In compiling an outline history of the Farnborough Bridge Club it was invaluable to find that the minutes of every AGM and every Committee meeting held since the club's inception are stored in our archives. What follows, therefore, is factual if not always of interest to everybody.
The Farnborough & District Contract Bridge Club was officially formed on Friday 7th September 1951. The inaugural meeting of twelve bridge enthusiasts met at the home of Mr & Mrs Smith and agreed that the new club should meet on Monday evenings in the function room of the 'Black Horse' in Locksbottom, that the annual subscription be set at 5/= (25p) and that initial appointments should comprise:-
- Chairman - Ernest Harris
- Secretary - Leslie Smith
- Treasurer - Mary Hatcher
On Monday 17th September 1951 the club opened its doors to 23 prospective members and, having voted to extend the Committee by a further five members, settled down to play rubber bridge. In those days the Culbertson and Goren systems reigned supreme (although one innovative pair played Schenken!) whilst Acol was considered avant-garde. Word spread quickly and soon the function room could no longer cope with an active membership of 40. The club therefore moved to the Farnborough Village Hall on Friday 7th March 1952 armed with a permit to purchase tea and sugar for social refreshment (they were still on ration then). The monthly programme comprised three sessions of partner rubber and one of cut-in rubber. However, Mrs Boxwell, a keen disciple of Duplicate, formed a small group within the club to practise this form of bridge in the back room of the Candy Cafe on Wednesday evenings. This group also outgrew its accommodation and moved to take over Wednesday evenings at the Village Hall. In September 1952 the club affiliated to the KCBA and the County Secretary (Maud Corbett) sanctioned the playing of rubber bridge for stakes of 1d per 100.
The first AGM was held in September 1952 at which the club's two oldest trophies, the Smith Cup and the Boxwell Cup were presented. (a more detailed history of all the club's trophies can be found on our web page 'Club Competitions'). Mrs Boxwell had persuaded the Committee to allow Duplicate to be played on one Friday per month (in conjunction with rubber) and these sessions comprised heats of the Smith Cup with, at the end of the season, the top 16 players selected to play an Individual movement for the trophy. The Boxwell Cup was awarded for the club's Pairs Championship with the same quali-final format that still prevails. In the election of Officers, Leslie Smith was confirmed as Secretary (a position he held until his retirement in 1973 and Doris Hopper was appointed Treasurer (having undertaken that duty since early 1952, following Mary Hatcher's resignation due to ill-health) serving in that capacity until moving to Eastbourne in 1975.
At the 1954 AGM the club elected its first President, Mr Warman (he of the Warman Trust, benefactor of the sports fields used by Hayes Tennis & Cricket clubs) Membership had risen to. circa 60 and the popularity of Duplicate encouraged the arrangement of friendly Teams of Eight matches with other local clubs (Orpington Petts Wood, Dulwich, Wendover and Beckenham). We also entered a team in the Corbett Cup (first actual year not known) but, after a few moderate successes (we reached the semi-final in 1960), there followed such a lean period that at the 1966 AGM a dejected Club Captain suggested we discontinue as we were obviously not strong enough (he was overruled!). The AGM in 1957 introduced the concept of Host or Duty member and the first Wednesday in each month became a 'cut for partner' (or 'Lucky Dip' as it was originally entitled) session, to encourage a social mix. This did not prove popular and it was not until a former Chairman, Fred Jackson, presented a trophy in 1981 and devised the current format, that attendances on this night improved considerably. Our two oldest surviving members, Dennis Kendall and Bert West joined the club in 1958 and are still regular attendees. It is, perhaps, appropriate at this point to reflect that Farnborough appears to encourage longevity both in terms of anno domini and service on the Club Committee. Dennis, a former Match Captain and Chairman, served as our President from 1973 to 1994, Leslie Smith was founder Secretary from 1951 to 1973 whilst his successor in that capacity, Ted Nesom, served from 1973 to 2002. Doris Hopper, erstwhile Treasurer, served from 1952 to 1975 and Mike de Winter, also a former Chairman, undertook the Treasurer's role from 1978 to 2004. Phil Bailey, as Match Captain, good humouredly organised our club representative teams for 26 years (doubling up as Chairman for two of those) whilst Joyce Churchill and Barbara Howarth represented the distaff side for 13 years and 21 years respectively as Committee members (which included, of course, a term as Chairman). Which other club can boast such a record of continuity?
By the mid-1960's membership had risen to circa 70 and whilst Duplicate was flourishing, Rubber was notably in decline. In 1967 a review of the Constitution was undertaken. The name of the club was changed to the Farnborough (Kent) Bridge Club, a sliding scale of subscriptions was introduced, 10/= for fall members 7/6 for rubber bridge only members and 5/= for juniors. Table money was 2/= per head In 1969 the club welcomed the news that one of our junior members, Steve Burton had been selected for the Great Britain team competing in the European Junior Championships. He, with his partner Tony dark, went on to represent England in the 1972 Camrose series.
The beginning of the 1970's heralded decimal currency and the Committee suffered a heated debate on the impact on subscriptions, table money and the stakes for rubber bridge (after all, 2p per 100 was not really 2d but 4.8d!). The latter proved academic as, shortly afterward, rubber bridge was dispensed with completely and all club evenings were devoted to Duplicate. This was probably hastened by the club's decision to commence awarding EBU Master Points in 1971. In 1972 the club celebrated its coming of age at the New Inn, Hayes. A relaxed (and fairly noisy) session of bridge in the afternoon was followed by a dinner in the evening for 77 past and present members of the club. At this function Leslie Smith and Doris Hopper were awarded Life Membership in recognition of their contribution to the club. In 1974, Farnborough won the inaugural Haycocks Trophy match against Beckenham and in 1976 Phil Bailey began the first of his 26 years as Match Captain He has played no small part in the club's rise to pre-eminence in the County on April 3rd 1977, Farnborough was the first club in the area (if not the County) to stage a Swiss Teams event. Limited to 16 teams it was well over-subscribed, and proved so successful that during the 1980's the club were holding four such events per year. Sadly, the proliferation of EBU Green Point events meant that support for local ventures dwindled and we no longer include Swiss events in our calendar.
In 1981 the Village Hall underwent a massive refurbishment. The hall was enlarged as far as the boundaries would allow, a new kitchen fitted, the old gaslights were removed (oh yes, we played under gaslight during the enforced electricity cuts in the 1970's) and the toilets were brought inside the hall. During the upheaval the club had to hire alternative premises around the district, but although attendances dropped somewhat, the club continued to function. On return to the hall the club went from strength to strength. In 1984 membership broke the 100 barrier and in 1987, under the captaincy of Phil, we won the Corbett Cup for the first time. In the mid-eighties, national recognition came to the club courtesy of our younger members. In 1985 the two Andrews (Nesom and Doye) were selected for the England team in the Junior Camrose series, whilst in 1989 Derek Patterson, Stuart & Gerald Tredinnick were selected for the British team that won the World Junior Championship. They were also members of the Beckenham club at that time but although Derek went on to form his own club at Chislehurst, Stuart and Gerald retained their Farnborough membership and still play at the club occasionally and also represent us in the Corbett Cup.
By 1990, membership had become a problem. With space for an estimated maximum of 22 tables available and a total membership of 150 plus, the Committee felt nervous. A system of Associate Membership was introduced whereby prospective new members would be encouraged to attend on Fridays only (not as well attended as Wednesdays) with a reduced subscription as compensation. Fortunately, no member had to be turned away and the system was abandoned, but, with the current membership now at 180, if more than half turned up the T/D would have a real headache!
In 1991 the club celebrated its Ruby Anniversary. Dick Skinner arranged for the Sundridge Park Management Centre to be put at our disposal and over 100 members (past and present) enjoyed a full day comprising morning coffee, lunch and evening dinner interspersed with three sessions of bridge. In 1993 a team comprising Derek Patterson, Neil Rosen, Stuart & Gerald Tredinnick won the Gold Cup, going on to retain the trophy in 1994, a double not achieved since the early 1950's. Also in 1994 Neil, Stuart and Gerald were selected for the Camrose series. Bidding boxes were introduced at the club on a trial basis about this time, becoming mandatory in 1995. Also in 1995, Butler scoring was introduced for the fifth Wednesday and Friday in the month, whenever this occurred - I believe some members are still bemused by the subtle difference in tactics! In 1999 Anne Rosen was selected for the England Ladies team in the Lady Milne Trophy.
With the arrival of the 21st century Farnborough had become arguably the strongest club in the County, both in terms of playing strength and membership. We have won the Corbett Cup each year for the last five years and the Garden Cities Trophy in 2000 and 2001, whilst several of our members regularly achieve success in National and County events. In 2001 the Constitution was revised and updated (no longer a reference to Rubber bridge!) and two of the trophies were re-assigned - the Smith Cup is now awarded for the club Teams of Four Championship and the Rayner Individual to the runner-up in the Jackson Cup - reflecting the demise of support for Individual competitions in November 2001 the club celebrated its Golden Anniversary at Chartwell (appropriately, as Churchill was Prime Minister when the club was founded). 74 members (past and present) attended to be greeted with mulled wine on arrival, buffet lunch and dinner. The three bridge sessions included one comprising a selection of Phil Bailey's notorious record of outlandish hands and incomprehensible bidding sequences that do crop up at Farnborough from time to time. In her after-dinner speech our Chairman, Marian Hunt, reflected on how the growth and development of the club has not affected the friendly social atmosphere that has prevailed over the past 50 years. Long may this continue.
Mike de Winter, May 2004