Efforts to memorialise Dunmow Youth Centre pioneer come to life

Captain Lawrence. Photo: Roger Lawrence.

Captain Lawrence. Photo: Roger Lawrence. - Credit: Roger Lawrence

The sons of an army captain who dedicated two decades of his life to the Dunmow Youth Centre are hoping that their father’s efforts will be memorialised in the town.

Captain Leonard Lawrence, who died in 1990, took the club from strength to strength, introducing judo, ballroom dancing, rummage sales and overseeing the move to a much larger site.

Now, Roger Lawrence, 72, a former policeman, has launched a website, inviting previous club members to send their thoughts and photos. Roger has also asked for a plaque to be mounted in the memory of his dad at the North Street property, owned by Essex County Council.

Roger, who now lives in Quebec, Canada, said: "I think for all of the work he has done he deserves some recognition for it."

Captain Lawrence was born in 1908 and joined the army at the age of 15, serving in Africa, Jerusulam and Palestine during the Second World War with the Royal Engineers.

In 1947 he moved to Dunmow with his family and started work at the Dunmow Bacon Factory for a government department measuring weight and fat content. While doing this, he took on a part-time position with the youth club. This became full-time by 1958.

Roger said: "We had no end of games and sports we would participate in. We had three table tennis tables, I do not know where he got them from. He introduced the game of cribbage. He also converted an area of the new premises into a small canteen for us.

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"We would go carol singing at Christmas. The funds would be split up, most of the money would go towards poor people but dad would always keep some back for a Christmas dinner at the youth club."

He added: "We built the club membership up to 200. I think he was proud of all of us". As well as being a cornerstone of the youth centre, Captain Lawrence, who had four children, was a town councillor and assistant scout master.

In his search for information about his father's work in the town, Roger has spoken to many people who visited the centre.

"I had one former member, Keith Ingram, also a scout with me, stating Dad made the club the envy of the county," Roger said.

A spokesperson for Essex County Council, said: "We are aware of the request for a plaque at Dunmow Youth Centre and are currently working on the project and liaising with all people involved".

To visit the website dedicated to Captain Lawrence, go to www.captainljlawrence.houseoflawrence.com.