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Sussex County Croquet Club

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Some time after the Second World War, Major H Jellicorse wrote and had printed the following history:

 

 

History of the Sussex County

Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club,

Southwick

By MAJOR H. JELLICORSE,

President and one of the Trustees of the Club

 

THE HISTORY of this Club, as regards Croquet, ••• is practically the history of the game. When it ceased to exist as an organisation about 1882 owing to it being made too difficult by the experts, open tournaments ceased, and competitions were played only on a very few private lawns.

One of these lawns was owned by the late Captain Drummond, who was, at the time, Chief Constable of West Sussex, and he had frequent parties and competitions on his courts, first at Petworth and then at Horsham, and it was on them that General Kenyon-Stow, Mr. W. H. Abbey and myself learnt to play the game, and it was we three, with Captain Drummond and Colonel Burton, who started the Club at Southwick in 1901.

We started with 4-inch hoops, as Captain Drummond's opinion was that the narrowness of the 3¾-inch hoops had killed the game in the past. The result was most promising and by the end of the first year we had over 100 croquet members. In 1897 he and Mr. Peel, who had been Honorary Secretary of the old United All-England Association, jointly framed and issued the first notes and prospectus of the Croquet Association, which rapidly became a prosperous and universal insti­tution. He invited a few of the old and well-known players to a tournament on his lawn and some of them, including himself, were nominated for election as members of the Association Council on which he served for some six years. He was the real connecting link between the old and new associations.

My authority for the above is the C.A. Handbook ; and the C.A. Gazette of June, 1904, where an ! account of Captain Drummond's work in connection with Croquet and his photograph was published. Our Club was started in 1901, the present grounds at Southwick being selected owing to its great advantage of being surrounded by trees, of which there are very few along the coast. Unfortunately, it is almost completely hidden, except from the railway, and often people who would like to play the game are quite unaware that a Croquet Club exists in the area.

To start with, three acres were leased from the owner, Mr. Gorringe. It was old pasture land and it. was necessary to level it, in tiers.

Four croquet courts and a little later on two lawn tennis courts were provided. In the course of time more land was obtained and other courts laid out. At present there are eleven croquet courts, eight lawn tennis courts (three being hard ones) and a motor park, with a pavilion, a refreshment hut for luncheons, teas, etc., and shelters for the courts.

To pay for the levelling of the courts debentures were raised and eventually paid off, owing to the great success of the Club.

In 1906, the freehold of the ground, about 5½ acres, was purchased, and the money for paying for it was raised by a mortgage, of which the late Mr. W. H. Abbey, the late Colonel Burton and myself were the trustees, and the remainder by deben­tures. Trustees are ex-officio members of the Club Committee.

In the course of time Archery was provided on a piece of land on the Gorringe estate close to the Club, and was very successful and was continued for some years, but, unfortunately, had to be given up.

At one time it was proposed to start Bowls, and some were provided by a member, but the game was never taken up, owing, chiefly, to the courts being fully required for the two other games.

Many of the courts in Australia and New Zealand are laid out for bowls and croquet, the latter game being played chiefly in the mornings and afternoons and the former in the evenings. This enables a much larger number of members being allowed to join the Club and so provides the necessary funds to pay for the cost of upkeep, etc., of the Club, which in the future are likely to be much heavier than in the past. Forty people can play bowls at one time on a croquet court.

Catering in peace time has been a source of profit to the Club, and on average about £100 a year has been handed over to the general funds. When the Australians sent a croquet team to this country five Test matches were arranged, and our Club was selected for the final match, which was a great compliment to it. The courts were in excellent condition, but rather difficult, owing to the exceptionally dry state of the weather.

The fact of being selected for the final event showed the opinion the Croquet Association had of our Club.

One of the best and well-known of Croquet players who has played Croquet in New Zealand and Australia and all over this country, and has won several of the most important events, told me lately that from his experience our Club was cer­tainly one of the best in the world, taking into consideration the number of courts available, their good quality and the general management.

I believe that we have more good courts kept solely for Croquet than any other Club in the world.

The system of watering the courts in drought was completed just before the last war by the latest and most up-to-date system, and should be a great success.

As regards Croquet, owing to the .devoted work of the members of the Club eight courts were kept in use throughout the whole war, and they were in great demand. The members supplied the teas and refreshments and made a good profit for the Club funds.

A system has been started by which recruits to the game are instructed in it by members of the Club, and it is producing good results, and a competition for quite new beginners has been arranged in order to teach them the game, each one being allowed to be accompanied by a member, who is permitted to tell them what to do as the game proceeds.

As regards Lawn Tennis, it has been a definite success, as can be seen on inspecting the annual balance sheets.

There were times when the .subscriptions and entrance fees from this game exceeded those from Croquet, and it looks as if now, after the war, it is going to be equally, if not more, successful than in the past.

The hard courts have been a great success and the grass ones ought to be fairly good this year and ought to be first-class next year. We have, more than once in pre-war years, been informed by players that they were the best grass lawn tennis courts in our area, which was satisfactory.

Owing to the young and more active members being required for war purposes, the whole of the lawn tennis players retired from the Club, but I am glad to see that since the war ended about one hundred have joined or rejoined it, and there is, with its energetic Committee, great hopes of the Section being even more successful than in the past. New nets, stop netting, etc., have been supplied.

Bridge receipts have also helped the funds. The result has been that, notwithstanding the difficulties, only a very moderate loss was incurred, which is satisfactory and reflects great credit on those who did the hard work and supported the Club during the war.

The overhead charges in peace time are approx­imately £700 a year and the difference between them and the subscription is made up by donations, profits on catering, tournaments and temporary members' fees. If it had not been for the war it is quite probable that the mortgage and deben­tures would have been reduced, and it is hoped that this will happen in the future.

The following information is interesting and it shows how the subscriptions have fluctuated, according to circumstances :

1902-1914

Average

£500 a year

1914-1918

First Great War

£250 a year

1919-1931

Great improvements to Courts, etc. made

£600 a year

1932-1934

Financial world depression

£300 a year

1935-1939

Gradual recovery

£420 a year

19401945

Second Great War

£200 a year

The present annual subscriptions are :

full members, who can play all the games all the year round, £3 3s., with reductions for other members of the same family and for those living beyond 10 miles and 40 miles from the Club.

lawn tennis members only, £2 2s., with re­ductions for other members of the same family.

student members, £1 1s.

associates (non-playing members, except Bridge), £1 1s.

The finances are, I am glad to say, steadily improving. At the commencement of the war a guarantee fund was organised, with the view of meeting any overdraft at the bank which might occur. It was very well received and over £200 was guaranteed, but the guarantors were never called on to pay anything, the Club managing to carry on without an overdraft.

All that is wanted now is to get more members, especially Croquet ones, and there is room for a considerable number to reach pre-war figures, and there are some signs that we are likely to get them, and that the Club will continue to flourish as it has done in the past. It is up to the present members to get them, either as playing or non-playing members, and so ensure success.

Moore & Tillyer Ltd., Printers, 39 East Street, Chichester.


Creation date : 18/02/2011 @ 12:59
Last update : 29/10/2014 @ 19:54
Category : Club Info - History
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