Manchester

'Oldest' working Leigh gym for closure

A Greater Manchester gymnasium, which has been open for more than 100 years, will close its doors later despite campaigns to save it.

Hundreds of local people and keen gymnasts are expected to gather at Marsh Gymnasium in Leigh on Friday night to say farewell to the arena.

Based in Ullswater Street, Ada and Hilda Smith trained there before their success at the 1928 Olympics.

The site, owned by Wigan and Leigh College, was put up for sale in June.

It is selling the site to move to a different campus, but the college is looking for a buyer that will also protect the future of the gymnasium.

Gymnasts will now have to train at nearby former Leigh Grammar School from 23 August.

However, Leigh gymnastics club coach, Jill Orrell, has been campaigning to save the 108-year-old building. The club has applied for a £900,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the gym fully.

'Incredible history'

More than 3,000 people have joined a Facebook group and have signed petitions to save the gym.

Ms Orrell said: "We are confident we could attract funding to help restore this historic building back to its former glory.

"The history behind this building is incredible. With the 2012 Olympics fast approaching, this is an ideal time for encouraging youths to get focused and divert energy into something positive and rewarding."

She said the former health minister, Leigh's MP Andy Burnham, had pledged his support for the campaign as his daughters train with the club.

A Wigan and Leigh College spokeswoman said: "The college has also supported the existing users of the gymnasium by arranging temporary accommodation for them at the old Grammar School site, also on Railway Road.

"This will allow disposal arrangements to be put in place and any refurbishment works in the gymnasium to be undertaken.

"The college is aware that existing users are making good progress in efforts to secure funding for this refurbishment, but feels it is important that contingency plans are also put in place."

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