Netball club and its founder marks 70 years of success

Almena Theobald and Jessica Steward, who was the youngest person in attendance, cut the anniversary cake.

Almena Theobald and Jessica Steward, who was the youngest person in attendance, cut the anniversary cake. - Credit: Christchurch Ladies Netball Club

A Guinness World Record and generations of families passing through its ranks, it has been a busy 70 years for one of Suffolk’s oldest netball clubs. 

Christchurch Ladies Netball Club was founded by Almena Theobald in 1950, who continues as its chairman to this day. 

The club's impressive history includes winning the Ipswich and District Netball league for 25 successive years between 1959 and 1983, earning it a place in the Guinness Book of Records. 

To mark seven decades of playing Almena and club members past and present gathered to belatedly celebrate its big birthday at the Novotel after the pandemic put paid to celebrations last year.  

Almena is thrilled that the Ipswich club has been a part of so many women’s lives, both in Suffolk and from further afield.  

She says: “It brings me so much joy to be part of the Christchurch Ladies’ family.  I am thrilled that I have been able to see daughters and now granddaughters representing our club.   

“I am a firm believer that sport has so many positive attributes, not just for fitness but for team building, discipline and comradery."

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They were honoured to have Sheelagh Redpath as their guest of honour, who is the first ever President for Netball East. 

Three of the club’s members have also represented England; Rita Adams (nee Flude); as a schoolgirl, Judith Annandale (nee Wilson); and Madeleine Dwan, who made an impressive 68 appearances for England between 1975-83. 

Many of their members have also represented Suffolk and the East. 

The club was originally comprised of ex-pupils from Christchurch Secondary Modern School for Girls in Ipswich, who did not want to leave the sport behind with their schooling.  

In 1961, they became an open ladies’ club after the school closed, merging with their boys’ counterpart to form Tower Ramparts Secondary Mixed School. 

Today, the club is run by a passionate and dedicated team of volunteers, and continues to flourish through the support of committee members, coaches and umpires, including Almena as Club Chairman and Susan Bailey, the Deputy Chairman and youth coach. 

Almena added: “I look forward to Christchurch Ladies’ Netball Section’s continued growth and success.” 

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