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In the 1940s, keen Oxford bridge players would meet weekly sometimes in the Roebuck pub and at other times in a room above the Agripola restaurant in Queen Street. Then, thanks to the drive and energy of Rene Beck, the wife of a local dentist, the Bridge Club acquired a more permanent base, a room in premises in Bevington Road which her husband had leased from the University for his dental practice. Some years later, Mr Beck moved his surgery to Beaumont Street and 11 Bevington Road was leased directly by Oxford Bridge Club. At this stage, duplicate bridge was played regularly once a week on the ground floor of the house and the Bridge Club bar was situated in the basement.
The drive to form a county organisation, the Oxfordshire Bridge Association (OBA) sprang from the Club in Bevington Road, the original impetus being the desire to compete in the Dawes League. Since then the activities and remit of the OBA have increased substantially. However, the link between the two organisations remains strong and regular county duplicates still take place every Tuesday at the Oxford Bridge Club.
In the mid-sixties the Oxford Bridge Club was forced to vacate 11 Bevington Road when the University decided to re-acquire the house on the expiry of the lease. Through the good offices of Norman Chester, then Warden of Nuffield College, contact was made with University College who agreed to lease to the Bridge Club our current premises at 147 Banbury Road.
Since then the Management Committee has continued to improve the premises and the facilities offered, the latest major development being the substantial extension to the back of the property which was built in 1994. This was financed mainly from the Club’s contingency fund but also with a grant of £10,000 from the County Association. Later, in 1996, the kitchen was modernised and the previously decrepit back yard transformed. Thanks to Eileen Martensen, there is now a flourishing back garden, an inviting spot on a summer’s evening.
Many prominent bridge players have been members of the Club or have been closely associated with it. Stuart and Anne Staveley who were members of the Club in Bevington Road were instrumental in setting up the EBU which they ran initially from a room in their house in Thame.
Four members of the Club, Eric Bowtell, Morrie Marsh, Winnie Ling and Sandy Constable have been honoured with the Dimmie Fleming award in recognition of their services to Bridge.
Within Oxford Bridge Club itself, there have been nine Honorary Life Members: Eric Bowtell, Winnie Ling, Esme Alden, Peter Garner, Sandy Constable, Owen Baker, Cyril Wilsdon, John Simpson and Peggy Manuell each gaining the distinction in recognition of their years of service and dedication to the Club.