Epping Forest Country Club

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The Epping Forest Country Club was a group of three night clubs on the Essex/London border, just outside of Chigwell, Essex. The various night clubs were well known throughout South East of England and attracted many big name acts as well as many celebrity visitors. The venues closed in early 2002 after a number of high-profile incidents in addition to complaints from the local residents about noise. Incidents included a door man being shot in 2001 after trying to break up a fight and earlier in the year another person being stabbed on the dance floor.

Overview[edit]

The three venues were called 'Atlantis', 'The Casino Club', and 'The Country Club'. All but one of the buildings have now been demolished and a Holmes Place (now Virgin Active) health club built on the site.[1] The only remaining building is the one previously used for 'The Country Club' as this was a listed building known as 'Woolston Hall', originally a private residence.

History[edit]

In the late 1970s the original 'Wolston Manor House' was converted from a private house into a high class private members club by Sean Connery and 1966 World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore. One night in the early 80s a group of local businessmen from east London attempted to get into a local club in Walthamstow, unfortunately for the owner of this club his doormen decided not to let them in.[citation needed] One of these men was a local builder called Peter Pomfret, and after being refused entry decided to purchase the Wolston Manor House club, which by now was suffering from a lack of customers.[citation needed] The club was swiftly closed down and turned into a night club, with much less strict membership criteria, and soon attracted huge numbers of local customers, but was still restricted to over-25s. It soon became overwhelmed with its own success, and Pomfret decided to build the Caisson Club extension, and then in the mid-90s added 'The Jungle', which after a few years was refurbished as 'Atlantis'. The complex of clubs had a capacity of over 3,000 people, which was regularly met.[citation needed] The Walthamstow club closed down due to lack of customers in the early 1980s.[citation needed]

The clubs[edit]

Atlantis[edit]

This was the biggest of the three clubs with a capacity of over 1000, and on many nights this was easily reached. The venue underwent a refurbishment towards the end of the 1990s converting it from a jungle theme to a more upmarket night club; however, this refurbishment also included a new sound system which was much more powerful than the original one, which was unfortunately part of the venues downfall as the roof was thin and most of the sound generated escaped into the surrounding area, much to the annoyance of the local residents, some living over a mile away.[citation needed] The landscape of the Roding Valley in which the club was situated funnelled the sound towards the village of Abridge, and across the valley towards Debden and Loughton.

The original 'Jungle' room not only was themed on a jungle, but also played jungle. Many[who?] said that this night was one of the birth places of jungle.[citation needed] It was one of the biggest nights playing this style of music, but as jungle went out of fashion towards the end of the 1990s and the drum and bass and house music scenes became more fashionable its days were numbered.[citation needed]

The venue was open to over-18s and as well as having its regular events it also had many externally promoted events and under-18s nights.

The swimming pool behind the venue was also used for outdoor 'Splash!' parties which was usually for members only as it was so popular. The pool still remains and is now part of the health and fitness centre.

There were also two large airport style metal detector arches on the front entrance through which all visitors had to pass, as no metal objects (except clothing) was allowed in the venue. There was also a complete ban on glass inside the venue.

Atlantis hosted may big name DJs as well as its residents. Some of the residents still do many gigs a year, and part of the rumoured plans to re-open the venue involved some of these residents returning to the Country Club venue once again.

Casino Club[edit]

This was the over-21s venue and was considered to be a much more up-market venue, and was much smaller than Atlantis. Part of it still remains and is now being used as a chrech for the health club.

The Country Club[edit]

This was advertised as an over-25s venue; however many reports suggest people younger than this were regularly allowed in.[citation needed] The venue is a listed building and remains however in a poor state of repair, but many of its internal fixtures still remain. This was the first of the venues to open. This building has been rumoured to be the target of re-opening plans.[citation needed]

The Years After Closure[edit]

After the trio of clubs closed, things moved quite rapidly. The Atlantis building was first demolished, along with part of the Casino Club, and redevelopment work began on the site. A driving range was built along with the new health club building on the other side of the car park. The car park was renovated and the entire site tidied up. The remaining parts of the former Casino club was turned into a bar for the members of the health club.

The Virgin Group purchased Holmes Place who originally operated the gym, and the Co-Operative group that originally owned the site sold it off to a South African holdings company. Through all of this the original Woolston Hall remained, although it suffered from neglect.

In the period from closure in 2002 until 2007 at least 3 groups tried to use the building. Two of these plans attempted to turn it into a restaurant, however these fell though due to the large cost involved in stripping out the multi-level night club layout and developing a high class restaurant.[citation needed] Holmes Place also tried to turn it into a conferencing/banqueting facility, but the planning permission for this plan was rejected.[citation needed]

The building remains on the listed building register, and as such any alteration or major works will be very difficult to get passed.

In mid-2008 the owner of Wolston Hall golf Club finally purchased the building from the South African property company that owned the site at that time for an estimated £1 million, a significant discount from the £2.5m asking price.[citation needed]

Fire[edit]

The golf club owners spent an estimated £750,000 on renovating the building into a high-class restaurant, however in the early hours of Wednesday 17 September 2008, a serious fire broke out within Woolston Hall, in the older part of the building, that was undergoing renovation work. The fire total gutted the stately manor house.[2][3] Essex fire brigade reported significant problems fighting the fire, not only because of the scafholding surrounding the building, but also due to a lack of high flow water supply. This was soon resolved by draining the swimming pool, which was once used for 'Splash' nights in Atlantis, to fight the fire.

It has been reported that the golf club had only insured the original £1m purchase price and had not covered the costs of the renovation work.

This put an end to the re-opening plans, which had been put on hold for almost 2 years from the initial plans due to financial problems related to the 'crunch'. The cause of the fire is yet unknown, but rumours have been circulating on the internet, but the final investigation results are awaited.

Planning permission was submitted to the Epping Forest council post fire to turn the building into a restaurant which were accepted. This is not the news that the old country club goers wanted to hear, as it was hoped that the building would re-open as The Country Club once again.

In Late 2010 after substantial rebuilding, and renovation the building finally reopened as a restaurant, under the name of 'Mooros'. The name is based on the original owners of the hall in the mid-1970s - Sir Bobby Moore and Sir Sean Connery.[4]

References[edit]

Coordinates: 51°38′27″N 0°05′36″E / 51.6408°N 0.0934°E / 51.6408; 0.0934