THE HISTORY OF EDGBASTON CROQUET CLUB
The Club has been in existence since around 1900. It was originally situated in the grounds of
The Plough and Harrow hotel in Hagley Road, close to the Newman Oratory Church, and was
known as The Plough & Harrow Croquet Club.
Records go back to 1908 but these reveal a start date around the turn of the century .The earliest
members included fathers from the Newman
Oratory, in particular the first President, the Rev. Father
Richard Bellasis, the
major benefactor of the club for over 20 years, and his brother Father Lewis
In 1914 the Club changed its name to Edgbaston Croquet
Club and in the summer of
1915 moved to its present location in
Richmond Hill Road where a simple pavilion
(costing £30.13.0d. including carriage
and erection) had been constructed.
Two lawns had been levelled for the
opening on 5th June
which, according to the Minute book " only
rose coloured spectacles could make the surface
In 1914 the Club had 48 playing members, but by 1917, 28 had
resigned due to the war. The Club’ s first Honorary Secretary, Captain WGW Hastings,
apparently went to the front in 1914, was still there in 1918,
and, although he survived the war,
was never able to return to the Club.
In 1919 a Minute by Margaret Barrows records the death of the
landlord, Mr. Cary Field, "without
whose generosity and kindness the Club would
never have been able to exist" - it appears that he
charged no rent whatsoever!
She went on to record " the carrying on of the Club has been a difficult task, left as it was in the hands
of the very few. Now, however, we hope that our troubles are
over, and we foresee a very
successful season for 1920 - we have set up a
board to attract notice at the entrance gate and are
doing what we can in the way of advertisement.
Tea is always now obtainable at the ground, Mrs. Bayley Parker being kind enough to supply us with
boiling water any afternoon - the china, tea, sugar and other
necessaries may be used by any member
on payment of a trifling fee.
We have been considerably troubled
this season by constant burglaries, the pavilion having been
broken open no fewer
than 3 times. Ground at the close of the season was in excellent condition
reflects great credit on our groundsman Styles."
Margaret Barrows was the Club's Treasurer for 21 years until 1928
and Secretary for almost as long
The Club’s subscription in 1919 was 1 guinea, increased to 2
guineas the following season and
2.5 guineas in 1925. Mains water was connected that year
(in spite of this, it was to be another 65
years before proper flush toilets were installed).
In 1922 the Club registered with The Croquet
Association. The third lawn was opened in May 1926 - it had been constructed using
completely new turf at a cost of £100.17.0d raised from donations from members,
which now numbered 34.
Father Richard as he was affectionately
known, continued to provide the club with machinery, lawns
materials and all manner of
other items at his own expense.
1929 was a notable year in the Club’s history, when its team won
the very first Longman Cup.
The team consisted of Mr. Owen Parsons, Miss M.
Whitehouse, Mr. G.F. Crisp, Major A.M. Deakin, Mrs. H.H. Benton and Mrs. A.M. Deakin.
(Edgbaston won again in 1952 and 1961).
During the 1930s Edgbaston established itself as the Midlands
Bridge was introduced to the Club and became increasingly
popular. War Savings Certificates were
purchased with the proceeds (table money 3d per
Golf croquet was played on Wednesdays and Saturdays on lawn 3 only. A tea
named Mrs. Tubb was employed on a daily
basis. In 1939 both Fathers Richard and Lewis Bellasis
died. At the AGM in December
the Hon. Secretary reported " The year had not been so successful
as the preceding one, owing to continuous wet weather, and war starting in September."
In 1940, it was arranged with the Food Controller for butter and sugar for an average of 60 members
per week. By 1945, however, the war had reduced the number of members to 20
playing and 12
bridge and by 1951 the number of playing members was further
reduced to 17.Dr. B.R. Sandiford,
Secretary of the Club and Mr. R.H. Newton, the
Chairman, were both instrumental in reviving the
Club in the 1950s and early 60s.
Reg Newton sadly died suddenly in 1965, and was succeeded by Professor Alan
In 1964 a "revolt" was reported due to the suspension of Saturday
teas as no suitable "tea woman"
could be found. A House Committee was
formed and lady members now formed a rota to provide
The fabric of the ageing pavilion was of increasing concern,
made worse by visiting vandals and rodents.
During the early 1970s, notable events were an exhibition of croquet at
Cannon Hill Park by
John Solomon and Professor Bernard Neal, and the formation of The West Midlands
Croquet Clubs at the instigation of Alan Girling. Dr. R.C. (Ray) Jones joined the Club, and became
increasingly involved in its activities taking over as Chairman in
He was instrumental in the new pavilion project and a major recruitment drive. A side issue for
Ray was a Miss Finlay from the Edgbaston Girls High School who
frequently complained to him that
our younger lads frequently "looked at" and even
wolf-whistled through our fence at her girls on the
school playing ground.
In spite of such minor annoyances, Ray was able to raise the amount of just under
£4,000 for a new
clubhouse from grants from Birmingham City Council, The Sports Council, donations
president John Meacham and other members, and various fund-raising activities.
A loan and grant from the Croquet Association was also obtained - this was something of a first and
a proving ground for such assistance, which is now regarded as
In 1983 the old club house was finally demolished, and replaced by our existing
The construction was by an organisation called "Community Action"
in which young men who had got
into difficulty (or had no training) worked under the supervision
of a professional foreman. This
organisation was funded by the City and the Club
paid only for the materials, not for the labour.
The new pavilion was officially opened on 23rd July by Councillor
Norman Green, of the Sports
Council of Birmingham with Alan Oldham,
representing The Croquet Association in attendance.
In 1985 and 1986 the Club hosted visits of USA and Australian test
teams to play warm up matches
against a West Midlands team prior to the
MacRobertson Shield. West Midlands won on both
By 1987 membership had increased to well over 60 and during the
early 1990s the Club continued to
thrive. By 2001, however, membership had once again
A major flood in that year almost destroyed lawn 3. It was decided to appoint Chris Bennett
(who had been an active
member of the Club during the early 1960s and again from 1982) to manage
the Club, in particular to oversee
lawn repairs and organise a renewed recruitment effort. This enabled
a long-term development plan to
be put in place.
In 2003 Edgbaston hosted an International between England and South
Africa: the teams were
captained by Robert Fulford and Reg Bamford, the then world
ranked nos. 1 and 2.
The South African team included that country's two first black
players, Meschack Mazibuko and
Victor Dladla both of whom had been coached by Chris during his winters there
England were the winners, and an official visit from the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of
Birmingham made it a memorable occasion.
In August 2005 Edgbaston were co-hosts with Cheltenham, Bristol and
Nailsea of The World
Croquet Federation Championships. 50 of
the world's top players from fourteen different countries
competed at Edgbaston over the five days of the
The Club benefited massively from this event, with major tree
surgery being done by its landlords,
Calthorpe Estates, and its neighbours - the
police ground, and a grant from Birmingham City Council
which provided the Club with a new mower and
other machinery, new mallets and Dawson
In 2005 Edgbaston set up its website. In 2006 we increased
our subscriptions to cover the running
costs of the Club, and have decided - due to
lack of precise records -to celebrate our Centenary year. We now look forward to the next 100
.As a quid pro quo for this, however, our landlords Calthorpe Estates agreed to meet the cost
connecting an electricity supply from our
neighbours, the Edgbaston High School for Girls, to our
pavilion. So we are no longer in the dark