This updated history of the Club is based on earlier work carried out by
Peter Kennedy, John Cheong, Edward Handley and others.
Current members have provided valuable information, which has enabled me to bring the story up to date.
The story of Croydon Rotary Club really goes back to November 1921 when three members of the London Rotary Club, Messrs J.Meech, A Chadwick and J.B. Taylor, met with interested citizens of Croydon to inform them about Rotary and how it functioned. The meeting, chaired by Alderman Heath Clark, took place at The Art Gallery on the corner of Park Lane and George Street and resulted in the formation of Club 62, which received its charter on 18 January 1922.
The founding members of this new club were led by President, T.R.Edridge, a lawyer and included Allan Straker, J.L. Williams, who worked in insurance, W.J.Sandeman of the Croydon Gas Company, C.H.S. Nunn, R.Clarke, the director of Roffey Clarke, E.M.Cowell, surgeon, Hugh McIntosh, architect, Kenneth Young, property developer and the Secretary C. Price.
The British Association of Rotary Clubs to which Croydon belonged, became RIBI (Rotary International, Britain and Ireland) a few years later and divided clubs into districts. Croydon was part of District 14, which extended down to the South Coast, but this was later subdivided and we were in District 114, which in time was renamed District 1140.
The club first met in the old Greyhound Hotel in the High Street and by 1923 had 123 members. In 1939, courtesy of Rotarians Sidney and Goss Grant, meetings were moved to Grants’ store, where grace was sung before each meal, accompanied on the piano by John Dale’s grandfather!
Members sat at tables of six and on arrival were issued with a table number to encourage them to mix. By 1975, Grants were reducing their activities and so a move was made to the new Greyhound Hotel, in Park Lane. This residency did not last long, however, as Rotarians failed to drink enough to ensure adequate business for the hotel (!) and so in 1979 the club moved to its present home, The Masonic Halls.
In the early years of the club, many Rotarians sat on the Town Council, on the Bench, on the local Hospital Board, on the boards of clubs for youth and the elderly, helped with the Red Cross, Croydon Nursing Service, Playing Fields and other organisations. Their obvious influence meant that they were frequently consulted and then became heavily involved in the formation of institutions aimed at ensuring law and order in the town. Businessmen such as C.Hussey, of Hammond and Hussey, C.F.Johnston, of Gilette and Johnson, Bell Foundry, A.J.Rawlings, Rawlings Opticians and C.E. Ebbutt, the Monumental Masons were also extremely influential in helping people who, for one reason or another, had been affected by the Great War. Disabled soldiers were fitted with artificial limbs, unemployed servicemen were found work in local firms, teenage boys were sponsored for apprenticeships and widows and elderly couples were helped to relocate to be nearer to families. During 1928-29 the sum of £524 was raised and contributed to the Mayor’s Miner’s Relief Fund.
The other great concern of these early years was attendance! Lists of members’ attendance were published monthly and absence from the weekly meeting resulted in the receipt of a postcard expressing regret at the member’s non-appearance and exhorting them to attend an alternative club’s meeting. Failure to attend was taken very seriously as prizes were awarded by District for the best club attendance, something which Croydon won on many occasions.
Postcard sent to members who missed a meeting!
Opening of the original Croydon Boys Club in 1932
In 1932, following concerns between the police and magistrates about the growth of crime in the Whitehorse Manor area, the Croydon Boys Club was established in Princess Road and subsequently opened by the Prince of Wales. In his dedication, club member Bishop E.S. Woods said the club was to provide for the “spiritual, physical and recreational needs of Croydon’s boyhood”. The chairman of the management committee has always been a Rotarian-Lawrence Rogers, Martin Turner and currently Edward Handley. A second club was opened at Rectory Manor a few years later but following a fire, which destroyed the building, it soon had to close. Besides support for the Boys’ Club, Summer Camps (for boys) were sponsored and 200 hampers were distributed to the poor and aged at Christmas.
In the later 1930’s members became increasingly concerned about the possible outbreak of war. As early as February 1935, Rotarian Cowell, a distinguished veteran of the First World War, was prevailed upon to give a talk to the club about civil defence in the event of aerial bombing raids and in November 1937, when air raid wardens were being recruited and trained, Rotarian Cowell became Croydon’s chief warden and Rotarian Ernest Turner was the local district warden.
When war finally did break out in 1939, the club responded quickly and positively. In 1941, a rest centre for air raid victims named Rotary House, was opened in the town, in the same year the club was instrumental in forming the Air Training Corps for Youth. In 1943, the Britannia Club for service women was opened in the town by H.R.H The Duchess of Gloucester. Also in 1943, Croydon Inner Wheel was formed at the instigation of past president Douglas Rawlings, whose wife Alice became their first president and led the many ‘knitting sessions’ that were held to provide garments for the Red Cross.
In the post war years, the club became more outward looking. By 1947 membership had fallen to 112, but this included a bishop, a judge, 5 Town Hall Officers, 2 horse dealers, a sculptor, a representative of the alcoholic beverage industry, a gramophone retailer, a stamp broker and representatives of the felt hatters, motor, building, portable buildings, paint and varnish, iron and steel, baking and pile driving industries, as well as a chiropodist and a radiologist. But members still enthusiastically supported club activities. In 1945, 50 Dutch children were entertained in Croydon and in 1948, 102 Australian boys visited the town and whilst the club sent food parcels to Europe in 1946, a club in Kenya sent food parcels to Croydon in the same year, followed in 1948 by 1500 food parcels from the Rotary Club of Calgary, Canada for the poor and needy of the town!
In 1945, the club donated £100 towards furnishing a room and providing a piano for the new Derby and Joan Club and in 1947, Rotarians were involved in the creation of the Sir Philip Game Boys’ Club. In 1948, with creation of the National Health Service, the ‘bun penny’ scheme, which raised money for hospital beds at Croydon General, was wound up having raised £1,000, the equivalent of 240,000 pennies.
The 1950’s saw the collection of 9 tons of clothing and footwear for Oxfam and in 1953, Past President Alderman James Marshall, leader of Croydon Council was knighted. Christmas collections took place outside the Library in Katharine Street to raise money for parcels for the elderly. In 1953, the practice of singing grace was discontinued but a specially cast bell was made by Gillette and Johnson. Originally tuned to ‘C’ it was not effective enough in calling members to order, so it was re-tuned to ‘B sharp’, as in ‘sit down and BE SHARP about it.
In celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Rotary in 1955 members raised £400 to provide a shelter in the Town Hall Gardens. In 1961, a viewing platform at the top of Shirley Hills was presented by Past President, Alderman Basil Monk.
A message from the founder of Rotary, Paul Harris, to Jimmy Marshall
on R.M.S. Majestic, February 28th 1934.
In 1992, after a business trip to Koblenz in Germany by Rotarian Colin Willard, a link was formed with the Rotary Club of Koblenz Deutches Eck. After members of the German Club visited Croydon in 1993 and Croydon returned the visit in 1994, a twinning agreement was signed by David Dighton and Hansgunter Oberrecht. This happy alliance led to our participation in EURO-STAR, an international meeting of clubs held once a year, rotating around clubs in Germany, France , Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The Streets of Adventure Carnival in1935 - A sum of £81 16s 11d was raised!
Rifle shooting match against South Norwood & Addiscombe
(now Croydon East), at Trinity School, 1967
Although the 1920’s and 30’s were difficult years eliciting a great deal of support for local causes, there was also time for other activities, some purely fun events like chess, swimming and ludo and others aimed at raising money. In 1924, for example, a Morris Cowley car was raffled and £1,435 was raised for Croydon General Hospital, the equivalent of about £60,000 today! Some vents, such as the 1934 Streets of Addiscombe Carnival were intended to raise money whilst having fun at the same time.
Other events of note in the 1930’s were the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the club in 1935, when 140 members attended and the chance meeting in 1934, on a transatlantic liner of club member Sir James Marshall with Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, who subsequently wrote the club a letter of goodwill. It was also at this time that the ‘bun’ penny scheme was started. At every weekly meeting members were asked to go through their loose change and donate their old Victorian pennies to the hospital appeal.
In 1971, the Club was involved in a Group Study Exchange and was presented with a Gold Medal from Rotary Foundation in 1978. Individual members of the Club have been involved internationally through their businesses, but it wasn’t until 1985, through the enthusiasm of Jim Spinks that our Club revitalised its participation in the Group Study Exchange, by hosting young overseas visitors who were on a Rotary exchange visit. The Club has hosted visitors from South Africa, India, California, Thailand, Australia, Canada, Russia, the Philippines and Brazil. Jim Spinks also led an exchange to District 309, India.
During these years, support for local charities has been extensive. Local hospitals, Boy’s Clubs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Darby and Joan Club and Age Concern have all benefitted from Rotary fund raising as well as special projects such as the Mayday Scanner Appeal, an electric wheelchair and a Nissan Micra for St. Christopher’s Hospice and their mobile home visits. Continuous support was also given to St Raphael’s Club by a taxi rota and financial help.
In 1990, the Club participated in its first Kids Out Venture. This is organised and funded by Croydon and other District Clubs, when handicapped children have an exciting day at Chessington World of Adventures. The 1990’s saw continued provision of transport for the elderly, visits to stately homes for the house bound, and food parcels and help with shopping at Christmas for those in need.
The club presented nine seats to Mayday Hospital with money
raised during their 75th Anniversary Year
The first ten presidents of the club
In 1960, membership was 80, with 70 regular attendees. A wireless fund for the bedridden and a party for 150 orphans and deprived children were organised as well as a Ladies Night at the Greyhound Hotel and what became an annual cricket match against Grants’ Store. A great deal of work was also done with young people. In conjunction with Thornton Heath and South Norwood & Addiscombe Clubs, a careers exhibition was organised. Mock job interviews with children were held and the public speaking and Young Enterprise competitions were started.
The club’s Golden Jubilee was celebrated by building a new dam and reclaiming the Pinewood Lake situated on Shirley Hills. This became part of a water sports and training area for the Croydon Borough Scouts’ Adventure Training Centre. The Jubilee was also marked by a floral layout in the Town Hall Gardens and by the presentation of the Golden Jubilee Jewel, which is now worn above the Presidential Badge, by the 1936 President, Goss Grant.
In 1976, in President Jack Proud’s year, the club became involved with the Kodarma Rotary Club in India, in helping them to fund four Eye Relief Camps where 1012 people were examined, 886 treated and 183 operations undertaken. In 1979, following his participation in the London Marathon, Rotarian Ken Stimpson set up the Ken Stimpson Marathon Fund as well as running a second hand book shop in Croydon, which was manned by Rotarians and Inner Wheelers. The shop ran for six months and the money raised went to the fund for the Eye Relief Camps.
In 1982, the Club helped to organise a Country Fair at the Fairfield Halls, when twelve stalls were staffed by Rotarians and members of Inner Wheel and sold a variety of country produce. In 1987, another Country Fair was organised, this time at Brewer Street Farm, to launch the Club’s fund raising for Polio+, Rotary International’s Appeal to eradicate polio throughout the world by the year 2000. Over £5000 was raised by the Club and in the same year nine garden seats were presented to Mayday Hospital to mark 75 years of the birth of Rotary International. The Club also provided international help with its Emergency Boxes, the first being sent to Bangladesh in 1985, and also help for the Pestalozzi Children’s Village.
Outing to Wakehurst Place Gardens, June 1987.
The first Eurostar visit.
Old Thyme Music Hall march 1992.
The ‘Top Hats” are purported to belong to Rotarians
Don Good, Jack Cooper, David Oakey and Tony Clare.
The last fifteen years have seen continued service on the part of members both in the local area and more frequently, further afield. Recognising our more global outlook on life, the Club has spent many happy summers visiting our EURO-STAR partners, where we have been royally entertained. We ourselves have hosted two visits, in 2001, when, led by President Brian Cousins our guests were taken to Chiddingstone Castle and along the River Thames on a river boat, and in 2008, in President Graham Harker’s year, when the London Eye, H.M.S. President, Old Palace Croydon and a gala dinner at Leeds Castle impressed our visitors.
Our overseas contacts have also been encouraged through various charities supported by our presidents. In President Chuck Blankenship’s year (2008-09), money was raised for Schools For All, a charity providing adapted education facilities for disabled children in Kenya, who would otherwise be unable to attend school. In 2005, during President Enamul Khan’s presidency, money was raised for a Clean Water Project in Bangladesh and in 2010, during Richard Ford’s presidency, the Club provided textbooks for an African school through the Tanzanian Development Trust.
Add to these charities our on-going contribution to the Rotary Shelter Box Scheme, organised by the Rotary Club of Helston, Cornwall, who send pre-packed survival boxes capable of ‘housing’ ten people for six months, to disaster areas throughout the world. To date we have provided twelve boxes to such places as Haiti, Japan and the areas affected by the 2008 tsunami.
However, our foreign endeavours have not diminished our contributions to domestic charities. The Salvation Army was supported in 1999, in Alastair Dawson’s year and again in 2009 in Roger Davies’ year. St Christopher’s Hospice, the Croydon Resource Centre, Whitehorse Manor School, Croydon’s Women’s Refuge and Croydon Mencap have all been given support for various projects. In 2001, Richard Crail led the Club in providing a garden for the clients of the Community Mental Health Resource Centre in Tamworth Road, a project designed by our own Peter Kennedy.
Opening of the Sensory garden in Tamworth Road in 2001
To raise money for all these excellent causes, members have shaken tins at the annual Christmas collections, attended quiz nights, race nights, curry nights, swimathons, sponsored walks and wine tastings. The Club has also run a stall at Beddington May Fayre, instigated in 2007 by local Rotary Clubs, our own Ken Clay being one of the most prominent organisers.
Add to these, visits to Wimbledon Theatre and Westerham and Chiswick breweries, ably organised by Bernard Adams, European holidays to Lithuania and Latvia, organised by our own tourist guide Jim Spinks and numerous sporting activities refereed by Club Secretary Brian Street - snooker, dominoes, cribbage, darts and bowls - then it can be seen that the fun and fellowship aspect of Rotary is alive and kicking.
Croydon Club has continued to work hard over the last few years to contribute to the Thanks for Life Programme, Rotary International’s continuing campaign to eradicate polio. Originally the target year was 2000 but this has had to be extended as the disease still persists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.
Besides ‘tin shakes’ in the Whitgift Centre, the Club has given talks to schools, planted crocuses (purple pinkies) and collected pennies in tomato sauce bottles provided by Tiptree.
Croydon Club’s Young Generation links have continued to develop through the Young Chef Competition, the Young Writer Competition, Youth Speaks and the Rotary Young Leaders Award.
Although membership has fallen in recent years, Croydon Club has been instrumental in helping to establish ‘daughter’ clubs at Purley, Sutton, Thornton Heath, South Norwood & Addiscombe (now called Croydon East), Croydon Jubilee, and Croydon Whitgift. In 2007, when the Thornton Heath Club’s numbers fell beyond a viable number, they decided to close and several of their members joined the Croydon Club, where they have been an invaluable asset to the Club’s activities.
Although the world has changed significantly since the Club was formed in 1922 and with it, the causes it has supported, the objects of Rotary have remained the same - to help others and to have fun while you’re doing it!
T. R. Edridge
E. M. Cowell
J. C. Moger
S. T. Grant
W. G. Pascall
A. G. Youngman
L. S. Rodgers
P. V. Morris
H. A. Rutter
H. T. Perryman
W. H. G. Grant
H. M. Christian
R. A. Ebutt
A. C. Chapman
D. O. Rawling
C. E. W. Glasscock
E. W. Turner
S. H. Deadman
W. F. Sherwood
W. F. McConnell
H. S. Clayton
R. D. Marten
A. J. Chapman
W. C .Berwick-Sayers
W. J .Little
A. J. Burling
S. F. Withers
C. E. Boast
S. R. Oxford
W. O. McBryde
A. S. Jago
A. B. Sawyers
J. H. Milstead
L. F. Hollands
M. G. Wardley
T. S. Rogers
R. H. Reeves
M. W. Lewington
K. H. Soulsby
A. A. Jackson
D. B. Pascall
W. J. F. Proud
N. A. Mason
G. W. A. Gurney
K. J S. Stimpson
P. H. Bullock
M. F. Turner
E. C. Hodson
R. A. Wisby
R. J. Boggis
P. G. Kennedy
J. W. Spinks
A. C. Clare
M. P. John
B. J. Adams
H. E. Maber
D. R. Dighton
D. B. Good
N. H. F. Owen
J. W. Spinks
E. C. Newman
B. L. Cousins
J. C. Dale
C. A. McKenzie
J. G. Harker
C. E. Blankenship
R. G. Davis
Past Presidents of Croydon Rotary Club 1922-2012
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Club No. 62 ... United Kingdom ... District 1145
The Rotary Club of Croydon
A History of Croydon Rotary Club 1922 - 2012