Gymnastics Club was founded in the London Borough of
Lewisham in 1967 by Jim and Pauline Prestidge,
at The Playtower in Ladywell.
At that time, they were
regarded as the major motivators of modern gymnastics
in Great Britain. Their Club, Ladywell Gymnastics Club,
was unique for its time, and National Squad members, traveling from all over the country, trained
there at weekends. One of these, Avril Lennox, OBE,
an Olympic gymnast, traveled to Lewisham from
the Midlands to train!
The Club produced gymnasts who competed in Olympics, International and National
as well as British Championships
down the years. Suzanne Dando and Yvette Austin, now both successful broadcasters, are former members of the Club.
The Club was moved from The Playtower to Lewisham Leisure
Centre in Rennell Street in 1977. At this time, Mr and
Mrs Prestige found a purpose built gymnastics facility
and moved to the North of England. Despite the cramped
conditions the Club now found itself in, it continued to
produce gymnasts of National and International standard.
1996, Ladywell Gymnastics Club found itself undergoing a forced
relocation, ironically - back to The Playtower in Ladywell,
despite the fact that The Playtower had been unoccupied
for a year as a condemned building!
Club almost did not survive this move and radical change,
but due mainly to the drive, persistence and dedication of
Shirley Callaghan BEM **, the Club grew from a handful
of Volunteer Coaches and approximately thirty gymnasts, to a thriving,
not-for-profit, Community Interest Company small business, with full and part-time staff,
approximately 620 members, and a very long waiting list!
The Club flourished
despite the many hardships it had to overcome to survive in
The Playtower, and now has gymnasts competing at Club, Regional
and National Level, at home and abroad.
** [In 2015, Shirley was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for Services to Gymnastics in the Queen's New Year's Honours List - a just reward for her more than thirty years of tireless dedication to the Club, and to the children of Lewisham who enjoy the sport of gymnastics here at the Club]
April 2004, with the aid of a Lottery Grant and funding from
the London Borough of Lewisham, the Club moved to a permanent, new purpose-built facility, housed within the Bellingham Leisure
and Lifestyle Centre in Randlesdown Road, Bellingham, South East London.
Since the move, the Club has continued to thrive and has become an integral part of, and a corner-stone of the local community. It was also during this memorable year that the London Gymnastics Federation awarded the Club of the Year and Coach of the Year (to Head Coach Shirley Callaghan) Awards and accolades to the Club.
This Club continues to provide the community with a much needed service, while
also producing gymnasts of a high standard to maintain the
Ladywell tradition. Our current facility enables us to provide
a lasting legacy to our founders; one within a fitting environment
for the present staff and members - many of whom have fought to keep
the Club alive through thick and thin down the years.
Despite the damage caused to the Club by the Covid-19 Pandemic and the long period of enforced closure that ensued, the dreams and ideals of founders Jim and Pauline continue to flourish and go from strength to strength. We will always strive to ensure their legacy remains strong in our hands.