The origins of Badger Farm Bridge Club were not in Badger Farm at all but started off up the road in Oliver's Battery.
I played a lot of competitive Bridge in the early 1980s and also ran a number of beginners and improvers classes. I started a beginners class in 1982 then the following year I took part in a Bridge TV series called Grand Slam. This was shown on BBC2 around 7pm on Saturday evenings. Not much competition for programmes like Blind Date and The Generation Game but it was enough to get quite well known by the Winchester Bridge players. Class numbers mushroomed quickly and I found myself running an improvers evening class at Kings School with nearly 40 people and a beginners class at Westgate with nearly 30.
As we came to the end of the second term there seemed to be quite a lot of interest in finding somewhere to practise for the summer so someone volunteered to find a suitable venue and I agreed to provide temporary Bridge practice over the summer.
The venue was St Marks Hall in Oliver's Battery and we started playing there in April 1984. Word had obviously got around as I seem to remember having around 18 tables on the first week! It soon settled to a bit less than that and once a month we would meet at St Luke's Hall in Stanmore due to the Oliver's Battery parish council meeting.
Bridge at Oliver's Battery was always very friendly but also pretty rowdy and I always used to joke that it was the noisiest Bridge Club in Hampshire! The temporary practice ground quickly became a permanent fixture and has continued ever since and it's nice that some of the original members are still members of Badger Farm today, over 30 years later. Members were very tolerant in those days as often the heating wasn't working and everyone would endure playing Bridge at rickety tables sitting with their coats on!
The next stage of the club was its transfer to Badger Farm including a name change from Oliver's Battery Bridge Club to Badger Farm Bridge Club. This happened in November 1986 when a new Sainsburys opened in Badger Farm along with a very good Community Centre and ample parking. The room where we play now was not built then and we used to play in the small room alongside the kitchen. This was a big improvement on what we had been used to before with better tables and it was always well heated, something we had learnt not to take for granted!
In 1988 I started working in London so passed Badger Farm over to Enid Trevaskis who extended Bridge to Mondays and Fridays and all three clubs still exist to this day. I had very little involvement in Bridge for the following few years but when Enid was moving to East Anglia in 1991 she asked me if I would mind running Badger Farm Tuesdays again. I was not terribly keen initially but the friendly, enthusiastic and loyal membership it had was the big influence.
Bridge in Badger Farm had changed quite significantly in those three years. There were some new members who had not been there when I ran it before and the standard of Bridge had improved, so much so that I quickly became aware that the way I had previously run it, playing around 18 to 20 boards, was not good enough. Badger Farm flourished in the 90s and we were often bursting out of the little room and playing in the corridor. The Community Centre was then extended which included a larger room and as soon as it was finished, we moved into it and are still there today. We occasionally had up to 14 tables in play, there was a great atmosphere but needless to say still probably the noisiest Bridge Club in Hampshire.
As with Bridge up and down the country, numbers of players have declined somewhat over the years which is a shame as it's such a good game, great for the mental agility and extremely good value for money entertainment. The most important thing that has not disappeared though is the friendly nature of Badger Farm. We always play our Bridge in a good social atmosphere and I will make sure that continues as long as I am running it.