Arsonists torch old sports club

The Sidley Sports and Social Club after the fire. SUS-150503-085505001
The Sidley Sports and Social Club after the fire. SUS-150503-085505001
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Years of happy memories for many Sidley residents went up in smoke when a devastating fire tore through the old Sidley Sports and Social Club.

Emergency services raced to the scene just before 10.30pm on Saturday night (February 28).

But despite the best efforts of 12 firefighters, the fire caused substantial damage to the derelict building, causing the roof to collapse.

Crews remained on the scene until just after 11am on Sunday.

Following an investigation, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said it was ‘most likely’ that the fire had been started deliberately.

The Sidley Sports and Social Club closed in April 2013 due to severe financial difficulties, leaving Sidley United Football Club and Sidley Cricket Club without a ground.

Fire at the Sidley Sports and Social Club. Picture courtesy of @PaulSaintMaur via Twitter. SUS-150503-085741001

Fire at the Sidley Sports and Social Club. Picture courtesy of @PaulSaintMaur via Twitter. SUS-150503-085741001

The site has stood empty ever since and has been repeatedly targeted by vandals.

Sidley residents have spoken of their sadness after seeing what was once a thriving community hub engulfed by flames.

Gary Fuller lives near to the club where he worked as a steward for many years.

He told the Observer: “It’s heartbreaking to see what happened.

“It was quite scary watching it, to be honest.

“It’s a shame because it was a great club.”

Gary also praised local firefighters for being ‘absolutely brilliant’ on the night of the fire.

Rother District Councillor for Sidley, Maurice Watson, was quickly on the scene and watched the drama unfold.

He said: “When my home became enveloped by the thick black smoke, I made my way round to Gulliver’s.

“I was shocked by the sight that confronted me.

“My great concern was for the safety of the residents whose homes back on to the pavilion.

“This fire put peoples’ lives and homes in danger.”

Cllr Watson had tried to find out who owned the site.

He said: “Gulliver’s field appears not be registered in the Land Registry, nor can I find out who the owner of the land.

“I believe that it was given for the whole community.”

Cllr Watson, himself a sports person and an athlete in his younger days, added: “I can understand the passion that can be seen on the Facebook pages of Sidley residents.

“I too, I feel deeply effected by the destruction of the pavilion.”