A Short History of the Club Origins
Although the Croquet Association was formed in 1897 there were many croquet clubs well before this time. The famous Wimbledon Croquet Club was in existence in 1870 some time before the invention
of lawn tennis.
Lawn tennis developed rapidly in popularity from the start. Its attraction was that it could be played on equal terms by both men and women and it was not long before many large gardens found space for a lawn tennis court.
There is some doubt about the origins of the game of croquet. It was probably introduced, in its modern form, into England from Ireland some time after 1850. It was not so frantic as the outdoor game of battledore and shuttlecock and it could be played by people in formal dress without loss of dignity.
Croquet seemed tame when compared with the new energetic sport of lawn tennis. By 1878 Ladies were quite prepared to hitch up their skirts and energetically swing a racquet.If you had no garden court, you joined a club. If you lived in Budleigh Salterton you could join the Archery and Croquet Club, probably founded before 1868 though certainly in full swing for croquet by 1872, located on the plateau at the top of the hill opposite the cricket ground where, for the sum of 10/- annually you could enjoy both archery and croquet.
Lord Rolle, the influential landowner in East Devon was the Hon. Mark Rolle, eldest son of Lord Clinton, who let two fields of 3 acres to Mr Harwood who in turn let them to the club for the sum of
£4 annually. By 1872 the club rented the fields directly from the Rolle Estate whilst Mr Harwood was given the tenancy of Frogmore Meadow in East Budleigh in exchange. The Hon. Mark Rolle also
presented building materials worth £12 to the club so that by 1870 there was also a pavilion or shelter measuring 20 ft by 5 ft. Croquet in its full form requires a court equal to two tennis courts
so, taken together with the archery ground, full use was made of all 3 acres. Much more land would be required by the time the club reached the heyday of its activities during the 1920s.
The entrance to the club was in Cricket Field Lane opposite the Cricket Club (now the Games Club). By 1878 the first of three tennis courts were established at the club. There was also croquet and a photograph of 1879 shows a group standing beside a croquet court equipped with the standard round-topped hoops of the time. In April 1884 the club already had a groundsman, Matthew Davey, who for 2/6 for each working day became “caretaker of the grounds”. General J E Goodwyn, the club treasurer, engaged him to serve the “Budleigh Salterton Archery, Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club”, as it was then known.
The first reference to a tennis tournament occurs in a letter dated 8th September 1884 from the Rolle Estate Agent to Dr. Brushfield about subscriptions to the tournament. to say that the prizes had been carried off by visitors “....which was a very good advertisement for the place....”. Mr Lipscomb was both the Rolle Estate Agent and a member of the club.
General Goodwyn C.B. was the first recorded Chairman (President) of the club in 1885 and he had a committee of 8 men and 9 ladies. The accounts of the year showed income of £43 and a surplus of £9 that was earmarked for a new mower. The income included £1-10-0 for winter grazing which was the way the courts were cut in winter. In 1887 bowls was added as an additional sport.
The record for 1888 shows that smoking was not allowed in or near the pavilion. No children under 14 could become members and, indeed, were not allowed in the grounds at all unless accompanied by an adult. Dogs were not allowed in the grounds on pain of a 1/- fine for the first offence and 2/- thereafter. There was an archery secretary and Mondays were the important days since only scores achieved and recorded on a Monday qualified for archery prizes. Tennis players provided their own “bats” and balls, croquet players their own mallets but bowlers enjoyed the use of club bowls. There were about 100 members in 1888.The Railway comes to Budleigh Salterton
In those days there were no houses north of Upper West Terrace and the railway had not been built though it was in the process of planning. Cricket Field Lane continued through to Greenway Lane. There was no Station Road or Upper Stoneborough Lane.
At the AGM in 1889 it was proposed to plan a new “£100 pavilion”, presumably a standard article, which would cost £50 to erect and members set about raising the funds. There were two plays put on in the town's Public Rooms by club members one entitled “Alone” and another “Area Belle” which raised £10 towards the target. In 1890 the pavilion was finally built at a cost of £66-8-0 though materials were once again donated by the ever generous Rolle Estate. This building is the present “Lower Pavilion” but without verandah or the tournament office. The bowls room was then the new “Tool Shed”.
Home rule was the political topic of the time when, in 1893, the club's main activity was the new and rapidly growing sport of lawn tennis. It had acquired a new pavilion and it had a new groundsman, Staddon, who was paid the sum of 18/- per week. As a concession he was allowed to use the horse, cart and horse-mower to cut and roll the cricket field provided he completed this before breakfast. By now the club had changed to be the “Budleigh Salterton, Archery, Bowls, Croquet & Lawn Tennis Club”. The club decided to affiliate to the Lawn Tennis Association with the object of arranging home and away tennis matches with neighbouring clubs. During 1897 fixtures were arranged with Victoria Park, Exeter, Exmouth, Dawlish, Seaton and Honiton, Sidmouth and Torquay. Staddon was to get 9/- per week in the winter months when he was not so busy.
The year in which the Croquet Assocation started
In May 1896, there were three full croquet courts and 5 tennis courts. Outdoor badminton had fizzled out and archery had probably ceased. The first open croquet tournament took place and was a great success. It was one of the first open croquet tournaments held anywhere in the country. Appropriately it was won by Mrs T.C.G.Evans who was the player to beat in those days and she received a small broach-like shield to mark the occasion. To coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on June 22 in 1897 the railway came to Budleigh Salterton from Tipton St. John and the population of the town rejoiced greatly. The club held a bicycle gymkhana and raised £16. Stadden looked after the pony that pulled the court mower and cart. His harness cost £3-12-0 and his food for the year cost 16/6. The winner of the open croquet tournament in 1998 was Miss Lily Gower who was an exponent of the four ball break. She described her system in Arthur Lilley's book “Croquet up to Date” published in 1900.
The railway made Budleigh Salterton easy to get to, though the link with Exmouth was still some years away. There were 100 club members. The Madists were defeated finally after the battle of Omdurman in September, the Empire flourished and Budleigh Salterton was the place soldiers and diplomats came to rest and retire. Of course they joined their wives at the fashionable croquet club.
In 1899, as the Boer war started, the club's name became the “Budleigh Salterton Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club”. Gentlemen were requested by the committee not to smoke in the pavilion or when playing tennis with ladies. Dogs were only to be brought into the grounds if chained up. France won the Olympic gold medal for croquet in 1900 - the only occasion when they have been internationally successful despite the French-sounding origin of the name.
Queen Victoria died in January 1901. The club increased in size again. Staddon was admonished in 1903 for slow work. Club croquet was limited to 1½ hours per game when there were many waiting. Open tournaments supported by the Croquet Association were very successful. In 1904 Staddon resigned, having taken his admonition to heart and was replaced by Gosling at 18/- per week. Dogs were now definitely not permitted in the grounds. Subscriptions were 15/- annually. Club members put on two plays, “Browne with an ‘e'” and “Who shall win him?”.The Pony Lawnmower
A new pony arrived at the club in 1904 and Gosling was replaced by Walley who came for 18/- per week. Palmers, the builders, made many useful additions to the changing rooms and lavatories siting the new buildings close to the entrance to the club in Cricket Field Lane. All this work was paid for by the Hon. Mark Rolle. Walley departed and was replaced by Creasey. The Hon. Mark Rolle gave £60 towards the new building work. Tea was served on every day in the summer.
Players wishing to enter the August open tournament in 1907 could do so in the “B” class provided they were not over 7 bisques. There were now 4 full croquet courts mowed by a pony whose food cost £7-15-0 and his lawn boots £1-10-0. In 1907 the Hon. Mark Rolle, the club's President, died, to be replaced by Dr. Brushfield. It was in 1909 that Lord Clinton became President. From this year on there were now two open croquet tournaments annually, one in May and the other in August.
In 1911 the pony still mowed the courts. Creasey went and Hutchins replaced him. Hutchins was not satisfactory and Till came. The committee decided that “in no circumstances shall a dog, of any kind, be allowed in the club grounds”.
In 1912 Till's wages went up to 20/- per week but in March Till was discharged for unsatisfactory service, to be replaced by Lawrence. Golf croquet was introduced for the first time. Croquet games were permitted to last 2 hours if people were waiting and the concept of a “lift” was first introduced. The playing of balls in strict colour sequence was abolished as an optional alternative but not until 1920 was this made universal. Sadly, there was squabbling in the club between the supporters of tennis and those of croquet. Mrs. Larcombe, whose parents lived in the town, won the singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon and was awarded honorary membership of the club as a tribute to this feat. The pony's food cost £14 and repairs to his stable cost £18. A new mower cost £21 and Lawrence and others earned £24 in the year for tending the grounds. Bowls and archery were things of the past.
Lawrence earned 25/-per week in 1914. Another field was added to the club. Hoops 3¾ inch wide became the standard replacing those of 4 inches. Bridge was first mentioned as part of the club's activities. Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated on 28th June and the Great War began.
The Great War
Lawrence joined the army in 1915 and Perry, the under-gardener at Dial House (then called “Rougemont”) arrived. There was no competition croquet played throughout the Great War. Perry's wages were set at 27/- per week. By 1918, one wounded officer, provided he was on the active list, could be introduced to the club to play free, providing this was not during August or up to the 15th September.
After the final German Somme offensive on March 21st the war drew to its close on 11 November 1918. Lawrence returned from the front and resumed his job at a wage of 42/6 per week. Perry was still employed but when he asked for 35/- per week this was refused. West, then 22 years old, who would become the longest serving groundsman in the history of the club, joined the ground staff. Enemy nationals were debarred by the committee from playing. Entry to the club for visitors cost 1/- per day or 4/- for the week. Teas were 6d and children of members between the ages of 12 and 16 could play tennis for 15/- for the season.
On June 19th the German fleet went to its watery grave at Scapa Flow but, in 1919, the club was flourishing, with keen competition for space and facilities between the rival sports of croquet and lawn tennis. Keslake's Field and Palmer's building site were taken over to give space for more tennis courts. In 1920 the either ball law was introduced universally to croquet and shape of the modern game was set. The country's top players came to the tennis tournament which in this year was won by Miss E. Ryan. The Tea sub-committee had the greatest difficulty in explaining to Mrs. Lawrence, wife of the head groundsman, that the teas must be run on more economical lines.
The "Far" Pavilion is built
At last and after much discussion the new pavilion was started, to be financed by the issue of £1500 of debentures. The time was right partly because building materials had become so much cheaper and because Mr Hatchard Smith, the architect, had prepared suitable plans making use of a new entrance at Westfield Close. It was not to be wired for electricity but it would be fitted with gas. The tender of £1085 from Haymans of Exmouth was accepted and the work started in May 1922 and finished in December. A scale of hire charges was prepared. For dances the cost was £2-2-0 up to 11 p.m., £3-3-0 to midnight and £4-4-0 up to 2 a.m. No drinks were to be sold except for cash. A proposal was agreed that the club should provide tables, markers and cards for bridge and table money would be charged. Mrs Longhurst was not successful in her application to be paid to teach tennis at the club, but she was permitted to give lessons, morning or afternoon, at 1/6 per pupil per session. Teas cost 1/6.
The Cricket Club did not return to their ground on the other side of Cricket Field Lane after the war. The sport then changed and in 1923 a cup was presented by the club to the new “Games Club” for their July bowls tournament. There were now normally 5 croquet courts, 17 grass and 2 hard tennis courts. The playing membership had grown to 170 and the income from the nationally recognised and LTA approved tennis tournament had reached £700 annually. Many properties surrounding the club had their own entrances by arrangement though it was felt that some of these were being mis-used in that servants were using them, but it was decided not to interpret the agreements too literally.
Lawn Tennis in the 1920s
By the summer of 1924, the club had reached much the size it is today. Miss Ryan had won the club singles event for each year since 1920 - hardly surprising since she was well into her reign as a Wimbledon doubles winner. The annual croquet tournament was the 25th of the sequence.The first motor mower, an Atco 30, was purchased and the horse mower and cart were sold with the horse. Miss Tucker was permitted to use the club house for dancing lessons providing she did not teach singing or piano practice and there were eight dances held during the year. Summertime was introduced as a permanent feature in 1924.
In 1925 that bar profits were only £19 was thought most unsatisfactory. No drinks were in future to be sold over the flap to the bar door and no member was to be allowed in the bar. The groundsman himself, complete with bowler hat, would dispense the drinks. In 1926, the year of the General Strike, there was no interruption to the programme of tournaments and the tennis tournament attracted the highest entry ever. In 10 events in that year over 740 matches were played! Two householders with private entries to the club refused to pay the 1/- fee and the secretary was instructed to have the gates screwed up. By the end of the year the bar profits had recovered to £48 and the groundsman was paid a bounty for this performance, of £20.
By 1928 women had the vote. The club became extremely busy. During the August croquet tournament more than 180 games were played and very few of these were time limited. The singles winner was C F Colman who performed many triple peels. Bridge had become a recognised club activity and new card rooms were constructed because of this. Ramsey MacDonald formed his second government. In 1929 the extremely successful tennis tournament was marred by unruly ball boys. There was much unnecessary shouting. This resulted in their rapid replacement by better-behaved ball girls at considerably lower pay.
Bowls Starts Again
The bowls section started again in 1931. Lawrence was paid £4 per week and had help from West and James. Members employed the men in their own gardens when work was short. Mrs Larcombe brought many of the top Wimbledon players to the club for tournaments. There was now a telephone on the verandah for outgoing calls only and an automatic whisky measure in the bridge room for the exclusive use of members who helped themselves, putting the money in the box provided. There was difficulty in collecting all the subscriptions. The secretary sent out 110 reminders in June. One frequent visitor who used the club for years and drank in the bar in the lower pavilion, was not a paid-up member and had to persuade friends to take his money for drinks. As a result of this under-hand behaviour when eventually proposed for membership he was blackballed!
Mrs Retallack won the West of England croquet championship in May. It was described as a “top-boot and overall tournament” because 1½ inches of rain fell on one day. For club croquet competitions the committee decided that any member dropping out of an American tournament would be fined 5/-.
Teas were served daily. One member would only drink China tea and another insisted on being served his tea by his chauffeur!
Dolfuss was murdered by the Nazis in 1934 and Hitler came to power in Germany but there was no foreboding in Budleigh Salterton. The open croquet tournament programme referred to the rebuilding of the Rolle Hotel in the town. By the time Chamberlain became prime minister in 1937 the bridge section had grown in importance. The problems of high stakes had been resolved but there were still certain problems. Two gentlemen reported that ladies were refusing to play with them because of their “unknown” bidding practices. Such was the umbrage taken that letters sent to the committee alleged “ostracism” and the matter was referred to the Portland Club for resolution. The committee pointed out that “the Bridge Room is provided solely to provide accommodation where members and visitors shall be able to play Bridge, undisturbed, and is not, and never has been, regarded as a Bridge Club as such”. Unfortunately similar troubles were to recur. Miss McDonald, a lady who had a very wild sort of look and of whom ladies in the bridge room were very frightened, smacked a male member's face. She was not allowed in the room again and, it was decided, if she persisted in returning, the police should be called.
The Second World War Begins
Poland was invaded by Germany and on 3rd September 1939 the war began. Unsurprisingly it had a disrupting influence upon the club. Wheadon, a groundsman, was called up as was Capt. Parsons, the club hon. secretary. The club was blacked out and heating was cut. The club's facilities were offered free to all serving officers. Refugees from London were asked to pay a £2-2-0 entrance fee. The club was offered a Tote machine and 50% of the takings. This the committee refused point-blank. Lawrence was retired after 30 years of service and Carnell taken on at £2-15-0 per week. Charlesworth was also engaged. The military took over part of the club grounds and changing rooms. In 1945 three enemy planes flew up and down the High Street dropping 5 bombs. Not much damage was done as the shops were closed for lunch but Marker's cafe, the Railway goods yard and Palmer's furniture store received direct hits. The club house was also damaged.
War ended in Europe on 8th May and staff were given a bonus, of £1 each for men and 10/- each for women, to celebrate. The domination of Budleigh Salterton by leisured, wealthy and privileged gentlefolk was coming to an end. Nevertheless the club under Capt. Parsons set about recovering from hard times with a will. The military handed back the club ground and a fourth groundsman was taken on at a wage of £3-5-0 weekly. Croquet competition started in earnest and the tennis tournament, now part of the LTA approved circuit, flourished anew.
In 1946 the agricultural minimum wage was £4. Charlesworth was raised to £4-15-0 and Hunt and Dymond to the minimum. Otter received £3-15-0. The men were all very satisfied with these wages. Otter was getting very old. The subscription to the Board of Greenkeeping Research was discontinued after very many years which was later thought to be a great shame because the club owed the excellent state of its turf to their advice and help. There were disastrous floods throughout the country.
By 1950 points rationing finished (after 8 years). Charlesworth was paid £5-0-0 weekly. Croquet tournaments were once again well attended. The annual subscription for a croquet playing member was £4-4-0. There was trouble in the bridge room once again which was to last for many years. Chess became a favoured club activity. A football pools scheme was started and a fruit machine was introduced in the new bar area established in the tea room.
By 1953 the club was contemplating the future of its rapidly deteriorating Nissen hut. At Mrs Jones-Bateman's suggestion the locker room was partitioned off to make an additional tournament office and to save hiring a tent for the referee! Mrs Rowlandson continued to organise the Haig day for bridge and Miss Sutton was appointed Canasta hostess. It was Coronation Year but, though it had acquired a new flagpole, the club would not join in the town procession. Amongst those joining the club were H.O Hicks and Col. & Mrs Tippett. Charlesworth went in 1954 after 14 years service with a meagre testimonial of £8, there being a marked reluctance (the members collected less than £5 in total) to contribute.
Then Ladies' bowls started. With great enthusiasm it was decided that cerise would be adopted as the distinguishing colour. It was also decided, quite seriously, that cerise shorts were not to be permitted. By November ladies bowls had finished because so very few games had been played.
The Fifth Test v. New Zealand
West received £8-10-0 and Hunt £6-10-0 per week in 1956. The stewardesses had 2/6 per hour. On September 18th 19th and 20th, the fifth Great Britain versus New Zealand croquet test match was played on the club grounds and members Major Freddie Stone and Mrs E Rotherham were included in the team. The result was 7-2 to Great Britain. There was trouble once again in the bridge room. The 3d. Players could not readily get a game on cut-in days. The chairman pointed out that whether the stake was fixed at 3d. or 6d. there would be grave disappointment. It was better to leave things alone. The motion to reduce the stake was heavily defeated but Mrs. Cane, one of the proposers of the motion, started causing trouble in other ways and her expulsion was seriously considered.
Mrs Cane is the subject of an anecdote related by Mrs Jones-Bateman. Mrs Cane, the wife of Lt. Col. Cane, and Mrs Stone, the wife of Major Stone were together preparing lunch. Mrs Stone was in charge of the main course in the kitchen when Mrs Cane arrived by car with a load of sweets she had prepared at home. “Please help me unload” she said to Mrs Stone who promptly said she was too busy. Mrs Jones-Bateman asked what had happened to be told “She really should help me when I ask, you know, because my husband is a Colonel and hers is only a Major”.
In July, Lord Clinton, president of the club for 46 years, died. Mrs Lanning resigned after many disagreements with Mrs French. Attendances at the croquet open tournaments were on the increase. Humphrey Hicks repeated his wins of previous years. The tennis tournament, LTA approved, continued to be well attended. The croquet tea and prize-giving was held for the first time.
Six Full Croquet Courts
By 1960 all of the club's six croquet courts were fully engaged and the croquet membership was flourishing. A seventh court was prepared and opened. Mrs Rotherham won the Open Championship and Miss E J Warwick was the ladies' champion. Such was the success of the tennis that Mr W K H Coxe reported the need for all the club's grounds and buildings to be in use with further courts borrowed from the Games Club.
West, now well into his reign as head groundsman, a job he took most seriously, had a raise of £1 per week in 1962 mainly for his bar services and made a visit to Wimbledon to get experience. Once more the success of croquet playing members in national championships was outstanding and the game was commanding more of the club's resources. Gerard Fane Trefusis, Lord Clinton, in 1964 was the president and had been since 1958, so continuing an unbroken family tradition since 1909. The Devon County championships for lawn tennis continued to be played at Whitsun and the annual LTA tournament was attracting some of the best players on the emerging circuit.
This year the men's winner was Jaroslav Drobny. who followed on from Tony Pickard in 1961. Eventual Wimbledon champion Angela Mortimer was the ladies winner in 1951 and 1957. Mike Sangster won in 1957 and 1958 and Mark Cox in 1963 and 1964. Dorothy Round in 1932 and Miss Ryan, from 1920, to 1924 were other Wimbledon winners or runners-up. Club champions who were winners of national honours in croquet were Humphrey Hicks, Freddie Stone, Mrs E Rotherham and Miss J G Warwick.
Looking back it is easy to see how the fortune of the club has mirrored the national scene both in croquet and tennis. The two sports were very much in contention in 1878 with tennis the newcomer and croquet the established sport. Then lawn tennis took over as the active sport of many during the twenties and thirties. The second war brought economic reality to the established social order and tennis flourished as the summer game of choice. Croquet has enjoyed a revival from about 1950.
Though croquet has never had to face the full effect of commercial and economic pressures, unlike other national sports, it has had its influx of younger athletic competitors and competition is now extremely fierce. In 1964 there were 160 playing club members out of a total membership of 279; ten croquet courts were in use and there was a full social programme in the club house. Bridge had resolved many of the difficulties of recent years and bowls was again popular. In October the national minimum wage for agricultural workers went up by 12/-weekly and the staff were entitled to 3 more days of holiday.
In 1965 help was given to the Cranford club to get croquet restarted there after many years of absence. Dogs were now only to be taken straight through the grounds but always on a leash. Lt. Col. Cave commenced his long period as croquet and tournament secretary. The bowls section, after some thought, lent the bowling green to be used as the eleventh court during the May tournament. Sponsorship started for tennis when W D & H O Wills donated £100 in gifts for the men's singles prize.
West was 67 and Hunt was 63 in 1965. West was married in September and there was a collection for his wedding present. Stewardesses received an increase of 3d. bringing them to 3/9 per hour. Club membership was 364. Tournament players in play were only allowed 15 minutes for tea and had to be given special passes by the manager because of complaints of queue-jumping. The Withane plate, presented in 1963 by W K H Coxe and Mrs Browne (both their names ended with an ‘e') for “best sportsmanship and pleasing conduct” was instead awarded to the best unseeded player in the open singles. There had been trouble at the Rosemullion hotel in 1964 so the dance was instead held in the club house.
Lawn Tennis Ends
In 1967 the problems of the LTA tournament week came to the fore. The club was not really a tennis club and it was felt that tennis should not be allowed to take too many resources. However, under pressure from the LTA, it was agreed to continue at the same level at least for a while. There were bitter complaints from the tournament visitors that the state of the courts had been neglected. West's pay was £14-17-0 weekly and Hunt received £11-15-0. In this year the railway from Sidmouth Junction into Sidmouth and from Tipton St. John through Budleigh Salterton into Exmouth was closed down. Full Sunday play was finally agreed. Because the beginnings were shrouded in the mists of time there was no centenary celebration at the club.
Hunt retired in 1969 leaving West and Thomas who received £13-8-0 weekly. The club discussed the purchase of the freehold of its grounds from the Clinton Devon Estates for£10,000 and eventually bought it for £13,000 having first disposed of sufficient building land to cover the cost.
West retired in September 1970 aged 73 and Strawbridge joined. The men now worked 44 hours per week and they requested alternative Saturdays off. It was reluctantly decided that instead of the tennis tournament serving playing members it was the club that served the purpose of the LTA. This situation could not continue and it was not long before the club reverted to croquet.
In recent times the club croquet championship has been dominated by several naturally gifted players. Bill Perry, club champion for many years achieved the status of minus 2 in record time. Since 1980 John Toye (mentored by the celebrated H.O.Hicks) has been the club champion, with interventions by Brian Redford, Cliff Jones and twice by Pete Trimmer. In a nice touch in 1998, John Toye, the winner of the August Tournament, received a trophy modelled accurately upon the one given to Mrs Evans over 100 years previously. Other notable personalities who still serve the club and who have contributed as much as any past officer are the Goodhart sisters, first Joyce and then Mary who is still tournament secretary and croquet chairman. David Purdon has moved from being a long-serving secretary to be club chairman for the Millennium year. George Vickers has been a most effective chairman and hon. treasurer. Hollid Coxe, former chairman, still serves the club in the capacity of trustee as does Christine Bagnall. Myrtle Stevens is the grande dame of the club having been a member since 1956. The late Ray Stevens served the club for 17 years as tournament secretary. One of the most effective records of club service is that of Chris Root, groundsman since 1984, who has tended the ten croquet courts and bowling green so assiduously that nobody can remember courts in better condition. Chris embellishes with credit the line of distinguished “caretakers of the grounds” who have so faithfully preserved the courts.
In the year 2000 modern croquet is becoming a demanding sport with serious pretensions to international competition. The MacRobertson Shield matches between Australia New Zealand and Great Britain continue but now with the addition of the United States where Association croquet is competing strongly with the traditional 9 wicket game. The Sonama tournament in California is an example and there are now many comparable international events. Soon there will be other nations competing for the “Macrob” trophy. It is certainly worth mentioning that croquet is one of those few international sports in which Great Britain is the acknowledged champion nation.
With its 10 full size courts plus bowling green (used as a show eleventh croquet court in the past) Budleigh Salterton is one of the oldest and finest croquet terrains not only in the United Kingdom but in the entire croquet world. Some Australian clubs exist with 100 members competing for space on a single court! At home there are only four major clubs having the same facilities. Hurlingham houses the game's headquarters. Cheltenham, Southwick and Bowden enjoy prominence. Though smaller, Parkstone, Wrest Park and Colchester have been the home club for many fine players. There are now several hundred smaller clubs beside these and croquet is flourishing as never before. Since the 1980s Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club has played host to an average of five tournaments annually. Apart from its two week-long official CA open tournaments in May and August there are at least three and sometimes four or five restricted or senior events lasting up to three days. In almost every year there are selection events for national honours. There have been both internationals and test matches at Budleigh Salterton.
The club and the town are delightfully synonymous with croquet and the leisured days of 75 years ago but this is now combined with the confidence to meet any challenge that the future has to offer. It is probable that the glory days of the twenties will be repeated because the ambience and facilities and the friendliness of its members make the Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club a rare commodity indeed.
This concise account of the history of the club was condensed from the detailed work of Dr. Ralph Bucknall, who was a member and officer of the club for thirty one years until his death in 1999. He came to live in Budleigh Salterton in March 1968 and immediately joined the club. He compiled his history mainly from the General Committee minute books with assistance from the work of Capt. Parsons, who summarised the committee decisions from 1885 to 1939. Since 1970 the task of recording the detailed history of the club has passed to Diana Perry. Additional sources used are contemporaneous press reports from local and national journals.
copyright 2000 Roger Bowen