LAST orders were called for the final time marking the end of an era.

Hundreds of people gathered at a Southampton club to toast more than four decades of happy memories.

The Holy Family Social Club at Millbrook started life as a place for parishioners to meet after mass 47 years ago, but it soon became a second home for up to 500 members.

It was home to darts and fishing clubs and it has raised thousands of pounds for causes across Hampshire, including the renovation of Holy Family Church and the nearby Holy Family School.

But despite a bid from members to save it, the church that opened it in April 1966 has decided to shut it down.

Members say that without the club, people will have nowhere to go and the community will be left fragmented.

Wendy Scott, 64, a retired secretary and former club chairman, from Windermere Avenue, Millbrook, said: “It is a sad day for all of us.

“It’s ironic really that a lot of pubs in the area are closing because they’re not making enough money but we’re making a lot of profit and we’re still being closed.”

Ann and Bill Berry, both retired, from Mansel Road, Millbrook, have been members since 1968.

Ann, 71, said: “I’m absolutely devastated. It’s a community and a second home. There’s going to be a big gap in our lives now. We celebrated our 50th anniversary here last year but that will be my last party here.”

Bill, 74, said: “We’ve enjoyed it every time we’ve come here. We all brought up our kids and our grandkids here. It’s very hard to make new friends. This was our life.” Holy Family Church says the building will be used as a base for Caritas Portsmouth, a new agency responsible for supporting and inspiring Catholics throughout the diocese in their charitable work for the poor.

A spokesman from the Diocese of Portsmouth said: “The Church is sorry to close the club but we have decided to use the building to move in a new direction. The Caritas project is a new initiative in the Diocese of Portsmouth which is reaching out to the marginalised and the poor. This is living the Gospel message and is in keeping with the vision of the church as expressed by Pope Francis and the diocese under the leadership of Bishop Philip Egan.”

Some club members have said they hope to continue meeting at the Bricklayer’s Arms.