Hungerford Club is a thriving members' club based in The Croft.
Originally it the Church House Library and Club, and was based in the newly built Church House in The Croft (now Croft Hall). Church House Club and Library was first mooted by the Vicar, Rev HA Sealy, MA. He intended it should "benefit mainly the young men of the town: without distinction of social status, but with special reference to those engaged in business or trade. The age limits will be somewhere between 18 and 40; the subscription probably about 5s a year. It is hoped to provide literature, books, magazine, papers, games; and, if possible, a Billiard Table.
A Committee was formed, including George Platt, H D'O W Astley, EB Myddleton, J Matthews, Dr Major and Dr Dickson.
The Club was formed in December 1901, initially with a "good and useful Library". "The aim in view is to provide, especially for the young men of the Town, a place where they can spend some part of their evenings in harmless amusement and healthy surroundings. No fewer than 70 applications for membership have been received." The Committee had reconsidered the membership subscription, and had decided to allow a quarterly payment of 1s 6d. The library and reading room went on to be very popular.
- The Church House Billiards Room, c1925
- Ticket for Snooker Exhibnition evening by the late and great Joe Davis, 7 May 1954 (signed on the reverse)
Hungerford Club, cont'd:
The original billiard table was given by Sir WG Pearce in March 1902. A second table was purchased in November 1909. The handsome 6-light pendant was donated at the same time by The Honourable John Ward, of Chilton Lodge.
In April 1913 a new billiard table was installed - a ninety guinea match table by Messrs Wright of London. The other "very good" table was by Messrs Riley.
In addition to the club room, library, Reading Room, and billiards, the generous endowment in Sir William Pearce's will allowed the establishment of an active Sunday School, and later a Sports Section.
By 1921 The Club has acquired land nearby (on the north side of The Croft), and set up a Bowling Green, Croquet Lawn and Tennis Courts. See Hungerford Club Sports Section.
There was a move to put a bar on the premises, but it is said that the Hungerford vicar of the day would not permit this so the present clubhouse on the south side of the Croft was bought from a Mr & Mrs Hermitage for the reported sum of £400 in 1929. It is believed that eight trustees of the day each contributed £50 to buy the property, and there was considerable opposition from Croft residents when a Billiards room was later added.
Astra & Jim West kindly contacted the Virtual Museum to say that she thinks her grandfather Walter Herbert Champ (and his wife May Elizabeth) was the first steward of the Club. He died in 1949, and May had to leave the Club. [See more on the Champ family at 100 High Street].
The Hungerford Club upheld all the traditions of 'a gentleman's club' and it was not until the 1960's that the controversial proposition was put to allow women to become associate members. Rumour has it that the proposition drew one of the largest audiences to any meeting held at the Club, and after heated debates the motion was passed by the narrowest of margins. Since then ladies have become full members.
The first major development of the Club occurred in 1974 when the ground floor of the Club was redesigned to provide a new bar in the traditional 'Old English' style.
In 1978 the second stage took place when the lounge was extended and a new committee and function room was created.
The indoor Sports facilities include 2 full size Snooker Tables always praised by visiting professionals which have included World Champions Terry Griffiths, Ray Reardon, John Spencer, and Dennis Taylor.
In recent years the Club has spent many tens of thousands of pounds improving its facilities, its new Cellar conducive to the Club gaining the coveted CAMRA Southern Region Club of the Year award and being runner up nationally, much due to the excellence of the Club Bar Manager, Mr Ken Nisbett. The Club is committed to serve its members and the suppport from them is exceptional but complacency, that most modem of diseases must not be allowed to rear its ugly head. With 500 members it is a large community within a community and there is room for any such minded people to join either as a social member or the Bowls or Tennis Sections. A warm welcome awaits you! The present Officers of the Club are: President - Mr H.Vellender, Chairman - Mr R.Stroud.
(Much of the text above is based on "The Hungerford Club into the New Millenium", by Henry Vellender and Vic Lardner, 2000).
In Jul 1982 the Club had grown to 580 members. See "Club grows from small beginnings to membership of 580", NWN 22 Jul 1982.
In April 2018 the Hungerford Club was again awarded West Berkshire CAMRA Club of the Year award.
- Parish Magazine, esp Sep 1901; Oct 1901; Dec 1901, Apr 1913