Situated off the end of Reigate High Street, the croquet club is hidden away in a peaceful location next to the cricket lawn, where it has been since it was founded in 1923.
It is very much a members’ Club, with a nice, friendly atmosphere. Almost everyone takes some active part in the running of the Club, from my hard-working Committee to those who water the lawns, help with teas, and generally do the million and one jobs to keep the club looking tidy and cared for.
For a small club, we have a well-supported range of activities. As well as the many competitions that we run throughout the season, we have numerous social events that are always well attended. These even extend to the winter months, to keep members in touch during the closed season.
On the playing side, we try to cater for players of all abilities, with special attention being given to beginners. The Club plays both Association and Golf Croquet with equal enthusiasm and in 2002 we organised a Jubilee event which attracted 30 Golf Croquet teams from all the local organisations and businesses.
It is very pleasing to see players improve steadily season by season as a result of this (except when they play me!). Our Club sides have also been very successful recently in the South East Federation leagues, winning the U-league in both 2001 and 2002 and the B-league in 2004 and 2006. In 2001 & 2003 the Club won the SECF Interclub Doubles Championship beating 17 other clubs. In 2004 we won the Southwick invitation event for the first time and in 2007 again won, this time with a record score of 14 wins out of 18 games. In 2008 we won the SECF Golf Handicap League for the first time. In 2010 we again won the SECF U-league and represented the South East in the national Secretary’s Shield.
But, we must look into the future. We are aware that people, of all ages, are finding themselves with more leisure time at their disposal.
The club was formed at a meeting held in the Reigate Priory Cricket Ground, presumably in the old cricket pavilion (now the Football Club) where most of the early meetings were held, on Tuesday 6th. March 1923, at the instigation of Mrs. John Walters. At that meeting the Cricket Club agreed to the use of the old bowling green for croquet, subject to two principal conditions:
- That the croquet club comprise a minimum of 25 members.
- That the Annual Subscription be 21/- payable to the Cricket Club.
The original name of the Club is not mentioned in the minutes of the inaugural meeting, and only the survival of the printed list of members for 1928, the year in which the name was changed to Reigate Priory Croquet Club, shows that it was first called “The Priory Ground Croquet Club”.
We know from the minutes of early meetings and from members lists that nearly all the earlier members were ladies. Only 2 or 3 men appear in the early membership.
The war time years tested the club in many ways and the minutes for 1942 reported that the Annual Tournaments were cancelled “owing to the reduced number of members in wartime”. Members playing in the fortnightly tournaments were asked to bring their own refreshments, due to rationing. Also the lawn had been reduced in size by “military activities” – probably a “concrete defence” which formed one of a chain across Reigate.
In 1953 the membership had fallen to an all time low of eight! However in 1954 Miss DA Lintern (Ladies’ Champion, All England 1954) & Mrs GA Turketine, well known players at the time, played an exhibition match at the Club on 1st September.
By 1957 the membership had strengthened to eighteen. Mr Buckley was Secretary, Dr Creed was a member, Col. Fuller MBE gave a set of balls, and Miss Frances Payne presented a cup for “Juniors” (10 bisques or more). Mr Gandy was thanked for his “persistent but laborious effort to remove the daisies!
In 1969 Bunny Vulliamy joined the Club. Within a year he was Secretary, and within two he assumed the new post of Chairman. When he joined the club, it was moribund, but his benign influence, irrepressible zeal and infectious enthusiasm caused the Club to grow and prosper. Tentative inquiries were robustly followed up: hesitant beginners were warmly encouraged, improving players were carefully coached. Over the next twenty years Bunny did much to ensure the survival of the Club.
Our current elder statesmen are John & Freda Knight (joined in 1972). John & Freda and more recently John & Doreen Taylor (1986) have all made major contributions to the Club. Long may the Club continue!