Banstead Snooker & Billiards

Banstead Institute Mens Club
Full history of the B.I.M.C.

In May 1906, George Woodroffe, trustee of the "Charles Woodroffe Trust Fund" made an offer to his brother the Rev. Duncan Woodroffe, vicar of All Saints Church, Banstead, to donate £1,000 from the fund for the provision of a Church Institute and Parish room for the benefit of the parish. The offer was accepted and a committee formed of Messrs Colman, Trollope, Garton, Greatly, Orton and Pringle, under the Chairmanship of the Vicar. These were well know and influential people in the district who were interested in the welfare of local residents and particularly the working class population largely employed by them on their estates.

The possibility of using a site near Diceland and Ferndale Roads - described as the most likely area of expansion of population and building and containing a preponderance of working class people - was discussed, but the Committee finally decided to build on the orchard adjoining and owned by the Church.

The Committee decided that the project should have the character of a parish club for recreation, games and entertainment, for classes, small meetings and the like. A large hall, with a platform would be suitable for village activities and a billiard table was thought highly desirable. A small kitchen would be provided for preparing refreshments.

Mr. Ledger, an architect from Epsom, was engaged and the contract for the building was granted to Messrs Williams and Taylor of Epsom at a cost of £998. The work commenced in August 1906 and although the architect unfortunately was killed in a cycling accident in September, it was completed in December, when it was formally opened by the Bishop of Winchester.

An indication of price and wage levels in those days is that a caretaker, an ex-policeman, was employed to be in attendance from 6.30 until 10.00 p.m. for a wage of 10 shillings a week and heavy deal tables 6ft by 3ft cost 15 shillings each. At the end of 1906 the Committee resolved to form a working men's club, to be open during the winter months on five evenings a week, to be called the Banstead Institute Club. It survives today as the Banstead Institute Men's Club. A committee was appointed and at a public conference in January 1907 it was inaugurated, with the Vicar as President. Mr. Garton presented a billiards table which is still in use.

The Club was to be self supporting, paying a contribution towards overheads of 10 shillings a week to the Institute, obtained from a subscription of 2p a week and a charge for playing billiards and bagatelle. No alcoholic drinks were to be consumed in the club and gambling was forbidden. Two members of the Club Committee were to be elected annually to represent the Club as required on the Institute Committee. Unfortunately, after it's initial success, the Club had limited appeal solely as a working men's club; it was decided in December 1913 to dissolve it and to reform it by widening it's membership and extending it's activities. The Club would be open from September until May for social purposes, including billiards, music, boxing and other sports. A public meeting was held on 15th January 1914 to discuss the proposed changes which were accepted.

A minimum age of 16 was required for membership and a subscription set at 8d per month. The Club was formed as proposed but, owing to the outbreak of the 1914-18 war it was only used to a limited extent and barely survived financially. It revived in 1919 when it opened on 4 evenings of the week.

In 1922 an extension of the Institute was proposed and it was agreed that it would be used as permanent accommodation for the Men's Club. Plans were put in hand. During 1923 the Men's Club formed their own Committee and the meetings were minuted separately from those of the Institute demonstrating it's independence.

At that time, the functions of the Club were varied and included billiards, boxing, socials and whist drives. Boxing was encouraged by Sir Guy Standing, a well known stage and film actor living at the Well Farm, who made a room available at his house for coaching. This was well attended until 1930 when it was discontinued. The Club was well patronised and matches with the local police and the Woodmansterne Club included billiards, darts, etc. There were about 70 members. Local landowners and well known residents interested in the Club included Sir Henry Lambert, Sir Ralph Neville, Commander Southby and Messrs J. Maitland, E. Hunter and other members of the Garton and Neville families, all of whom took part in the activities of the Club Committee.

The plans for the extension of the building were finally approved and a tender of about £2,250 was approved in April 1925. The building work was completed in the following November when it was occupied by the Men's Club. Thus was taken a huge step towards autonomy although there still remained strong links with the Institute. The cost of the work was met partly from the trust funds of the Church, some from donations from the families and friends already mentioned as being interested in the Club and the rest from fund raising fetes, dances and other social events. Subscriptions were set at one shilling a month.

The extension of the building provided the Men's Club with the sole use of an upstairs (Gable) room with an integral kitchen and toilet and a downstairs room capable of housing two full sized billiard tables. The two were linked by an internal staircase and the kitchen boasted a rickety "dumb waiter" on which teas were transported to those below. The extension was well able to accommodate a second billiard table, purchased from a local resident for £50, and also enabled the Club to be opened six evenings a week independently of other functions of the Institute. The Gable room was used mainly to house a table tennis table, which had been presented to the Club in 1928, and a darts board.

Social engagements are typified in the programme for the 1930 prize-giving evening. There were twelve hands of whist, followed by a concert and dance. Admission was 6 pence for Members and one shilling for others. An entry in the 1931 minutes says that "Rails had been placed round the supports of seats in the billiard room to prevent the billiard balls from hitting the radiators" - It seems that it could have been dangerous in those days to be around when play was in progress! Nevertheless, the Club joined the Epsom and District Billiards League in 1933.

Snooker was introduced in 1934 with the purchase of a set of second-hand balls. Despite the growing popularity of snooker from the mid 1920's these balls were relatively unused and were sold a year later. Shove-halfpenny, cards and bagatelle remained on the list of popular pastimes while socialising or awaiting a turn on the billiards tables.

In 1935 the regular whist drives had lost their appeal and were replaced by annual social dances. Table tennis was gaining popularity and in 1936 the Club entered the local table tennis league. Because of this and our participation in the Billiards League it was decided to reopen the club during the close season (May to September) on one evening a month for the purpose of practicing table tennis and billiards. This may seem an insignificant gesture but in those days the Club could not be opened without the presence of a paid caretaker and finances were tight.

The outbreak of the war in 1939 curtailed activities as most of the young men went into the armed forces. The Club was put more or less on care and maintenance with it's equipment preserved by some older members. Some of the facilities were used by the local police, fire brigade and forces, including Canadian units, stationed in the area. When the war ended in 1945 a new Management Committee was formed with the resident vicar - Rev. Skene - once again adopting the role as President. Action was soon taken to revive the Club including the drafting of new rules which form the basis of those in force today. The financial position improved considerably and a third table and equipment was bought from Dr. R. G. White of Sutton for £40.

In December 1945 the Club was renamed the "Banstead Institute Men's Club" which title still applies.

As the popularity of table tennis declined, the table in the Gable room was disposed of and replaced by the billiards table purchased earlier. This marked the final stage of the Club's evolution from multi activities to predominately billiards and snooker.

It had become customary for an Annual Supper to be held throughout the 50s and 60s. Apart from a meal, those attending were treated to "musical entertainment and recitations". These suppers were discontinued in 1964 but instead a free buffet was provided for those attending the Snooker Finals Night.

During those frugal years it seems that somewhat lower standards of table care were accepted. Although they were regularly brushed and ironed, cloths were sometimes turned, often repaired and on one occasion bought second hand. Quite unthinkable these days!

Until the 1960's only a limited number of people held a key to the premises so there was often a queue outside waiting to enter. In 1964, George Jennings, the local fishmonger, volunteered to hold a key in his shop so that early birds could collect it and get in. After the closure of George's shop this practice was continued until 2011 by the ever popular Terry Wilson, proprietor of the Newsagents opposite the club.

The pot bellied stoves of yesteryear had given way to an antiquated coal fired central heating system controlled from within the Institute and augmented by a couple of electric radiators in the downstairs room. Heating was at best intermittent and there were times when extra clothing, even overcoats, had to be worn whilst playing. Things improved greatly when, in 1968 a new oil-fired system was introduced.

For some years a free hair cutting service was provided once a week by a member whose proficiency thankfully improved with practice. At that time, the entrance hall within the club was paved with extremely worn bricks and the downstairs floor tiled with pine blocks which had seen better days. All of this was later replaced by a solid floor covered with vinyl tiles which were relatively easy to keep clean. These were still "smoking" days and players often had to be reminded not to smoke while taking a shot.

It is perhaps invidious to pick out particular members for special mention as so much was owed to those who, in their own time slots, had devoted so much to the club. Recognition has to be given though to Gordon Butler, who was a valued member for well over 60 years, and to George Sheerman, whose industry on behalf of the club was unsurpassed. Both of them have trophies named after them. It was on the same day in 1973 that Messrs Rees and Hare joined the club. Mick Rees went on to be the very first member to make a snooker break of over 100 in the club. His 109 against the then Treasurer, Arthur Thompson, remained unbeaten until 2010 when Darren Unsted made 114 only to be surpassed in 2012 by James Burrett's magnificent 126. Leo Hare was prominent in amateur dramatics and played for the club's team in the Epsom and District League. He often had to rush straight from the stage to matches sometimes, through pressure of time and not choice, still sporting theatrical make-up.

On his retirement, Rev. Schofield was replaced as President by the Rev. Tom New who often presented the prizes at what had now become known as "Presentation Evening". The spectacle of member's wives serving teas, coffees, dainty sandwiches and home made cakes in the Institute hall had gone but the format of the evening remained virtually the same. The presentation of prizes for competition winners and a raffle were held in the hall while a free buffet and drinks were available in the club room as various novelty snooker competitions took place.

Sunday opening was introduced in 1981 when it was also decided that the club should remain open over the Christmas period.

As the 80's progressed the number of afternoon players diminished though evening play continued to flourish. Membership over the life of the club reached 150 at one time but more frequently fluctuated between 85 and 100.

In the mid 80's the Institute premises had become practically fully booked every day of the week and the administrators were looking for ways in which to upgrade the present building. The favoured plan was to house the club on the ground floor in order to release the Gable room for Church use. The downstairs room would be extended to house the third table and the club would share toilet and kitchen facilities with other users of an extended Institute. These plans caused some consternation amongst the B.I.M.C. membership but it was recognised that the alterations were for the greater good and were eventually supported. Building work began in 1990 and was virtually finished by 1991 and, with some minor remedial work, finally completed in 1993.

Despite the fact that there was no longer any supervision in the club it was decided during the 90's that members would be allowed to hold their own keys. The small charge made was refundable should they leave the club.

In 2002, after pressure at the A.G.M., it was decided to open the club to ladies on a trial basis. However, there were no applications for membership and the decision was reversed a year later.

Smoking was banned in 2003, somewhat in advance of general legislation, and the atmosphere in the club room improved dramatically.

Traditionally, the President of the club was the vicar of All Saints Church. The unbroken occupancy had begun with Duncan Woodroffe in 1907, continued in 1918 by Arthur Hopkins and then, until 1954, by Norman Skene. Canon Skene was followed by Frederick Schofield who took over until 1972 when Tom New was appointed as vicar. Successive incumbents chaired our A.G.M.s, presented prizes and generally took a benevolent interest in the club. Unfortunately, through a misunderstanding, Tom New's replacement, the Rev David Chance, did not follow these precedents and in 2003 the club's Management Committee decided to do away with the post of President. A later decision has left it open for an invitation to be extended to the next appropriate incumbent.

Following the redecoration of the club in 2002, it was decided to completely cover the floor with carpet tiles. A fund was set up and eventually tiles were laid in 2007 at a cost in the region of £1,600.

Earlier a change was made to the rules relating to age limits for membership where juniors between the age of 14 and 18 could be admitted at half of the usual membership fee. The only proviso was that they should be accompanied by a designated adult member. The first joined in 2008 followed soon afterwards by several others.

Over the years the club had sought to advertise itself in various way, the latest of which was by the distribution of glossy leaflets depicting the club room and giving details of the facilities on offer. Unfortunately, these were hardly cost effective as the response was poor. In 2010 we opened our own web site, which has proved to be more successful than any other method of publicising the club.

In August 2008, Barbara Smith, acting for the Parochial Church Council, presented the club with a draft licence for our signature. The draft would allow the P.C.C. to give the club 12 months notice to quit and sought to impose onerous conditions including a variable yearly charge. The Chairman, Bernard Burgess, and the Secretary, David Thompson, were given a mandate to enter into talks with the P.C.C. team. Negotiations were dogged by delays but at meetings on 9th July 2010 and 25th July 2011 a draft Agreement, prepared by the B.I.M.C. team, was agreed between negotiators. The actual Agreement was signed by the vicar, the Rev. Maria Pallis, and the Chairman on 24 January 2012. For the first time since it's inception the club's security is enshrined in a formal document. The annual contribution towards Institute costs is fixed at a modest rate tied to inflation and there is now clarity about who is responsible for what in respect of upkeep and maintenance. This landmark Agreement is seen as a vantage point from which the club can confidently view the future.


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