In the autumn of 1934 a group of people belonging to the local Parish Church in Godalming decided to form a badminton club in the Church Hall in Queen Street. Long since gone, of course, but for those who might be interested it was located somewhere near the top end of what is now lower Queen Street, the original road having been divided by Flambard Way.
A committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Canon G. S. Richards and on the 18th January 1935 they held their first meeting. For posterity it is worth mentioning that those present were as follows: Rev. Gladwell, Col. and Mrs Archer (who already played for another local club but who had been asked to help with the rules and the laying out of the court etc.), the Misses Marsden, Mountney, Keen, D. and Q. Brooks, H. and W. Johnson, E. and W. Busby, Herrington, Castlemain, Berryman, Glendinning and Luxton and Mr Brooks, Mountney, Keen, Wheeler and Rowe. The outcome of the meeting was that Col. Archer became the first Chairman, Miss Luxton the Secretary and Mr Brooks the Treasurer; and due to an abundance of ladies it was decided not to accept any more of the fairer sex into the club for the time being!
The subscription was initially set at 5/- (25p) but by April of 1935 had increased to 10/- (50p) payable in two instalments. However, on learning that the Hall would cost £13 for 26 weeks hire and that Col. Archer who had kindly supplied the shuttles for the previous season would no longer be prepared to do so, the subscription was raised to 12/6d (62.5p) payable in three instalments!
1936 saw the Club firmly established as the St. Peter & Paul Badminton Club with a credit balance of 1/11d (9.5p). They had played 9 matches, winning 2 and losing 7 and were hoping to increase their membership to 30. Travelling to matches was, of course, mainly by bus – not a mode of travel we would favour now! In order to keep up to date with badminton news Col. Archer kindly offered to supply the Badminton Gazette each month.
Club finances were such that in 1937 a bank account was opened but an emergency meeting convened during that year revealed a deficit of £2.10s (£2.50p). Although Col. Archer generously offered to cover this sum it was decided to investigate the reasons for this deficit. The main causes appeared to be the increase in the hire of the Church Hall, the cost of replacing the light bulbs and the amount of electricity used by the 200 watt bulbs each club night. The outcome was that the hall hire fee was reduced to 5/- (25p) and, following a letter received from Southern Utilities showing that the cost of lighting per evening was 1/6d (7.5p), the caretaker was tasked with taking sole responsibility for removing and replacing the light bulbs each club night.
During the early part of 1937 a well-known figure joined the club – Erica Mackey (more familiarly known as Erica Holl) still playing when the club celebrated its’ 50th anniversary and someone to be reckoned with when guarding the net! The membership of the club had increased to 32, the subscription was 15/- (75p) and the playing standard had improved quickly with the club winning 10 of the 12 matches played. Consequently to help manage games on club nights it was decided to write to the Badminton Gazette for information on the “peg system”.
The club enjoyed a relatively happy, trouble-free five years of badminton but with the declaration of war the time it was necessary to rethink the club rules and regulations. Due to the uncertainty of the times it was agreed to charge a membership fee of 2/6d and then pay 6d per night with play starting early at 7.00 p.m. and finishing at 10.00 p.m. because of the blackout. However, in 1940 the subscription was increased to 5/- and some of the expenses were recouped by hiring out the lights and nets to the Cygnet B.C. for 10 nights. At the end of 1941 the club had a bank balance of £5.8s.8d and elected its’ first club captain – Mr Keen.
Over the next two years the subscription increased to 15/- and the first signs of grading in the standard appeared with the decision that beginners should only play on Friday and Saturday evenings with help from experienced players.
When the war was finally over the first social committee was formed by Mrs Barton and Mrs Harper, and it was decided that ex-club members released from the Forces could re-join the club on payment of the current subscription of £1. A monthly tournament was enjoyed by the members including another well-known local figure – particularly to those bespectacled residents of Godalming – Alan Gray.
By 1950 the subscription had increased to 30/- and match fees of 2/6d for home matches and 1/6d for away matches had been introduced. The playing standard went from strength to strength with the Club winning 14 of the 17 matches played during that season. Play continued during the next few years with little change except that a junior section was formed in 1953; only 3 feather shuttles were allowed for play on club nights and visiting teams were offered a choice of playing with plastic or feathered shuttles – there was also a charge of 3d for refreshments on club nights.
In 1954 the club joined the newly formed Cygnet Badminton League (renamed the Guildford and District Badminton League in 1968) as founder members and a year later came third in the League. By this time the subscription had risen to £2 and the Club was affluent enough to present engraved spoons to the winners of the clubs’ tournaments.
However, by the end of the Fifties the wind of change was blowing – in 1958 the Club changed its’ name to the Godalming Badminton Club and in October 1961 moved to the Drill Hall in Llanaway Road. It was at this point two more familiar names appeared on the committee – Nick Budibent and Mike Wooderson, the former one of the main instigators of the Clubs’ new hall project and who went on to serve as publicity officer for the B A of E, and the latter a first team stalwart for over 25 years and Berkshire county player, who spent many hours reconditioning shuttles for use on club nights..
In 1964 a mixed team was entered in the Surrey League and after easily winning division 12 was immediately promoted to division 7. Following this success a men’s team was entered in 1966.
In 1968, the wind of change blowing within the Club had almost reached hurricane proportions with a move to the courts at Broadwater School and a club membership of 80 including a new “B” section and in 1970 the Club entered a team in the Surrey Ladies Intermediate Cup reaching the final at the first attempt.
In the 1970s the standard of play in the Club had improved to the point where several members had achieved club coach status, which enabled a new-look junior section to be formed.
During the early part of 1974 the first discussions took place regarding the building of the Clubs’ own hall and on 22nd April the newly appointed Hall Management Committee was given authority by the Club members to proceed with building plans, to which end a separate fund raising committee was formed.
After a great deal of hard work both in fund raising and voluntary labour the initial phase was completed and the Club moved into its own purpose built three court badminton hall erected on leased land in the grounds of Godalming 6th Form College in November 1977. The Club used the hall on four nights a week and hired the premises to tenant clubs (Farncombe BC and Twenty BC) on the remaining nights with Guildford League tournaments taking place over various weekends during the season.
At its zenith in the 1980s the Club boasted an “A” section of 65 members, an intermediate section of 20 members and a junior section of 40 members, 13 teams in the Guildford League and 5 in the Surrey League, playing over 150 matches a season, with the first teams always being amongst the top, if not at the top, of the highest divisions in their respective leagues.
The Club celebrated its 50th anniversary with a reception in the new Hall on 29th September 1984.
The full title of the Club was amended to the Godalming Badminton and Squash Club as part of the plan was to include squash courts when funds permitted but unfortunately this never came to fruition although a second phase saw the provision of ladies and gents changing/shower rooms, the addition of a first floor enclosed gallery with central heating and included a committee room, a lounge area, a small kitchen and a Club bar. The original concrete floor caused a few problems, as apart from being cold and hard on the legs, when there was a sudden change in temperature the condensation that formed made it unplayable. Consequently further investment was made to have a maple wood sprung floor installed. In 1999 disaster struck in the form of a build-up of water alongside one of the outer walls finding its way into the hall and destroying the maple floor. It took several weeks to dry out before preventative measures could be completed and a new floor installed. Fortunately the club was covered by insurance and so lived to fight another day.
Financial responsibility for the hall was vested in a board of Trustees (Nick Budibent, Andrew Sinclair, Stuart Kemp, Stan Marchment and Ian Wattridge) who acted as guarantors, whilst the day-to-day running remained the responsibility of the Hall Management Committee with the Godalming Club, tenant clubs and other hall users, including the College paying rent for use of the courts. Most importantly sufficient income was generated to eventually repay all loans thereby relieving the Trustees of their financial obligation so that by the time the lease expired in 2005 the accounts showed a healthy profit. Over the 30 years of the life of the Hall many members became involved in working parties to improve the playing and social facilities thus providing a venue fit for first class badminton to be brought to the area. There are too many to name individually but two, Tony Holland and Martin Hunt, who spent many hours on maintenance duties, are particularly worthy of mention.
Despite a decline in overall membership since the 1980s, the club has managed to maintain a very high playing standard, particularly amongst its higher echelons, and has continued to attract players of the highest calibre to reach the point where it is one of the premier clubs in the county. The club has reaped rewards in both the Surrey and Guildford Leagues for many seasons and seen great performances by individual members, particularly in the veteran class where success has been achieved at both national and international level.
Following a decision by Godalming College to recover the lease the Club, mainly through the efforts of Nick Crossley (Hall Management Officer) and Peter Laker (Club Chairperson), successfully negotiated with the College for use of their new four court multi-purpose sports hall as from 4th September 2006, which remains our current home. Now primarily a Surrey League club running eight teams, only one of which (a men’s team) remains in the local league, Godalming BC has recently been granted club mark status and, in addition to the main stream group, has a thriving junior section, an improvers section (formed in 2011 from a back-to-badminton group) and a senior section (formed in the early 1990s by a few stalwart members who decided they could no longer compete at the higher level but preferred to form their own group in order to remain part of the Club).
With current match fees being more expensive than the 1935 subscription one wonders what the original members would make of todays’ club with all the changes that have taken place, particularly in racket development, rule changes, inception of the backhand serve, playing tactics and not least, the scoring system. It’s still badminton but probably not as they would remember it!!