life as a prefabricated utility hut during the War years, the centre was never intended for prolonged use, despite rebuilding, renovations and repairs.

The Honeypot Centre in May 1981

The Honeypot Centre in May 1981 - Credit: Courtesy of Martin Evans

Mr Reeve said: "The Honeypot, as it was affectionately known, was much loved by the local community because over the approximately 40 years of its existence, virtually everybody attended events there as the main public hall in the town.

"It hosted such a variety of different social and educational activities from wedding receptions and funeral wakes to children's parties, bingo, friendly clubs for the elderly and mother and toddlers groups, with a small outdoor play area.

"The Army Cadets had a regular weekly session and performed drill practice in the car park, a youth club proved successful in recent years ad the Bungay Horticultural Society had its annual vegetable and flower shows, attracting large crowds.

In recent years, the highlight of the Bungay social calendar - the annual town reeve's dinner, was held there and despite its increasingly dilapidated condition, the large hall always looked splendid, decked with white tablecloths, flowers and candles.

"It will retain a place in all our hearts and there will no doubt be a few tears as locals pass by and see the demolition process commence.

"But it has served its purpose for many more years than seemed possible, and the town finally has the new community building it needs and deserves."

Judy Cloke, Martin Evans and Ben Sprake at Bungay Community Centre.

Judy Cloke, chair for the trustees of Bungay Community Centre, Martin Evans, secretary for the trustees of Bungay Community Centre and Ben Sprake, director of Sprake and Tyrrell Builders at the new Bungay Community Centre. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The new Bungay Community Centre, at the rear of the playing field at Old Grammar Lane, includes a kitchen, a fully-functioning lecture room and a large room which can be divided in two.

Plans were lodged with East Suffolk Council in 2019 to demolish the Honeypot Centre, on Upper Olland Street, and build four bungalows and garages.