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COULSDON & PURLEY CHESS CLUB
by Ron Mattocks (written in c.1997)
The foundation in 1949 of the Coulsdon West Chess Club was sponsored by the Coulsdon West Resident's Association, which had been formed in the previous year to foster the comradeship engendered by the war and to help in overcoming problems inevitable in an urban community. It was due to the Association's generosity that much of the Club's early equipment, particularly chess clocks, could be acquired.
The first Secretary/Treasurer was E Hensch, a Swiss businessman then working in England. His membership of the Club ended when his firm transferred him to West Africa. Among the early members of the Club were E Alexander, W F Witton, H B Bailey (later President), R G White (President of the Club in more recent times - (webmaster comment - this is "Dicky White"), H G Crone, E J Bowley, S A Rees (later Secretary) and J Cabourn (Match Captain and later Secretary and President).
The first venue was the small hall at St Andrew's Church, Coulsdon. On match nights, those not in the team had difficulty in finding any space in which to play. The larger hall was fully booked for other functions - sometimes dances were held there on Club nights - and players found it difficult to concentrate on their games. With emanations from gas radiators and tobacco smoke from some twenty earnest chess players, the atmosphere in that small hall often became thick and nobody welcomed cold blasts from an open window!
In 1960, a demand for a much higher rent caused the Club to seek alternative accommodation for the 1960/61 season and a room was hired in the Railway Hotel in Purley. The building stood on the site of the Purley point office block and was demolished in 1984. In the Treasurer's archives, there is a carefully preserved invoice dates 18/10/60 for the sum of £4.1s.4d (£4-07), this being the cost of an electric kettle ("Swan") and plug. The kettle was an essential item of the Club's equipment since kitchen facilities were not available. Some members preferred to bring their own tea or coffee in thermos flasks.
At the end of our first season at the Railway Hotel, the brewers decided that they could make more profitable use of the premises and terminated the Club's tenancy. The Club then moved to the Coulsdon Youth Centre in Chipstead Valley Road, Coulsdon, the 1961/62 season commencing on October 4th 1961. Adequate space and heating, as well as the use of a small canteen promised well, but the venue proved to be difficult of access to many members and after only one season, the Club moved again. Starting on October 3rd 1962, the 1962/63 season opened at the Railwaymens' Hall in Whytecliffe Road, Purley (now part of Forbes Rentals).
The new premises provided reasonable accommodation at a moderate rent. An approach was now made to Coulsdon West Resident's Association for permission to include Purley in the name of the Club, so as to make clear to prospective members that the Club was centrally situated. Not only did the Association agree to the proposed change in name, but it generously donated another chess clock to the Club's still limited equipment. At the annual general meeting held on April 17th 1963 a motion to change the name of the Club to "The Coulsdon & Purley Chess Club" was carried unanimously.
Since its foundation in 1949 the club had always met on Wednesday evenings. In September 1966 we were informed that Wednesday evenings were no longer available to us, but that we could hire the hall for the 1966/7 season on Monday evenings instead, starting on October 3rd. So, at very short notice, the Club changed its tradition of 17 years, and has met on Mondays ever since.
The Club remained at the Railwaymens' Hall for over ten years. In January 1972 the failure of the gas and electricity installations to meet the requirements of the licensing authority resulted in the closure of the Hall on January 29th and an abrupt ending of the Club's tenancy in mid-season. No time was lost in finding alternative accommodation, and arrangements were made with the Croydon Guild of Social Service to hire the Lansdowne Hall in Lansdowne Road, Purley. on Monday evenings, starting on February 7th 1972.
The rent at the new venue was only slightly higher than that at the Railwaymens' Hall. Nevertheless, after a couple of seasons there were financial problems. In February 1974 a demand for a substancial increase in rent could not be met by the current subscription rate of £3 per full member. To avoid a deficit at the end of the season it was agreed that members attending should contribute 10p per evening and a collection box was circulated. At the AGM held on April 22nd 1974 the annual subscription was raised to £4 per full member.
These measures tied the Club over for another season, but at the AGM held on April 28th 1975, the Hon. Treasurer, Hans Conniff, described the cash situation as "grave." The Club had lost nine members out of a total of 34 in the season just ended and was barely solvent with just £11-49 cash in hand. Cheaper premises were urgently required for the next season, and in the summer of 1975 an approach was made to the Purley Social Club, next to the Railwaymens' Hall in Whytecliffe Road, for the hire of a room in their newly refurbished premises. An affordable rent was negotiated (about half that of the Lansdowne Hall) and the 1975/76 season opened there on September 29th 1975.
Apart from the lower rent the new venue had other attractions. The room was large enough to allow players to stretch their legs between moves and, furthermore, Chess Club members was allowed to use the bar and two full size snooker tables in the next room. The Club settled happily for four seasons, but in 1979 the Purley Social Club decided to re-arrange their premises. The Club was faced with the prospect of changing places with the snooker section and thus moving into the bar room. With a number of members under 18 attending regularly, the the proposed re-arrangements were unsatisfactory for the Club and it was reluctantly decided to find another venue.
The Club now moved to the Methodist Church Hall in Brighton Road, Coulsdon, for the opening of the 1979-80 season on October 1st 1979. The arrangements here were such that to gain access to the kitchen and toilets, members had to pass through a small room adjacent to the Club room, or through the large church hall. But other organisations held meetings in both of these areas. In 1982 the Club was informed by the hall management that they had received complaints from the Ladies' Forum, whose members used the small room, that Chess Club members were disturbing their meetings by passing through their room. Furthermore, the good Ladies objected to us smoking under the same roof. Passage through the large hall disturbed other functions, however, such as badminton. Sometimes the band of the local Boys' Brigade practised there. It became very clear which activity caused most distress to the Ladies' Forum. The hall management wrote to our Hon. Treasurer, Mike Toull, to say that unless the club gave assurance that it would apply a no-smoking rule and would refrain from disturbing the meetings of the Ladies' Forum, the hall management would no longer be able to accommodate the Club. In 1982 smoking was more prevalent than it is today. The Club feared it would lose members (and potential members) if it banned smoking. It was pointed out certain members of the Ladies' Forum found it convenient to walk through the Club's room to gain access to their own meetings. Faced with mounting friction between the two sides, the Club determined not to bow to the ultimatum, and prepared to move once more.
Ken and Nancy Crawford spent several evenings prospecting for another venue. Eventually, they visited the Cameron Hall of the Congregational church at Old Coulsdon where they found that accommodation was available at a rent the Club could afford. We would have the use of the Church Room and a smaller room across the corridor. There were good kitchen facilities. The Club was made very welcome and the 1982/83 season started there on October 4th 1982.
The Church Room, although adequate for ordinary club nights, was very cramped on match nights, and the atmosphere in the crowded room was reminiscent of the early years at St Andrew's. It was eventually decided that the Club should become a non-smoking venue, in common with an increasing number of chess clubs in Surrey and, indeed, with the trend in public opinion generally. A resolution to this effect was passed at the AGM held on April 30th 1990.
The Club remained at Old Coulsdon for eight seasons, by which time increasing membership made it necessary to find more spacious accommodation. The large Cameron Hall would have been ideal, but the rent was prohibitive. An approach was made to Coulsdon Christian Fellowship in Chipstead Valley Road for the hire of their small church hall. Satisfactory terms were negotiated and the 1990/91 season started there on September 24th 1990.
The "small" hall was small only in comparison with the main church hall a few doors away. The problem of floor space, so acute in the last venue, was now solved and players could once again stretch their legs between moves. Refreshments were served from a kitchenette at the far end of the hall. The Club had been indebted to Secretary Ken Crawford for this service. The Club was fortunate in gaining several new members, including our new landlord, Rev Howard Curtis and his colleague Scott Freeman, both enthusiastic chess players. A third team was created under John Trubshaw to compete in the Surrey Minor League, enabling less experienced players to gain match practice. With the new move came success in the Surrey Club competitions where the First Team (Match Captain Ron Mattocks) won the Ellam Trophy for the 1990/91 and the Second Team (Match Captain David Howes) won the Centenary Trophy for 1994/95.
In September 1995, Howard Curtis offered the Club the use of the CCF's main church hall, a short distance along the road towards Coulsdon. There would be no extra rent. Here was the perfect venue for an expanding ambitious chess club - an even larger playing area, so that three matches could be played simultaneously, and a room backstage for social gatherings with kitchen, telephone and photocopier. The Club membership increased at all levels, including several players graded above 200. At the end of the 1995/96 season Ron Mattocks retired from First Team captaincy , which he had held since 1961, and was elected to the captaincy of a newly created Third Team to compete in the Centenary Trophy. The former Third Team, now the Fourth Team, continued to play in the Surrey Minor division under the captaincy of John Trubshaw. Two further teams were created to play in the Croydon League.
The success of the Coulsdon & Purley teams in the 1996/97 Surrey inter-club tournaments was outstanding:-
|1st||Paul Jackson||Beaumont Cup||1st||9.5/10|
|2nd||David Howes||Ellam Trophy||1st||7/9|
|3rd||Ron Mattocks||Centenary Trophy||2nd||7/9|
|4th||John Trubshaw||Minor Trophy||2nd||4/6|
All four teams were promoted to the next highest Division for the 1997/98 season, the First Team returning to the Premier Division, the Surrey Trophy, after an absence of 12 years. The Club would also field two teams to compete in the Surrey Minor Division and has entered teasm in the National Club Championship.
During the last two years of achievement (1996-1998) the Club's reputation has grown considerably. Full membership has increased by 50% to a weekly attendance of nearly 50. Starting from scratch an enthusiastic junior section has been established, with regular weekly attendances of 25-30. This will provide a pool of talented youngsters capable of holding their own in the Surrey inter-club tournaments. There is a training prgramme for juniors, with regular Saturday tournaments. Teams of helpers assist with the running of chess training pfrogrammes at four local schools.
A new members' Liaison Officer has been appointed to welcome new members and arrange suitable matches for them. There are now five female members of the club (note: written in 1998). Stalls have been organised at local carnivals and a venue for other Clubs and organisations to play matches has been provided. All of these achievements were taken into account by the British Chess Federation when they awarded Coulsdon & Purley Chess Club the title of "BCF Club of the Year" for 1997. Stewart Reuben, the Chairman of the BCF visited the club on September 29th 1997 to present the award and afterwards gave a simultaneous exhibition over 30 boards.
The author has drawn freely from the memoir "Coulsdon and Purley Chess Club - History 1949 to 1972" by the late John Cabourn, who did so much to inspire and build up the Club in its early years.
& PURLEY 1st TEAM RECORDS 1961-1997