Welcome to the Wilmslow Branch of The Royal British Legion
A brief history of the Wilmslow Royal British Legion Club was written to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Club in 1985. I have inserted this verbatim below. We would like to expand on this, in particular by inserting photographs of some of the main people involved in the initial planning and building of the club.
IN COMMEMORATION OF
WILMSLOW ROYAL BRITISH LEGION CLUB
* * **** * * 25th ANNIVERSARY*** *** * **
AUGUST 1960 - AUGUST 1985
* ** * * * ** * * *** * * * *
Written and compiled by
H F Bailey
A CLUB TRULY TO BE PROUD OF ••••
Shortly after the end of World War I, an organisation known as the Comrades of the Great War came into being. The veterans of Wilmslow were not slow in forming their own Branch, and met regularly; first at the Ring O' Bells in Church Street (a Boddy's pub) and later in a room at Bank Square over the old Union Bank Building (the original Barclays Bank site).
In those days there was no Club as we know it today; nevertheless, the members were active in promoting social and sporting events and even boasted a first-class football team; which, it is said, used to beat all-comers with almost monotonous regularity and winning many trophies and medals.
The organisation became known as the British Legion and subsequently joined as a Branch in 1923 taking over the Old Drill Hall (later to be known as the Legion Hall) which stood on the site now occupied by Safeway’s Supermarket. The Hall was opened by the late Brigadier-General Sir William Bromley-Davenport, Lord Lieutenant of the County.
Shortly after World War II, the movement had grown as had our membership; the Committee and members began to feel a little cramped in the existing Club after Wilmslow U.D.C. took possession of the Hall and buildings. A search for alternative accommodation was initiated.
The block of flats in Grove Avenue known as "Woodlawn" and the adjoining land was now on the market; negotiations under the guidance of the late Mr S Rhodes, then Branch and Club President and our Bank Manager were put in hand, resulting in the purchase of the property.
In 1950 the land was surveyed with a view to building new premises and a bowling green. The following year, Mr Sanville Hon. Architect of the Club drew up a set of plans. These comprised of a Club and Games Room, Common Room and Bar plus Living Accommodation for the Steward. Unfortunately at this time (the immediate Post War Period), all building was restricted, as a result, the plans were turned down by the Local Authority as being too ambitious. Reluctantly the project was shelved.
Meanwhile, an application was made to British Legion Headquarters for a loan. This was refused, a delegation to London, headed by Mr Rhodes and Club Honorary Secretary Mr R V Webb met with the same result.
Notwithstanding this setback, and determined not to stand still, the Committee, after having plans passed in 1952 contracted out the laying of the bowling green. Plans drawn by Mr Sanville to convert the existing double garage into a Bowls Hut complete with bar and Snooker Table were considered too ambitious and much too expensive. It was discovered afterwards, however, that we would have been unable to obtain a second licence anyway. A second-hand hut was subsequently purchased and used as a Bowling Hut and Locker Room, this building also served as a building site hut at a later date.
By 1955, with its growing pains becoming, yearly, more acute, Wilmslow British Legion became aware that the next phase was more than due.
Efforts to raise funds through orthodox channels were obviously fore doomed. Feeling strong enough to stand on its own feet, Reg Hulme, Harry Bailey and Percy Broughton instigated a 'go it alone' policy. Percy Broughton the Club Sec. contacted a Mr A V Booker, a "friend of the Legion" who kindly drew up a set of plans, completely free of charge.
The plans were, in due course, approved by the Local Council. Armed with tools of their trade and equipment loaned free by various local contractors, a band of volunteer Club members, Easter 1956, descended upon Grove Avenue and commenced to build, free of labour costs, a new Club.
Easter 1957 saw the completion of the foundations and floor slab. Interest in this undertaking unabated and work continued for a further three years - resulting in what can only be described as a 'labour of love' giving concrete shape to a ten-year-old dream.
At 11:00 hrs., each Sunday, and with the compliments of Clarkes Brewery Limited, the 'men’s pay' would arrive in the form of a small barrel and bottles of beer. The efforts of these devoted members are worthy of note, for few Clubs can boast such loyalty. A wooden plaque commemorating their efforts can be seen hanging within the entrance to the Club.
Easter 1960, the Club suffered a severe blow with the sudden death of Reg Hulme, one of the chief instigators of the project. Reg was taken ill and died after spending the day working on the building of our Club.
Notice to vacate our existing premises meant that it was all hands and barrow makers in high gear for completion, and it meant contracting out such work as a roof covering; underfloor heating; woodblock flooring; the Bar (designed free by Nichol and Royle of Stockport) and built and fitted by a local firm. Work was virtually complete by the end of July 1960, so goodbye Church Street as the Wilmslow British Legion Club, Grove Avenue opened on 2 August 1960. Members were now able to enjoy the benefits of their labours in a new and up-to-date Club.
The tale is by no means finished; the Club began to prosper as never before. Mr Harry Bailey, Chairman of the Building Committee was in 1962, instrumental in the erection of a small Committee Room (cum Dressing Room) at the stage end of the Games Room; also a new, enclosed bottle store and the refrigeration of the back Store Room. Here again, with the exception of specialised jobs, work was undertaken by embers.
In 1963, growing pains again becoming somewhat acute, the Committee decided to expand even further. From sketches by Mr Bailey for a Concert Room, Stage and two Dressing Rooms, Kitchen, Bowls Locker Room and a two bedroomed Steward's Living Quarters approved by the Building and General Committee; plans and specifications were drawn by Architects, duly passed by the relevant Authority and the contract awarded to a local Builder. This, however, was funded by a loan from Scottish and Newcastle Breweries Limited.
Saturday, 18 September 1965 saw the official opening of Wilmslow British Legion by Lieutenant General Sir Richard Craddock, KBE CB DSO and GOC-in-C Western Command and dedication by Rev Cannon E D Reeman BA, Rector of Wilmslow.
In 1974 after a period of inactivity we felt that there was room for further expansion the result of which was the extension of the Lounge and new seating, the widening of the Games Room and alcove seating. In 1981 we saw the new seating arrangement in the Concert Room and alcove seating in front of the Games Room Bar.
Continual heating problems resulted in the installation of gas central heating in late 1982. The Bowls Locker Room now housing the central heating boiler meant erecting a new Bowls Hut. 1983 found members coming to the fore yet again in the panelling of the Games Room.
Then came the long overdue Committee Room; plans which were drawn up by Mr John Mayson under the guidance of Mr Arthur Rowland and subsequently passed by the Planning Authority in 1984, and once again, built by members.
Not being satisfied with the Lounge in its present form the Management Committee decided to adopt new ideas from design specialists, hence the 1985 New Look, again executed by Members. The result is as we see it today, a superb Games Room, Concert Hall and Lounge with an ultra-modern system of lighting, heating and air conditioning.
............a Club truly to be proud of