The following is a brief history of the founding of the Sidcup & Foots Cray United Services Club and its growth to its present successful institution as reported from the Minutes of the various Committees from 1922 - 1972.
Some one or two years after the end of the 1914 – 1918 war a group of ex-servicemen gathered together with the object of forming an organisation or club with the ideals of maintains the comradeship that was formed during this terrible war, and after much searching – not only for suitable premises but for finance as well – the club was to be formed at 171 Main Road, Sidcup Kent.
The first statutory meeting was held at the local Council Offices on Thursday 12th January 1922, when over 50 ex-servicemen present unanimously resolved the Sidcup & Foots Cray United Services Club be opened on Saturday, 4th February 1922. The first President of the Club was to be J.C. Pullman, and the Vice-President T Todrick, and the following were unanimously election Hon Vice-Presidents of the Club:
The Countess of Limerick
Sir A.W. Smithers, MP
Sir G Buckham
Sir S.J. Waring
The Rev W.H.G Smith
Major H.D Gillies
Messrs J Bartlett, C.E Corthorn
J.W. Dickinson, G Goodes, T Knight
Messrs CSpreckly, W.C. Williams
The first Hon Secretary E Bird
The fist Hon Treasurer W Bunting
It is from these people who banded together to carry out its ideals as laid down by its cardinal number one rule in the rule book of 1922 – and still acted upon in word and spirit in 1972 – and it reads as follow:
Name and Objects
The Society (hereinafter called The Club) shall be named the Sidcup & Foots Cray UNITED SERVICES CLUB LTD and its objects are to carry on the business of Club Proprietors by providing for the use of member the means of social intercourse, mutual helpfulness, mental and moral improvement, national recreation and the other advantages of a club, also further to advance that comradeship that sprang up whilst serving their country.
From these Minutes it is interesting reading when one notes the Bar prices in 1922 and now. Some of them were as follows: Mild Ale 5d per pint; bitter 8d; Burton 9d per pint; Bass & Guinness 8d; Whisky 9d; plus soda 1d extra; Port 6d; Brandy 1/-d; Gin 8d; Minerals 3d; Tea & Coffee 2d per cup.
But on the 24th February 1922, the Committee, after much discussion, reduced Whisky to 8d and not charge for the soda. It was also proposed at this meeting that the Club purchase two billiard tables for the sum of £15 and £12 each, and the £35 be spent on renovation. The month’s expenditure and income was £78.8s.7d and £175.2s.5d – a far cry from today’s figures of an average £2,500 to £3,000.
Another interesting Minute at this time was that no bicycles would be allowed in the entrance to the Club – a far cry from today’s car park with the reserved space for invalid card, again the Club showing its interest and care for its less fortunate comrades.
On the 10th October 1922, Mr Pryce – representing the British Legion – gave an address with a view to the Club joining the Legion and it was put to the vote whether they should join or not and it was unanimously decided that a Branch of the British Legion be founded in the district and although both Club and the Legion were firm friends, it was not until March 1929 that the Club favourable considered a proposal that the Legion use the Club for their meetings one night per month. In May 1930, as a result of a letter from the Secretary of the Sidcup Branch of the British Legion, it was resolved in committee that the room recently added to the Club by call the Haig Room and from this date onwards there is, and always will be, a Haig Room in the Club.
In July 1922 an offer of a piano for £42 – the same to be tuned free for 2 years – was made to the Club, and by concerts and whist drives and dances by August the piano fund was £6 and by December it stood at £28.10s.0d, when a collection was made by the entertainment committee for the balance.
In January 1923 it was proposed to enquire into the possibilities of having a bowling green at the back of the Club and as a result of the enquiries Mr Bunting contracted with Mr Crowther to lay out the green for the sum of £9.0s.0d. Lord Waring promised to supply the turf free, the Club to pay the cost of cutting, and Messers Clifford & Co offered to deliver the turf free of charge.
The Club, during its lifetime, has always had many notable members and willing helpers giving their time so freely to enable the Club to sail along on an even keel. In February 1923 Mr J Wood made a splendid gift to the Club of £100 and during the following weeks Mrs Speek gave a series of performance of the plan “The Prisoner of Zonda” at the Kings Hall, Sidcup – now the ABC cinema – and raised the magnificent sum of £100.13S.5d, and Clive whist drives raised £4 which would be used to pay off £100 to the Club Treasurer.
The first AGM was held at the Club House on the 24th March 1923. It is interesting to see that the auditors then are the same company as used by the Club today – Messrs Charles Connins of Cannon Street, and here again figures for the income and expenditure of 1922 as against 1972 show just how the Club has grown – 1922 a balance sheet of £3,000 and in 1972 £50,000.
By 1924 a further £100 was paid off the mortgage, now standing at £1,500 and the 5 guarantors were informed, clearing them of their liabilities, this being accomplished in two and a half years.
Naturally the Club has always been intensely patriotic and in May 1925 arrangement were made to hold an open-air concert on Empire Day. It is a pity that this had to be discontinued.
During the early part of 1926 consideration was asked to take a look at providing bathing facilities for Club members and members of the Sidcup Rugby and Football Club, and by October baths were built and open and the rules for their use were that the baths be opened three evenings a week from 6pm to 10pm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 6d per head and no towels be issued after 9.45pm.
In April 1926 Mr Bunting announced that 2 whist drives had made a profit of 8/-d.
In October 1928 the German gun standing outside the Council Offices was offered to the Club and when put to a vote the offer was accepted, but there appears to be no record of what happened to this gun.
In January 1929 the Secretary reported that through the generosity of Mr J.R. Creasy the Tithe rent charge had been redeemed at a cost of £2.15s.8d.
The Club continued to grow during the next two years and in June 1932 The Old Contemptibles Association were offered the use of the Haig Room whenever needed and from then until today (IS THIS TRUE) a very close association with these wonderful men has gone on and today (IS THIS TRUE) they hold their annual dinner and social evening in the clubhouse and the monthly meeting held on Sunday morning is well attended by members, visitors and patrons, many of whom are past Presidents of the Club.
September 1934: Proposed and accepted that a telephone with a coin box be installed in the Club for use of the members.
October 1934: Tender for redecorating the outside of the Club accepted for the sum of £20. Consider the price today when it recently cost ????
In May 1935 permission given for the Haig Room to be used for recruitment to the 207th A.A. Battery R.A. (TA).
In January 1937 the Club suffered the grievous loss of one of its founder members and first Vice-President Mr T Todrick.
April 1939: United Services Fund approached to ask for cancellation of the Mortgage.
Then came the Second World War and in October 1940 the Club was demolished by enemy action during an air raid.
On 24th of May 1945, a meeting at the Black Horse hotel with Mr J.R. Creasy in the chair, was called for the express purpose of discussing ways and means of re-establishing the United Service Club.
July 7th 1945: A meeting held at Sidcup Gold Club – Mr J.R. Creasy reported he had received from the Bursar of Clare College an offer to see the freehold interest of 108 Main Road, Sidcup, for the sum of £3,000, but it was reported that owning to the age and poor repair from war damage, funds would have to be raised to a minimum of £4,000.
In November 1945, 108 Main Road, Sidcup Kent, was purchased for £3,000 and Messrs Fremlins agreed to advance a loan of £4,000, in sums of £300 deposit and £2,700 and the balance when needed at a later date. At subsequent meetings it was resolved that the club be opened on Thursday 28th February 1946.
July 1946: From this time onwards much hard work was needed to put the Club on a firm footing and to re-establish as a Club where old comrades and ex-service members could meet, talk and relax. Once again the Club was fortunate in the willingness of their members to work hard in their own spare time, painting, decorating, raising funds for alterations by all manner of means such as whist drives, concerts, tombola, dances, etc, and of course allied to all these activities responsible members of committee kept a strict watch and hand on expenses. The Club progressed slowly and surely and in searching through the past minutes one realises just how much thought and care has gone into the running and make the Club such a success.
July 1946: It was decided to allow members’ wives and lady friends to use the room behind the bar on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, entrance to be made through the side gate only.
September 1946: Raffles from Entertainment Committee had raised £13.13s.9d and a Horse Show produced the handsome profit of £132.16s.0d.
In December 1946 the following directive was issued by the house committee that, owing to the shortage of spirits, whisky and gin would only be on sale on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings, no double would be served and gin would be on sale from 7pm and whisky from 8pm.
April 1947: The War Damage Commission made known their proposed terms of settlement for the Club House destroyed in 1940, the sum being £3.095 and through the work of Mr J.R. Creasy he recommended that the offer be accepted.
May 1947: The United services Fund loan was repaid in full and the Trust deed was returned to the Club endorsed with the word ‘Discharged’.
At a Committee Meeting in October 1948 the first suggestion of admitting ladies into the Club; either as members or visitors, was made and many year were to pass before this came about. It was also about this time that the House Committee proposed that the Club fees for members be increased from 1/- to 2/6 and that the Club garage at the rear be let to a member for 10/- per week.
A sweepstake on the St. Leger showed a profit of £33.8s.6d and it was decided to allocate £25.0s.0d to the Building Fund and the balance of £8.8s.6d to the Entertainment Fund.
December 1948: The Committee passed a resolution to enlarge the Billiard Room.
October 1949: This was opened by Col Chamberlain, the High Sheriff of Kent.
In July 1950 the death was announced of Mr J.R. Creasy – a man who had given unselfishly so much of his time and gave generously financially to the formation and running of the new Club. His loss cannot be put in figure but the Club as it stands today – safe, secure, is an everlasting memorial to his wish for a meeting place of old comrades and friends. The Club decided that a plaque be placed in the Club in his memory, the cost to be open to members and associations using the Club and this plaque bearing these words:
It was due to the untiring efforts and
John R. Creasy, Esq.
That this club was reformed in 1945
We Shall Not Forget Him
July 1951: The J.R. Creasey plaque was placed in position and dedicated by Cannon Webb and unveiled by Major K. Dalgliesh.
So passed another era in the Club’s history and in passing, although so many members have helped in raising the Club to its present standard, perhaps we could be allowed to mention by name for their outstanding contributions to the club:
Mr T Knight, Pr P Needham, Mr Ben Smith, Mr J Pike, Mr A.L. Cook, Capt Mossop, Capt McKenna, Mr F Tickner and Mr Campbell Manning, who has been the Club’s Hon Secretary for the past 20 years and is now honoured by his appointment as President for the Jubilee Year 1952.
The Club’s Guest of Honour at the Annual Dinner was Air Chief Marshal Sir John Baker KCB, MC, DFC and to put all members in fine fettle by one of the best speeches heard in the Club.
The visit of the Royal Artillery Band and the playing in the forecourt was one of the highlights of the year, an honour not easily forgotten.
It was at this time, 1952, which a Coronation Fund was set up and it was hoped to raise £250. The decorations were a great success and were awarded the 2nd prize in the local competition.
In April 1952 the first alterations to the bar were carried out and most of the work was done by the members and a brick-built fireplace erected by Mr AL Cook has still be retained in the lounge bar, although this bar has gone through further major alterations.
May 1958: It was agreed that the steward be allowed to keep 3 geese to help keep the grass down in the garden and the proved very satisfactory and a great source of amusement to member until in March 1960 it was decided that they were getting dangerous and as the new steward had a dog, to dispense with them.
May 1958: Enquiries regarding the installation of central heating – this was not deemed practicable at this stage owing to the high cost of £750 and running costs of between £250 and £300 per year.
In September 1958 Capt McKenna reported that a whist drive had raised 6/10, tombola 15/9 the football sweep 12/- and the St Leger sweepstake £4.4s.0d, which had been allocated to the Building Fund.
November 1958: A whist drive raised £6.1s.0d and tombola £2.0s.0d, both these sums were donated to the Earl Haig Fund.
The Club has been most fortunate in the way that friend and other outside organisation have helped by contributing to the Club’s funds. The Sidcup Cricket Club sent a cheque for £36.3s.6d – the proceeds of a charity match played on behalf of the Club’s Building Fund. The Rugby Club also played a charity match which raised £29.5s.0d. Members of the Stock Exchange Club were most generous with their cheques of £25.0s.0d from time to time. Mr R Creasey, the brother of the well-beloved Mr J.R. Creasey has been most generous with his money gifts, which were often a cheque for £30 or more and the value of his experience advice given freely to the Club has been invaluable and it was with regret the Club learned he was unable to take over his brother’s position as Club chairman owing to his business commitments.
The Old Contemptible Association and the new Royal British Legion have always been most generous during their long association within the club. It is relevant at this point to say that, no matter how much the Club has benefited from the generosity of members and associations and friends, it has always been ready to open its purse strings to the appeals of the needy. In May 1966 the Club raised the sum of £103 for the Star & Garter Homes. In April 1968 an appeal from the Intensive Care Unit raised £110.5s.0d and during the past two or three years we have had upwards of 10 members who have cause to be grateful for this unit. Appeals to Cancer Research, St John’s Ambulance Fund and the Ulster Forces TV Fund are among those that have not gone by unheeded, and to the Royal British Legion Earl Haig Fund, one which is held very dear to the Club, they have raised at the annual Poppy Day Dance – when all receipts from the dance, raffles and collections have been handed to Mr Tom Read, the district organiser – the sums of £140 in 1969, £150 in 1970 and £182 in 1971, and the Club are looking for a bumper sum of £200-£250 in the Jubilee year of 1972.
February 1958: Capt Mossop raised £32.10s.0d and £49.15s.8d by raffles in the Club on Saturday morning, for the building and renewals fund. The Club will ever be grateful for his memory for the wonderful efforts he put into raising money whatever his secret he had a gift of being able to get many a local shopkeeper to give something for a raffle and in the days when money was scarce many of these items produced enough to be able to purchase a couple of electric light bulbs or a pot of paint for the front door.
March 1959: The local UD Council put in a proposal for purchasing part of the Club’s ground at the rear for a council car park. In august 1959 the Committee agreed to sell for the sum of £3,500 and it was decided that £1,500 be paid off the mortgage.
March 1960: Resolved to pursue the cost of installation of central heating.
June 1960: Once again Mr R Creasey sent he Club Funds a cheque for £21.0s.0d.
February 1961: As a result of a ballot by letter sent to members asking for their views on admitting ladies into the Club, the votes were case as follows 39 for, 31 against, 30 for Friday and Saturdays only, 30 undecided. This subsequently went before the members at the AGM in April 1961 and in June 1961 it was passed that ladies be permitted to use the bar at anytime under the resolution passed at the AGM.
January 1962: Death of Mr F Needham, who bequeathed the sum of £50 towards the Club. Such money has since been used to purchase a badge of office for the President and bars have been added to the collar of page Presidents and this is present to the incoming President at the AGM by the immediate Past President in an impressive ceremony and the badge and collar are warn with pride at all functions the President attends inside and outside the Club.
March 1962: First proposal to extend the Billiard Room for Dances, etc.
March 1963: The Club was approached for the use of the forecourt by a Mass X-Ray Unit and permission was gladly granted and has been several times since.
April 1963: A presentation of a table lighter was made to the Club’s Hon Solicitor – Mr F Tickner – who had undertaken the task of redrafting the Club’s Rules and Bye Laws – one that took many months of hard work and preparation, a service that was given entirely free. This again is just another example of service members have given to the Club over its fifty years.
June 1963: The mortgage on the Club was finally redeemed.
October 1963: A further debate ensued on the extension of the lounge and as little had been accomplished it was decided to seek the advice of an architect and once again out old friends Messrs Fremlins helped.
March 1964: This marked the death of another stalwart of the Club, Major K Dalgliesh.
August 1964: It was resolved that building of another hall was not necessary.
April 1965: At the AGM a resolution was passed admitting lady members but with no voting rights or eligibility to serve on committees. It had taken 17 years to achieve this breakthrough and on reflection it has been all for the best and one wonders what the Club would have achieved if this step had been taken years before.
May 1965: Estimate accepted for the alteration and building of new bars.
August 1965: The passing of another old friend and helper of the Club Cpt Mossop.
February 1966: Piped music was installed in the bar.
December 1966: Committee discussed again the project of building a new hall.
January 1967: Sub-committee formed to look into this matter and get plans proceeded with for a new hall.
March 1967: The death of another revered old member and well-known personality in the district – Mr Ben Smith – who ran a printing business in Sidcup Station Road.
August 1967: The Committee proposed that the cellar be remodelled and brought up to date for the size of the Club.
January 1968: The question of building a new hall was raised again, also now with the addition of a Sun Lounge.
January 28th 1968: A revolutionary event took place this evening – a Ladies Only Dinner and the Officers of the Club and Committee men dressed for the occasion and became the ladies’ wine waiter for the evening – an established custom now for the following ladies dinners – the Chair being taken on these evening by the President’s Lady.
March 1968: The alteration to the bar cellar were completed.
April 1968: Estimates received for building a new hall and sun lounge and proposal to accept them approved at the AGM.
June 1968: As a result of the growing numbers applying for membership the Committee deemed it necessary to limit the numbers admitted to the club and institute a waiting list this practice has continued new members being admitted once a month after an interview by a subcommittee of 4 officers of the Club and it has proved a wise decision the club being able to bring in the members who they feel will enjoy all benefits that the club had attained over its many years and contribute towards its well being.
June 1968: Work commenced on the building of new hall and sun lounge at a cost of £5,161.
October 11th 1968: The sun lounge was opened and the new hall on 1st November both events carried out by the Club President Lt Col E Kingsbury and his lady.
The British Legion presented the Club with 2 clocks, one for the lounge and one for the Hall both of which were welcome gifts to the Club. Thus ended a period of nearly 7 years in getting this original proposal brought about but again thanks to clubs officers and responsible members of committees these schemes were achieved without having recourse to raising money by mortgage.
Many well known people have been associated with the club and Dame Patricia Hornsby Smith MP was made an Hon Life Member of the Club in 1970.
It was during his year of office 1970-1971 that the Mayor of Bexley Councillor Raymond Pope and Mrs Sheila Pope attended the Earl Haige Poppy Day Dance in the Club house and they have been friends of the Club and its associates The Royal British Legion and The Old Contemptibles, for whom both be and especially his lady have their interests at heart.
1971 saw the passing of another well loved member of the Club Capt John McKenna who apart from his services to the Club, was well known for the help he gave at Queen Marys Hospital as the year 1971 passes into 1972 fresh estimates for the installation of central heating have been obtained and now await ratification and although the first enquiries were made in 1958 over 13 years ago which has led sometimes to the charges of procrastination, as in the past the responsible committee will give its consent only when it is sure that the money is well spent and that the Club and all its members will benefit much will always remain to be done to maintain the Club in its past and present standards but with the foundations built on the solid rock of its founders and members the Club comes to its Jubilee Year looking forward to a happy successful and eventful year and onwards towards the next 50 years.