Documentation relating to the origins and the early days of the club have been mislaid or lost over the years resulting in difficulties in recording a definitive history. However, in the recent past the club had amongst its membership an “old stalwart” who was the son of one of the original band of men who laid the foundations of what we have today. Here is his story:
“In the beginning in 1890 a few men and lads of the village as it was then got together in a room above a local Chemist Shop in St. Johns Road and formed an association. The shop (eventually turned into a Petrol Station) was joint-owned by a Mr. Marshall, a gentleman with a very long beard, and a Mr. Maylin - known to all as “Tommy” – who was also the Stationmaster at Boxmoor Railway Station. My Father, the village postman, was another of the founders and was in the position of knowing all the “nobility” and people of the village!
In these humble beginnings the club offered little more than a reading room and a bagatelle board but here the club stayed until alternative accommodation became available in St. Johns Parish Rooms in Horsecroft Road. This new venue was superior inasmuch as it was had two rooms on two floors and also a house for a Caretaker. The first Caretakers were Mr and Mrs Edmonds. They were physically very slight but “Joey”, as he was universally known, had an air of authority and was feared by all.
The club was held in what was known as the “Top Room” and was rented at a cost of Ten Shillings per annum (50p in today’s money) whilst the “Bottom Room” was used for all Church functions. The Bottom Room had a small kitchen attached and during the 1914-18 war this facility was used as a Soup Kitchen and attracted queues of folks who came bearing a jug to be filled and for the piece of bread to accompany the soup.
As a young lad of 12 years old in the early 1920s I was allowed into the club but had to sit very quietly on the huge settee which stood on the right hand side of the room. On the opposite side was a long Pew taken from St. Johns Parish Church. The club by now had also acquired the title of the “Boxmoor Working Men’s’ Club” and had the comfort of heating from a coal fire and lighting for the room being provided by Gas mantles. The membership by this time has grown to about 30 in number and a committee was formed with my Father being elected as Chairman. An annual subscription was set at 6 shillings per year (that’s 30p in today’s money).
Dominating the centre of the Top Room was a Billiards table which had been presented to the club by a Mr. Gulliver who lived in a grand house in Chaulden Lane. (The house had a conservatory built onto it based on the design of the old Crystal Palace and the garden was enclosed by a Hertfordshire Stone Flint wall with sea shells set into every wall. The house still stands today, now known as Chaulden House Gardens).
The Billiards Table was a great treasure and asset and at the end of the evening the last two players would draw the covers to provide protection. It was kept in impeccable condition by Mr George Sells who brushed and ironed its surface regularly. The other main form of amusement was cards and the same foursome would be seen night after night playing Bridge or Solo until the club closed at 10:00pm.
As the club grew so I became more interested and involved and, at long last, I was allowed to have the odd game of Billiards but only when there were few members present. The procedure was to enter your name on a list and place 4d in the box specially made for the purpose. Once your turn came you were then entitled to half an hour on the table. Snooker was very rarely played those days.
There were regular players and a regular foursome used to have side bets on the outcome of their games; a practice that was very much frowned upon by other members of the club but gambling went on and I often observed coppers being slyly passed from one to another after an evening of cards.
It was in 1919 the St. John’s Church boy’s club was formed and they used to meet on a Friday evening in the bottom room of the club. It was a get-together to pick the team for Saturday’s football match. The founder was our school master, Mr Jenkins, one of the finest youth leaders I have ever known. On Sunday afternoon he held a Bible Class in the same room. The singing was appalling, as one can imagine, about 30 youths with voices breaking. His address were always very interesting and after going through a passage of the Bible he would always revert to a discussion about the football match played on the Saturday.
I remember one particular Sunday afternoon when a tramp passing by heard the singing and just walked in. Mr Jenkins asked him to sit down and invited him to join in the service, which he gladly did. Our collection that afternoon was for the sick and needy; he had a good collection.
You may well ask what this has to do with the Boxmoor Club but this was but one example on the values upon which this club has been built; the spirit which exists today and long may it continue.
As these young lads grew and matured they went on to join the Working Men’s Club.
In 1930 St. John’s Hall was built and the Horsecroft Road premises were put up for sale by the church authorities. The Working Men’s Club decided they would purchase their “home” and they soon got down to the business of asking members to donate money in order to raise a mortgage. A Board of Trustees was formed and an early decision was made that in order to make things pay a Bar was needed. So it was that the project was started with members doing the work (providing their labour free) and the only expense to the club was for materials.”
So this was one old member’s recollections of how the club grew from humble beginnings some 120 years ago. As a definitive history there are clearly some gaps but hopefully this account may be the catalyst that will cause other facts and events to be revealed which can be added to what had been recorded.
Update (Nov 2009): A Club Member inspired by the above account unearthed a collection of Photographs and Postcards depicting the bygone age that was Boxmoor through the early years of the 20th Century. Take a look at the assembled slide show to get an idea what the area was like at the time the Boxmoor Social Club was establishing itself by clicking here.
Note: If anyone has similar pictures of interest then please get in touch nd they can be added to the show.