The origins of Eynsham Social and Sports Club are firmly rooted in the events of the Great War of 1914-1918... Many thanks to Michael Cross for this early history
The seeds of the Club were sown in seeking remembrance of the men lost to the village in that awful conflict and whose many names are recorded on the War Memorial next to St Leonard’s Church. A public meeting had been held on 21 November 1919 and overwhelming support was given to a proposal to build a War Memorial Hall; part of the motivation being to provide somewhere to go ‘...instead of the public house’. This meeting generated numerous ‘promises of subscriptions’ totalling £120.14.6d and the task was set to find a site.
Another group were meanwhile meeting as the ‘Soldiers and Sailors Club’, initially in the White House in Mill Street courtesy of Mrs Stevens. The leading lights at both meetings were Major Oakley and the Rev Nash Bricknell.
In less than a month promised subscriptions held by the War Memorial Fund had grown to £314.0.9d; a lot of money in the gloomy post-war period, but well short of the estimated £2,000 needed to buy a site and build a hall. The project foundered and it was instead agreed that a granite cross be erected ‘...with the names of the men who died for their country, and for us, inscribed on the base’.
The Soldiers and Sailors Club meanwhile had evolved into the ‘Comrades of the Great War’ and set about fundraising for their own clubroom with Whist Drives, Dances and other ‘amusements’. By early 1921 they had raised £120 and were seeking to buy a hut to use as a reading room.
In April 1921 the War Memorial Cross was unveiled having been purchased and erected with a small amount of money to spare. These two organisations pursuing similar objectives had many common members and in November the War Memorial Fund decided to donate surplus monies towards the purchase of a ‘hut or recreation room’. Things moved quickly and in June 1922 a public meeting was held in the ‘Village Hut’ to enrol members. Subscriptions were discussed and set at a 1/- entrance fee for adults and 6d for those between 14 and 16. The ‘hut’ was formally opened on 18 October 1922 by JF Mason of Eynsham Hall and was now known as the ‘Eynsham Institute and Club’! The account books from these early days have survived and show that £28.13.9d was received from the ‘Hut Fund’ and a loan of £200 from Mr Mason.
The Institute was quickly equipped with 100 chairs supplied by Cook and Boggis, linoleum from Cape & Co and billiard tables. One table was purchased from The Golden Cross Hotel and a second from the Kings Arms. There are three tables of unknown vintage still at the club and maybe these are two of them. Another smaller billiards table was later purchased for the ‘Ladies room’.
The first ever Annual General Meeting of the Eynsham Institute was held on 6 April 1923 and we learn that the initial Committee was led by the Rev Nash Bricknell as Chairman, Major Oakley Vice-President, Colonel Norman Treasurer, Mr W Hanks Secretary, and included Miss M Jepson, Mr A Hall, Mr J Hill, and Mr W Aldridge. A new Committee was chosen by election supervised by Mr W Belcher and Mr Trethewey as tellers, and brought Mrs W Belcher, Mr W Wastie and Mr W James into office with the Secretary and Treasurer re-elected and Mr JF Mason re-elected as President.
There was a lot to talk about what the Institute should do to entertain members with suggestions flowing freely including that maybe the ladies could have a Bagatelle Table and it was also suggested that the ladies may be allowed into the Men’s Room when their own room had been let for other purposes. This was to be considered by the Committee. One main issue was the question of how they were to raise funds to meet loan repayments.
The next Committee meeting was held at Mr Sheringham’s home and the new committee duly elected the previously unmentioned Hugh Sheringham as Chairman for the ensuing year. Many important decisions were taken concerning the premises including getting a three year guarantee from Mr Green for the drainage and a decision to put a fence on the boundary now agreed with the landlord, the Eynsham & District Allotment Association. Mr Green’s account for ‘Sanitary and Drainage Services’ in the sum of £72.7s.5d was paid.
Annual rent for the site was also agreed at ten shillings.