The small beginnings and the progress in 25 years
The Addington Bridge Club provides pleasure and enjoyment to a mixed gender membership of around 80 people and meets twice weekly at the Addington Cricket Pavilion, Park Road, Addington throughout the year.
The club serves an area from Gravesend in the North to Tonbridge in the South and Kings Hill, West Malling, Leybourne, Ryarsh, Aylesford, Bearsted, Mereworth, Wateringbury, Borough Green, Crouch, Wrotham, Ightham, Sevenoaks, New Ash Green and Hartley in the East and West. The membership is a mixture of retired and middle aged working people with a genuine desire to improve their bridge playing ability that is reflected in their enthusiasm at the Thursday morning group which is focused on beginners and improving bridge players. The club is enjoying a prosperous period at the present time in the comfort of the Pavilion which was extensively extended and refurbished for the benefit of the cricket club and bridge club members in 2008.
The Small Beginnings
The bridge club has not always had its present luxurious surroundings. It began in a corner of the West Malling Golf Club around 1986/88. Club members who may have been rained off the golf course or wanted a quiet game of cards in the winter played on the small tables in the bar. Gradually the ladies joined in and soon it was recognised as an activity in the club house which could be justifiably charged for; so much so that the bridge players took exception to the proposed high charges and through a contact in the cricket club moved to Addington Pavilion in 1998 where it has been established permanently.
The early days at the pavilion centred on a small downstairs room with a small kitchen area and store room which were primarily for the cricketers’ tea during match days and storing the cricket equipment when not in use. The entrance was overlooking the cricket pitch; the windows were very draughty in the winter as they were designed primarily as a viewing area for the cricket supporters to watch the cricket during the summer months. The tables and chairs were scrounged and donated from far and wide consisting of dining tables, kitchen tables and small domestic card tables all of which were at differing heights. The chairs were similar in mix and extremely uncomfortable to sit on to play cards for three-hour sessions. The winter heating was also very basic, mainly portable convector heaters as this was a summer cricket pavilion not designed to be occupied throughout the year. After September it was advisable for bridge club members to wear a thick jumper and as winter progressed some evenings it was particularly cold so it was advisable to keep ones coat on throughout the bridge playing session. However the upside was that the rent of £10 per session was lower than the West Malling Golf Club charge. Even at such a modest rent these were difficult times when there could be just one and half to three tables some evenings. Scoring was by hand as even then there was no help with computer scoring until around 2002 which was introduced by Gerry Ney but the members still had to wait to know their scores until the following Tuesday as we did not have access to the internet or “Scorebridge” until 2009. It was in 2008 when Gerry Ney passed away that the club canvassed for new members and one of those was Diane Hobson who with her husband John owned a computer shop at that time. Diane quickly established a website with Bridgewebs and a new era for the club began. The new-found membership with increased numbers was able to purchase new bridge tables of uniform size and later on through the good offices of Tonbridge & Malling Council to purchase comfortable padded chairs and fitted carpet throughout the bridge room. As a pre-requisite of refurbishing the bridge room the whole pavilion building was extended and modernised generously funded by a National Lottery Grant, a Landfill Environment Grant and the hard work and dedication of the Cricket Club members.
Early Members included: Graham Hargrave-Smith, Linda Thompson, Sue Piper, Dennis Terry, Gerry Ney, Barbara Naylor, John Dickinson, Brian Bowles, Joyce Styles, Betty Smith.
The bridge club was only meeting on Tuesday evenings but the membership was growing and in January 2010 Ian Dixon launched the Thursday morning sessions for the benefit of improvers and beginners. Some of the better players from Tuesday evenings joined in to help with instructing the weaker players and gradually they were moving up to play on Tuesday evenings which has swelled the player numbers for both sessions. In 2012 Ian decided to concentrate on playing at his two other clubs which is when Alison and Alan Davis took a more active role in running the Thursday group. They recognised the need for a more formal approach to teaching the improvers on Thursday mornings and introduced 10 X 1hour teaching sessions ahead of the normal playing period which had a magic effect on the numbers attending. Very quickly new members were joining for instruction and more of the experienced players came to enjoy a good session of 18 boards played in two and a half hours on Thursday mornings.
Today the bridge club enjoys a valued association with the Wrotham Heath Golf Club whose lady members enjoy learning to play bridge in the winter months when the weather may temporarily prevent them playing golf. As their bridge playing improves they are recommended to join in the Addington Bridge Club improvers group on Thursday mornings which all helps to support the Tuesday evening group and the overall strength of the bridge club.
The annual Summer Bridge Party held in June at a local hotel further promotes the club when members of other bridge clubs in the local area join in and spend the day playing two sessions of duplicate bridge with a nice lunch in between.
The club’s success is partially due to the friendly and social atmosphere which its members radiate as well as their enthusiasm to improve their bridge playing skills and with their continued support for the club it will continue long into the future.
David Allen 28.10.2015