The Clubhouse

The earliest recorded minutes of the Club are of an AGM held in the Town Hall on April 17″‘ 1884, but in the 1970’s records were found to indicate that the Club was, in fact, founded in 1874. Research into Christchurch history has shown evidence that the Club may have been founded even earlier, when it was known as a rowing or boat club.

 

It is interesting to note that most of the very old established clubs in Poole originally started as groups of boat enthusiasts congregating at various jetties in Poole harbour. So, it is quite possible that the Sailing Club started the same way because the name of Mr Frank Ricardo, the Sailing Club’s first President, appears together with those of some of the other founder members associated with this early rowing club which was disbanded in 1886.

 

Although President Frank Ricardo was active in the Club in many ways, it was Commodore Ben J Tucker who was regarded as the founder of the Christchurch Sailing Club. Apparently he was a very versatile man. Apart from his activities for the Club, he appeared to be an authority on fishing, both fly and netting, and contributed a number of authoritative articles on Christchurch Harbour including Mudeford Quay. Commodore Tucker died in 1912 after 28 years’ service as Flag Officer and was succeeded as Commodore by another outstanding strong personality, Melvill Druitt, who served for years until 1946.There is a full-size picture hanging in the clubhouse of Commodore Ben J Tucker together with a commemoration picture for Commodore Melvill Druitt.

 

By the end of the century the Club members decided that they needed their own clubhouse and in 1896 subscribed a loan of £150 for building a clubhouse near Christchurch Quay. On 9th June a contract was signed with a Mr G Pope to build one at a cost of £134.  A 21 year lease at a ground rent of’ £1 pa was also obtained.

 

The final costs of clubhouse, fencing and slipway was £155-7s-7d. and a caretaker was appointed to keep an eye on the Club for £1 pa.  This was the year when ladies were first admitted to the Club (subscription 5/-) with a total membership of about 70. The men’s subscription was raised from 5/- to 10/-.

 

Up to 1895 regattas had been held at Mudeford Quay. On 19″‘ August 1896 a regatta was held at the Christchurch quay to celebrate the opening of the new clubhouse. However, it was not until 1909 that this regatta was held again. This became a regular event and was known as the Town Regatta.

 

In that century the Club’s flag was red with a white cross. When flag standards became more internationally accepted it was realised that this burgee could lead to confusion on the water, as it represented numerical 4, and a change was needed. In 1905 the now familiar Beaulieu coat of arms of three red lozenges on a white shield with a blue field behind it was adopted, As nearby Christchurch Priory was a branch of the Beaulieu monastery, this gave the Club a strong link to the coat of aims.

 

In 1908 the last repayment was made, at 7/6 in the pound, to the members for the £150 loan for building the clubhouse. The following year more land was acquired by Melvill Druitt to increase the accommodation of the Club, at £6 pa and a 21 year lease. In 1910, anticipating extra costs, he proposed raising the subscriptions from 10/- to £1.  However, after what must have been a very lively debate, it was rejected and an amendment passed raising the subs to 10/6.  Despite this decision the members approved the building of a 18 ft slipway and a storage shed.

 

The proposal to build a storage shed was not as straight forward as might be expected. It was recorded that in March 1911 the Council objected to the proposed shed on the grounds that the ‘elevation would be an eyesore’.  Even in those days there were conflicting interests, although there were very few rules about planning until the 1948 Planning Act.

 

The Council must have eventually agreed to the proposal for in May 1911 a tender for £196 to build a shed 40 ft by 33 ft, now known as the long boat shed, had been accepted for the work to be carried out in 26 days with a penalty of £1 a day for every day late (tough negotiators in those days!).  When the shed was completed the charges were 10d per ft for 15 ft boats and over, 8d for under 15 ft, for inside storage and half these rates for outside storage.

 

The next milestone in the history of the Club was after the first World War, during which time there had been very little activity because most of the members were serving in H.M. Forces. In 1919 the Club purchased the freehold of its land for £425. An additional strip of land to the River Avon was included together with the right of way from the bridge to the present car park.  Subscriptions were then raised to £1-0s-0d for men and 10/- for ladies. By now, the membership had increased to 154 including 49 lady members.

 

Another important event occurred this year, at the Special General Meeting, when it was agreed to appoint a steward at a sum not exceeding £1 a week. Mr R Keynes (Chub Keynes’ father), who lived near the quay, was paid £5 and thanked for his services in keeping an eye on the Club.

 

In 1920 there was an increase  to the interest on the mortgage of £275 to 5%. At this time beer was 1/3d per crate of 4 quarts and a lunch of Christchurch salmon was 1/6d with salad an extra 2d.

 

In 1921 a committee was formed to prepare a scheme for developing the Club facilities further. £20 was approved for building up the ground of the Club to provide hard standing for more boats. By 1923 members concluded that, with a growing membership, the clubhouse needed to be larger.  The rebuilding was agreed at a Special General Meeting held on 2nd June and that it would be financed by the issue of interest bearing debentures.

 

In early 1924 the subscriptions were raised. Men £2-1s-0d. and ladies £1-1s-0d.; family £4-4s-0d. and entrance fees £1-1s-0d, 10/-, and £2-2s-0d respectively. Temporary membership was 7/6- per week, 1 guinea per month.

 

A tender was accepted from Mr Bryant of the sum of £1,366-13s-2d. for the erection of a new clubhouse and on the 2nd May 1925 the new clubhouse was officially opened by Lord Montague of Beaulieu. Final costs were £1784-15s-0d.

 

The clubhouse was largely built on pillars driven into the ground instead of the usual foundations because of the water content in the ground These pillars can be seen quite clearly in the present clubhouse and, of course, mark the outline of the original clubhouse.

 

The new clubhouse included catering facilities, so the appointment of a man/wife team as steward/stewardess was approved.  The rate of £3 per week was for the steward and 30/- for the stewardess.  The steward had to be a qualified carpenter and fit for heavy work duties and it was agreed that any work carried out by the steward for any member would be charged out at 1/3d per hour.

 

A few socially-minded members seem to have made a determined effort at widening the social activities of the Club by forming an entertainment sub-committee, but this decision was firmly reversed at a succeeding meeting when the sub-committee was dissolved and even a proposed bridge drive cancelled.  It is worth noting that at this time the new clubhouse still did not have electricity installed but relied entirely on gas.

 

In 1929 the telephone was installed after many years of discussion and draught beer was also introduced. A new Club steward, Mr Dan Vincent, was appointed and by the time he retired in 1965 he had given over 36 years of loyal service. His wife, who was regarded with great affection particularly by the Junior Club members, retired two years later in 1967 after 20 years’ service.

 

Repairs to the clubhouse cost £220 in 1933 and a plot of land, including a shed, opposite the clubhouse at Wick Hams was leased at £5 pa. This provided some much needed storage space because only about six boats could be stored at the Club. This project was not very successful because of the need to cross the river and eventually in 1984 the lease was allowed to lapse as by then more storage was available at the Club.

 

By the late 30’s social functions had increased. Monthly dances were held at the Kings Arms, which had to be self- supporting, and games evenings were held in the clubhouse.

 

During the war years the Club just quietly ticked over supported by elderly members and those members in the services who were stationed nearby. As in the first war, members in the services did not need to pay their subscriptions. An order was passed in 1940 that all boats in the harbour, river and on shore must be immobilised to prevent their use by an invading enemy, which meant some boats having a big hole in the bottom. Most of the boats were laid-up, and hidden out of view to avoid damage to them.  A reinforced concrete pillbox was constructed under the clubhouse and at other positions round the harbour. Getting rid of this pillbox after the war gave the Club quite a few headaches.

 

During the ten year period after the war there began an enormous upsurge of sailing activity, not only at Christchurch but throughout the whole region in the South. Easily built, lightweight, chine plywood boats were being built which made sailing more available to many people. This created pressure to provide more accommodation and better facilities in the Club.

 

The question of membership was constantly being raised and just before the war the ‘black ball in five’ system had been introduced.  Commodore Melvill Druitt raised the question, in 1946, of maintaining a high standard of membership and proposed that observation of the Club’s 1st rule should be paramount. This rule states that the object of the Club is encouraging yacht sailing and racing especially in Christchurch Harbour and Bay. This rule has remained virtually unchanged to this day.

 

The committee considered the need to introduce a more selective membership with a vetting procedure, but it was accepted that the only satisfactory long term solution to the problem of increasing membership was to expand the clubhouse and ground around it.  Some enlargement took place in 1949 when an office was built utilising part of the veranda.

 

Late in the 50’s social activities were becoming more organised and the first barbecue was held down-river at Grimbury Point. The band arrived in full evening dress as no-one had advised them of the venue. They insisted on having a piano, so the Club piano was hoisted onto the fore deck of Nannie, and with a crew member playing a lively tune, it was shipped down river and, with some considerable difficulty, unloaded at Stanpit Marsh.  The piano was never the same so it is quite understandable that the Committee was very displeased with this episode, even if the members had enjoyed the event.

 

A shortage of car parking became acute by 1959 and an overflow car park was leased from Mr Elkins, some 200 yards along the lane. A year later pressure to upgrade the clubhouse became enormous and the decision to start planning was agreed. Full agreement was passed at a Special General meeting on 7th October the following year.

 

In 1960 Commodore W.L. Morgan stood down having served 14 years as Commodore. Apart from his continued support to the Club in the planning work for the rebuild of the clubhouse, he wrote a very comprehensive historical account of the Club for the period 1874 to 1968; a copy is in the Club library. This report has provided invaluable details for this history update called ‘125 years of Sailing’.

 

When Mr W.L. Morgan, became Commodore Mr Harry Tarrant was appointed Hon. Sailing Secretary. He then continued to serve as an Officer of the Club for 25 years before finally standing down as Commodore in 1973 when he was appointed Trustee for the Club.

 

In 1962 plans were approved for the issue of £10.000 debentures bearing interest at 6% pa to help pay for the rebuilding.

 

The subscriptions for single men were increased to £4-4s-0d at the AGM in 1962 when 138 members attended. The total membership was then 762.  This was an increase in membership of over 30% in ten years. In 1965, four years later, the membership was up to 900.

 

The rebuild of the clubhouse in 1962/63 was very extensive. The original wooden cladding was replaced. Changing rooms and toilets for ladies and gentlemen were built at the west end of the Club at ground level and two offices, general and sailing offices, were built either side of a new central stairway that led into the clubroom. The clubroom was also extended and a new veranda built. Reconstruction was delayed in January 1963 when Christchurch had a major freeze-up and the rivers and harbour were frozen over.  It was possible to walk from Stanpit to Double Dykes across the ice.

 

One of the last major acts of generosity by Melvill Druitt was in 1950 when he purchased and gave the Club a one acre plot of land with 184 ft of river frontage immediately west of Sopers Lane. The idea was to increase the storage space for the Club boats, but vandalism made this idea difficult without on-site supervision. Land values started to increase quite considerably and a good price of £6,000 was obtained, which went into the building fund, when the plot and river frontage was sold in 1961. Melvill Druitt died in 1951, so sadly he did not live to see the benefit the legacy gave the Club.

 

On the 23nd August 1963 Mrs Bunce-Phillips, the Commodore’s wife, officially opened the new clubhouse.  Total costs were £ 11,622. so the £6,000 in the building fund from the sale of the land at Sopers Lane was of great value to the Club.

 

Plans for making good the ground around the clubhouse were approved, with a lawn and flagpole added. The purchase of a substantial part of the river bed in front of the Club for a modest sum enabled the reclamation of ground and this was completed with sheet steel by 1967.  The cost of this work was £4,500 which was quite substantial compared to the costs of the major clubhouse rebuild of £11,622. A study of the pictures showing the ground round the clubhouse after 1967 illustrates quite clearly the increase of space that was then available to the Club for storage of boats, compared to pre-1962.

 

For many years the upper floor of the old clubhouse had been used as a sail loft for drying out the old style cotton sails but with the introduction of modern materials this became unnecessary.  In 1965 it was proposed to convert this sail loft into a steward’s flat, at a cost of £3,300.

 

During the 1970’s and 1980’s the bar and clubroom interior layout was considerably altered and improved. The wall separating the small Druitt room from the main club lounge was removed to improve bar service and to give more open space for Club activities. A sun deck was created by extending and glassing-in part of the previously east end open balcony and a desk with race starting equipment installed. The original wooden flag pole was removed together with the lawn to give extra storage space for the dinghies. A new metal mast with yard arm was erected on the corner of the clubhouse. The small dock next to the Mill Stream was filled in and concrete over to give more hard standing for boat storage.

 

In 1980 Mr Phil Baker was appointed Trustee and supported the Club for nearly 20 years in this role. Prior to this appointment he served as Officer of the Club for 15 years. When he was Commodore in 1970 he proposed an informal system, which was accepted, that each Flag Officer would serve in that rank, after annual election at the AGM, for a maximum period of 3 years. This system seems to have worked well.

 

Two other Officers today deserve mention. Mr Ken Bolt completed 19 continuous service as Hon. Treasurer and Trustee and Mr Paul Reakes served 16 years as an Officer of the Club, including 3 years as Commodore in 1990.

 

Derrick Cobden also deserves mention for serving ten years as an Officer of the Club (Commodore 1983-1987), before being appointed Trustee in 1992. Many other members have served the Club well, throughout our history.

 

During the 1980’s the clubroom ceiling was renewed, lighting improved, and a public address and music system installed. The furniture was renovated, the kitchen modernised, and a dining area created.

 

Although the Club’s total membership stayed at around 1000 the Club activities, both sailing and social, continued to increase during the 1980’s and 1990’s, which was indicative of a very successful and active sailing club. To meet this increase in activity it was agreed to rebuild the west end of the clubhouse to provide a larger general office, more storage space, sailing off’ice and a much larger kitchen.

 

The estimated costs of over £130,000 proved quite controversial and objections were raised at a very lively AGM in 1997.  However, after much discussion, these changes were approved by a substantial majority of members and a year later all the alterations were completed and the refurbished clubhouse formally opened by the Commodore’s wife Val Roantree.

 

The next project undertaken by the Club was the rebuilding of the quay wall. This major undertaking was completed in the winter of 2005/06 and involved the raising of the level of the dinghy and car park; installing new drainage and rebuilding the entire wall which was fitted with boat-friendly, wooden cladding  which proved a great improvement. The whole project was completed on schedule and within budget.

 

In 2009 another milestone was achieved with the Club purchase of the the riverbed on which the Club moorings are situated. This represented a substantial investment and means the Club should thrive long into the future.