Oldest boxing gym in Hull in £200,000 appeal

When it comes to life, St Paul’s is a boxing gym which punches above its weight.

The gym, which is the oldest club in Hull and the biggest outside London, has a proud record including training Olympian Luke Campbell and up and coming stars like Harvey Lambert.

But it is the thousands of youngsters who have come through its doors and learned the age-old lessons of respect, discipline, and community, which is probably its proudest boast.

The former ballroom on North Church Side, opposite Hull Minster, which opened as a gym in 1948, has had visitors from round the world - who have sometimes been amazed at the primitive conditions.

Harvey Lambert training at St Paul's Boxing Academy in Hull Picture: Simon Hulme

“We’ve had people from America, Australia, from Spain, Denmark and Holland. There’s no heating, there’s pigeons flying about, bees and butterflies, something falling off the ceiling,” says head coach Mike Bromby.

“It got to the point where we were embarrassed to put on shows.”

Five years ago trustees John Rutherford and Shelagh Devereux came on board, joined later by current High Sheriff of the East Riding of Yorkshire Andrew Horncastle.

Fundraising started in earnest and they now have £300,000 towards a £500,000 upgrade - the first in 50 years.

The gym played an integral part in Luke Campbell's Olympic success Picture: Simon Hulme

“Despite the dirty and rundown facilities, I was really impressed by the standard of the coaching and the relationships with the members,” recalls Mr Rutherford.

The leaking roof is now being fixed by Hull Council, which is also paying for a disabled lift.

The upgrade includes modern changing rooms for the men - as well as the 110 female members -and facilities for the disabled.

But the pressure is on, with an outstanding £200,000, which needs to be raised by September.

The club needs 200,000 towards a major upgrade From left John Rutherford, Andrew Horncastle, Harvey Lambert and Shelagh Devereux

When the work is done and the amazing barrel roof revealed for the first time, it will also open during the day.

It will give people - they already travel from Goole and Bridlington to sparring sessions - another reason to come to Hull’s Old Town.

Mr Horncastle said: “What this is essentially doing is giving people not just an opportunity to increase fitness and skills, but it is helping create what we call champions of the community.

“The club works with other charities and organisations, helping with youth support and people suffering with different issues. When the work is done it will be able to reach a lot more people.

Gold medallist Luke Campbell celebrates after his 2012 Olympics victory Picture: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

“Historically there was a number of clubs that did similar things. St Paul’s has survived and it’s thriving. There’s a shortage of money, but no shortage of members.”

Mr Bromby, who has been with the gym for 50 years, and whose top motto is “Everybody counts”, said 15 nationalities come to the gym, including from Syria, Russia and Afghanistan.

“Everyone is as one, they all work and train together and families become friends. We do walks and cycle rides together - it is about being together.

“All these years we struggled, we thought we’d go under every year - the building was falling to bits.

“I am hoping it stands for another 100 years.”

Mr Horncastle added: “It is an inspirational place and one we need to support and maintain for decades ahead.

Boxer Harvey Lambert works out Picture: Simon Hulme

“That is why we’re appealing to individuals, businesses and trusts across the region to back St Paul’s and the essential work it does.”

To raise funds or donate visit https://www.justgiving.com/stpaulsboxing.

Harvey Lambert has his eyes on a gold medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

His gold gloves signal his ambition. “I just think if people see me in gold gloves, I’ll train a bit harder,” he says, with a smile.

At 22, he already has 16 years of boxing under his belt.

The Elite ABA champion, who is in the GB team, normally trains Monday to Thursday at the Sheffield Institute of Sport.

During lockdown he has been tworking out with his father Mark - who has shed two stones in weight. He was 14 when Luke Campbell won gold at the 2012 London Olympics, in the 56 kg Bantamweight division.

“If I can achieve half of what Luke did, I’ll be very happy”, says Harvey, who has won 84 of his 102 fights so far.