Historical places, airship, Bedfordshire local history, airships, national heritage sites, historic preservation, attractions in the UK, heritage sites in the UK, historical monuments, historical landmarks, tourist attractions in the UK, places in UK to visit, tourist in England, historical tourism, R101 and R100 airships.

Shortstown Heritage

RAW Sports& Social Club1925-1931

Fortunately for us the RAW Sports & Social Club minutes have survived from the years 1925 onwards and are now lodged with the Bedford & Luton Archive Service - even more fortunate there is also a small number of early annual financial statements amongst these records which reveal some surprising facts. Although the minutes are often repetetive and formal in nature as was required for a club if one perseveres they throw up a wealth of information and in many ways the clubs fluctuating fortunes reflect the fortunes of the village and the country as a whole. Indeed there are times when I was reading these minutes especially those relating to the Second World War that I felt close to tears with some of the very poignant but very matter of fact entries made.

The Airship Years 1925 - 1930
 
The Royal Airship Works Sports & Social Club was without doubt a major contributor to village life in Shortstown. Official records begin in October 1925 but there is evidence that the club existed well before this however in this year it appears to have been relaunched on a more professional footing. The narrative in the clubs financial statement in March 1926 refers to the old club breaking even by a few shillings per week and contrasts this with the healthier financial position the club now finds itself in with the introduction of a bar. At this time membership numbers were reported to be 200 of which 30 were women and it was hoped that numbers would increase by encouraging friends of members to join and thereby increase profits. There are hopes to extend the premises to reflect the rise in membership and prosperity and the club now has its own Steward.

In the years immediately following the club continued to grow on all levels now having separate finance, entertainment, and membership committees. The array of sports was surprisingly varied but typical of the time boasting of tennis, hockey, bowls, rugby, football, golf and cricket. In the finance statements of 1927 each of these sports had its own separate ledger and throw up some interesting snippets – for instance the tennis section lists costs of almost £12 for the ‘fencing in of courts’ and itemises amounts for a grounds man and the hire of a lawnmower . The Golf ledger refers to costs of £6 for ‘cutting fairway’, the Bowls section lists an amount of £2.1s 9d spent on preparation of the green, and other ledgers list costs for ‘preparation ‘ of practice and playing pitches for Cricket and £1.13s 10d spent on cutting the grass for the Hockey pitch. What is not known however is the exact location of these various sites within the village but an early map indicates that the football pitch was behind Central Avenue. The football team went on to play in various leagues in the area as reported in the local press during this time.

Of course the club not only supported outdoor sports, there were numerous indoor games – billiards, darts, skittles, and chess for the male members with an engraved cup donated to the club by DAD Colmore and Major Scott for a billiards competition. The social committee also organised other events – the 1927 finance review refers to band concerts in Shortstown, an outing to Hampton Court, a Childrens Sports Day and visits from other clubs in the district for games. The minutes of these early years frequently refer to bookings of the social hall for whist drives, ‘smoking concerts’, Mothers Union meetings , and childrens choir practices, and also as a meeting place for the local Conservative Association (womens section). The club also served as the local library offering a variety of books and newspapers and in 1929 there is also mention of a club jazz band.

RAW Xmas book

An early RAW Christmas card

Childrens sports day prog

 (Thanks to Bedford & Luton Archives who now hold these documents)

For the adult members there were annual organised trips - a trip was made to the Air Pageant at Hendon in 1929 and the Derby Day Races in 1930 (Strictly men only!) and members were given tickets for two free drinks at the bar for Christmas. The Club was certainly active and thriving during these airship years and the formal footnote to the annual finance statement at December 1930 appears strangely understated.
 
‘The membership at 31-12-1930 was 175 and the list bears witness of the Clubs loss of an honoured Vice-President and 17 loyal members in the tragic disaster to R101’

And so the club moved on into a different age.

Source Beds & Luton Archive Services Ref: 2746/2/1-8 2746/1/11-18

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