OA Club history There have been, of course, Old Albanians since 948. To-day we often hear of distinguished old boys serving in responsible posts in government, the services, the professions and in industry and commerce But it is interesting to reflect that Old Albanians probably fought at Hastings, Agincourt and Bannockburn, sailed into battle against the Armada, served under Nelson at Trafalgar, and helped pioneer America, Africa and Asia. We know that an Old Albanian was the only Englishman to become Pope. This was Nicholas Breakspear who, from 1154 to 1159 was Pope Adrian IV and after whom one of the school houses was named. We know also that an Old Albanian – J Hampson - represented Great Britain in the 800 metres at the Olympic games. An inspection of the war memorial at the entrance to the school will reveal the names of those who died in the two great wars of the 20th century; what it does not reveal are the names of those other Old Albanians who served and won distinction in those wars and by whose efforts we enjoy our lives today and the school remains intact after over 1,000 years of history. Readers interested in the school are recommended to read “A short history of St Albans School” by Frank Kilvington (headmaster 1964-1984). The OA club, however, was not formally organised until the 19th century. There was no secretary demanding a golden guinea subscription in 1300; no dinner secretary banging his gavel at the 500th anniversary dinner in 1448! The OA Club, as we know it started in 1892 when a few Old Albanians got together to form a dinner club. The first president was Charles Woollam - one of the school’s great benefactors and after whom a house was named. He and his family had been running a thriving silk business in St Albans since the 1790s. In 1987 he gave the school a licence to use the Belmont ground and, in 1890, gave it to the school. He died in 1915. From these small beginnings has grown an organisation with over 3000 members and flourishing sections for rugby, cricket, golf, angling and rifle and pistol shooting. The first extant minutes of the St Albans Grammar School Old Boys Club are dated May 10th 1892. The meeting determined that there would be a dinner on June 28th; ticket price 6/- [30 p] excluding wine. There would also be a cricket match against the school on the same day. Charles Woollam confirms the minutes. There is no record of the early rules of the club, but, at the annual general meeting on June 28th 1892, it was agreed to change rule 8 to read “.... any old boy shall, upon payment of 5/- [25p] .... become . . . a life member without being liable for any further subscription”. The next committee meeting did not take place until June 1893 when it was agreed to make a leaving presentation “to the boy who, in the opinion of the
headmaster, by his conduct both in and out of school most merits it”. A leaving presentation by the club continues to this day. A H Debenham, another OA after whom a house was named, who died in 1909, signed the minutes. He had been clerk to the governors for 10 years, a founder member and twice president of the OA Club, and a generous donor to all school causes. His brother, E P Debenham had been town clerk and clerk to the governors. The minutes of 20th March 1902 record the collection of £282.7.6 as a leaving present for Rev F Willcox, who had been the headmaster for 22 years. The presentation of an inkstand [£12] together with a purse containing 250 sovereigns was recorded in the St Albans Times of March 29th 1902, which named the school “Edward VI Grammar School, St Albans”. The old boys versus school cricket match of 1907, played on the school ground, comprised two innings each. The old boy’s scores of 144 and 116 against the school’s scores of 58 and 116 meant a win by 86 runs. By 1911 the cricket match was a single innings won by the old boys 79 runs against 74. In 1909, club colours “a crimson ground with black stripes intercepted by a narrow stripe of gold” were formally registered [with whom is not stated]. By now the subscription had risen to 5/- per annum. The president, Rev J M McKenzie was elected mayor of St Albans succeeding another ex president, Dr Liscomb. In 1910, the dinner, which had previously been held in the Peahen, was held in the new school hall. In the 1911 minutes is the first mention of an old boy’s dance although it is not clear whether it took place. The club made a contribution to enable the school to shoot at Bisley and, in 1912, funded a school shooting prize. The proposal, put to the AGM in 1912, that the name of the club be changed from old boys club to Old Albanian club was rejected by 4 votes. It was not until 1919 that a similar proposal was adopted. In 1914, the club donated a memorial tablet to the school listing the former pupils who had lost their lives in the S African war [Boer war]. There was argument between the club, the headmaster and the governors on the exact wording resulting in the tablet not being erected in the school hall until 1915. The AGM of July 1915 determined that activities of the club were to be stopped until peace was declared. At that time 216 old boys had joined the services of whom 10 had been killed and 11 wounded. The final death toll as recorded on the war memorial was 87.
In 1919 the club proposed that: there should be a war memorial; that scholarships be established for the sons of those killed; and that a swimming bath be constructed. Detailed proposals were apparently not received until the 1923 AGM and it was not until 1924 that the club submitted a proposed design for the war memorial to the governors. On Sunday, 5th April 1925 a memorial service was held in front of the war memorial. The headmaster reported that he had considerable surplus memorial funds, which would go to the proposed swimming baths. Also in 1919 a football club was opened; the dinner was moved to London at the end of the university term. The 1921 AGM mentioned the idea of acquiring permanent quarters for the OA club. It also included a proposal that the name of the school be changed to St Albans school. A committee was formed to report back. This committee had not completed its report by the next AGM when the headmaster explained the government’s proposals to band schools into 3 grades and that he hoped that the school would be in the second grade, the first grade being limited to the major public schools. The 1922 Albanian reviews two books by an OA President, Captain F A M Webster – ‘The Black shadow’ and ‘The curse of the lion’ [price 2/6!]. These are both novels about Africa. In 1923, he went on a lecture tour in the UK entitled ‘in search of Olympic talent’. On 21st May in that year he threw the javelin 139’ 7 ½” and the discus 106’ 7 ½ “-- both Midland records. In 1933 he published two further books ‘Holding their own’ and ‘Gold & Glory’. Three years later, he became the editor of the monthly magazine ‘The Athlete’. The 1924 AGM has the first reference to the old albanian rugby club. The football club had a small surplus of funds, which, it was agreed, should be donated to the rugby club. 60 guests attended the dinner, held on 5th December. The main speech, given by the president Brig General R J Kentish CMG DSO spoke of the need to try in both games and athletics. The 1925 accounts show a total expenditure of £76.2.1. The subscription was 5/- per annum or £1.1.0 for 5 years. The war memorial was unveiled. In his address, Rev G H Woolley, VC MC, said “ . . keep it holy. Some would have us forget it [the war] . . . remember the sufferings, the terror, the losses and weariness of body and mind, the things that cause wars and unnecessary suffering . . .”. Over 50 people attended the 1926 AGM, held in the school hall. Ninety people attended the dinner held in the hotel Russell on 3rd December, including the Rev Faning who had been a master ‘in the 80s’. The 1927 AGM records the formation of an OA shooting club. The OA sports association limited [registered under the Industrial & Provident Societies Act, 1893] was formed with the object of “acquiring, developing, maintaining, and
letting lands and buildings for the use of sports clubs . . . ”. The club purchased £25 of the penny shares of the sports association. It purchased the ‘land at Harpenden Road’ [Beech Bottom]. The purchase price of the 17 ½ acre site was £2500 of which £2000 had been borrowed from the RFU at 2 ½% interest. The minutes of the 1928 AGM record the purchase and that the rugby club would play there in the forthcoming season. The headmaster presented plans for the proposed swimming baths. Life membership of the club, including the Albanian was £5. The OA Lodge was formed in 1928. The cricket club was proposed at the 1929 AGM. It must have been formed because in the following year a £10 loan was made by the OA club to the cricket club to purchase kit. The annual cricket matches against the school had, hitherto, been from scratch OA sides. There is recorded a special meeting in July 1929 to petition the governors to change the name of the school. It does not say what was the proposed new name; presumably it was to drop the word ‘grammar’. It was resolved to canvass the views of all old boys of the school. No further action is recorded in the minutes. In 1930 it was proposed to form a golfing society. The committee planned to place two crests in the ‘public club’ [? public school club] together with some pictures of the school. At the 1930 AGM, A E Faulkner was thanked for his work for the club and congratulated on his knighthood. He was to become president of the club 1935/6. Major Montague Jones (Monty) retired in 1930 after 29 years as headmaster. The next headmaster, W T Marsh was to serve nearly as long. A formal presentation was made in the following year. Montague Jones obtained a first in Mathematics and a half blue at Oxford. He must have been a good VI form maths teacher because such academic successes as the school had in his time were mostly won by mathematicians. A number of open scholarships to Cambridge were won and E N Fox became a senior wrangler and then a don there. R E George became a leading figure in the world of accountancy. Later he became chairman of the governors. Bernard Astley was at the school 1911-20, then master 1920-29, during which time he took an external degree in chemistry at London University while running the school corps and founding the OA rugby club. In 1929, he emigrated to Kenya becoming successively headmaster of the Duke of York’s’ School, Nairobi and then director of education for Kenya. He returned to England in 1945 and eventually became chairman of the governors. Towards the end of the Montague Jones era E C Cherry and H C Pereira were coming to the fore as notable scientists. Monte died on 30th June 1938. Other OAs of the early Montague Jones era were Brigadier Buttenshaw and Major General Lamplugh, Colonel A B Cliff, (a great patron of both school and
old boys over many years) and Sir Bentley Purchase the famous St Pancras coroner. Sir Alfred Faulkner, a school governor, was a top civil servant, being successively permanent secretary to the ministry of mines and ministry of fuel and power. He played cricket for the OAs against the school for many years. The first recorded comment from the new headmaster was a request in April 1932 to the OA club for suggestions for the names of school houses. The club proposed Matthew Paris, Breakespear, Mandeville, Pemberton, Woollam, Debenham and Shirley. In the event the school replaced Matthew Paris and Mandeville by Abbey. The headmaster was formally welcomed in 1932. The club offered the school the use of Beech Bottom on Wednesday afternoons. At the 1932 AGM W T Marsh proposed that the annual cricket match be played on a fixed day each year, be preceded by a service in the morning, and that the day be named either commemoration day or founders day. The club agreed and proposed the first Saturday after June 17th each year. The club agreed to pay for the diving board at the school swimming baths. In the 1932 Olympic games at Los Angeles, an OA, J Hampson won the 800 metres track in record time. The city council requested the OA club to join in planning how to recognise this victory. In the mid-thirties, the secretaries were J W Dickson and G W Richardson. â€œDickyâ€?, a spry perky little man with a fund of blue stories had been club secretary since the early years of the century and may even have been one of the original secretaries. George Richardson had come in a little after but by this time was doing most of the work. He was very long serving and had the knack of turning out obscure senior OAs from all parts of the world to take their turn as president. He ran the family bookshop in the High Street for many years. He also printed the Albanian and all the fixture cards, provided the school prizes and stamped them with the school stamp. The most senior OA present at a dinner in the 1930s was one of the four famous Mitchell brothers all of whom reached 80 years of age. When the president took wine with successive generations of OAs he stood up no fewer than five times as he had been at school in the 1870s when the school had several headmasters in rather rapid succession. In addition to the Mitchells, there were other famous names associated with the school including the Kents and the Kentishes (after whom Kentish Town was named). As there were no prep schools in St Albans in those days our school was often used as such, some boys leaving at the age of 13 to proceed to the great public schools.
In 1935 it was proposed that PT and swimming sections be formed. Founders day that year, as reported in the Herts Advertiser included a swimming match between the school and OAs. The 1936 founders day had a printed programme announcing: 10.30 service of commemoration; 11.30 cricket at Belmont; 1.30 lunch; 3.15 swimming match; and 8.30 the AGM. The OAs won the 1st XI but lost the 2nd XI match. The school won the swimming match. At the AGM the OA club offered to the governors to take responsibility for the maintenance of the war memorial. The accounts show a surplus of £25 cash for the year. There is a report in an unknown national paper of a duplicate bridge match between the boys and masters: the masters winning by 3020 points. This was “believed to be the first occasion in which boys from a public school took part in a duplicate bridge match”. A scholarship fund in memory of Reginald Kent was proposed in 1938 but it is not clear if it was ever implemented. In September 1939, Flying Officer K C Doran (OA 1929) was awarded the first DFC of the war for his part in the attack on the Kiel Canal: a ½ day holiday was awarded During the 1939-1945 war the club was closed. By 1939 over £1300 of the original 1928 loan from the RFU had been repaid. At the outbreak of war, the RFU granted a moratorium on repayment of both interest and capital. In December 1941 the club sold Beech Bottom to the school and in return, the school agreed that, at the end of the war, they would lease the land to the OASA for 99 years. From the proceeds of the sale, the club repaid the whole of the RFU loan. During the war, Hastings Grammar School was evacuated to the school. They used Beech Bottom for games. There are 104 former pupils listed in the Roll of Honour, second world war 1939 – 1945. In April 1946 letters were sent to OAs to plan the restarting of activities. It was planned to repurchase Beech Bottom from the school. The following were requested to initiate activities: P Cox [swimming], D G Owen [rugby], K Bell [cricket], P Hedge [rifle] and C Dunham [golf]. L G Walker, for many years a master at the school was instrumental in reviving the fortunes of the rifle club. On founders day, 15th June 1946, at the first AGM after the war, the headmaster explained the future of the school within the new education system as a direct grant school. Information about the OA club had been published within the school magazine ‘the Albanian’, which was circulated to members of the club. H E
Wortley had, for many years, served the club well by acting as editor of the OA section. He retired in 1946. 1948 would represent the millennium of the school’s reputed foundation and also of St Peter’s, St Stephen and St Michael’s churches. Sir Alfred Faulkner and Col A B Cliff who had both given many years of service to the club were re-elected president and vice-president respectively. A principal celebration would be a pageant of St Albans. An OA, Arthur Swinson, was chosen by the city council to be pageant master. At the same time the school and OAs were debating the form of the memorial to those killed in action in the war. It was decided to have a single appeal for both a war memorial and the millennium but to enable contributors to give preference to the destination of their offerings. The OA club recommended that there be a war memorial and restoration of the school gateway. In 1950, the headmaster reported that £3000 had been raised for the memorial of which £690 was spent on the memorial tablets in the cloisters and the remainder on the school gateway. The Archbishop of Canterbury visited the completed restoration in June 1952. The various sports clubs were re-established and by 1948 it became necessary to consider a new pavilion. An appeal fund was set up, but a year later very little had been contributed. Christmas cards were sold. It was not until 1954 that fund raising began in earnest with a bank holiday fete, which raised £700. The following year another fete raised £650 and the third fete, in 1956, although being washed out, raised £300. The Company of Ten put on 3 performances of ‘Private View’ in the school hall. The cost of the new pavilion designed by OA architects David Morgan and Geoff Cannon was estimated at £3200 necessitating a loan of about £1000. Work started in Easter 1957 to build the bar, kitchen and main clubroom. A B Cliff informally opened these on 21st December 1957 when the 1st XV played Harpenden. New changing rooms were to be built as Stage 2 at an estimated further cost of £4000. The 1953 founders day included cricket, tennis and rifle shooting matches with the school. The newly restored school library was open for inspection. There were 196 attendees at the 1956 founders day ball [price 12/6d, including buffet]. The annual subscription was still 5/- pa and, after some argument this was increased to 7/6, one guinea for 3 years and 8 guineas for life. By 1958 the income of the club was £3519, which slightly exceeded expenditure. It was becoming urgent to build the second half of the pavilion as the ‘join’ between the old changing rooms and the new pavilion was threatening to break. This enhancement was first used on 12 March 1960
when, for the first time, the OA rugby club lost to the Old Verulamium RFC 12-6. The official opening was performed by W C Ramsay, Treasurer of the RFU on the following Friday. The organisation of the club had become complex with the sports association increasingly being responsible for the pavilion building, the X-bar club responsible for the running of Beech Bottom, the OA club running the continuing August bank holiday fete and the various sports clubs running their own activities. By 1961, the overall relationships between these organisations had become clearer but a degree of overlap continued. The founders day ball was still being held regularly in 1960. The annual dinner was held in the public schools club in London. Subscriptions were raised again to 10/- pa. Also in 1960, the founders day cricket match with the school was held at King Harry rather than Beech Bottom. In 1961, the school set aside an ‘OA room’ in the gateway for use by OAs. The leavers of that year were invited to a meeting at Beech Bottom to encourage them to join the club. A full time steward/groundsman was appointed. There was yet another fund raising fete. There were continuing discussions regarding the need for membership of the X-bar club to meet licensing laws. In 1962, it was proposed to hold the Hertfordshire sevens at Beech Bottom. This, in turn, would need car parking and other crowd facilities. The annual dinner was held in the House of Commons. Obtaining people to help organise the fete was becoming difficult and it was suggested that this should be the last year; meanwhile the OA committee would organise the fete. It was proposed to combine the X bar club and the OA club but this was found to have legal problems. In early 1963 it was found that the X bar club was working at a loss because it paid the wages of the groundsman. The rugby club was having difficulties in finding enough OAs to field 4 teams and proposed that up to 25% of players be non OAs. This was, with reluctance, approved by the committee and referred to the next AGM. Discussion continued on the organisation of the club: it was proposed that the OA sports association be removed from day to day control. This would be referred to a special AGM. A motion had first to be agreed by the AGM permitting a special AGM to be held; in February 1964 the special AGM agreed the reorganisation of the OA Club. The formation of the OA angling club was agreed. W T Marsh, after serving 33 years as headmaster, was due to retire in the summer of 1964. A presentation was made to Mr and Mrs Marsh at the July founders day ball. ‘Dad’ Reed and Charlie Argent, the school sergeant major, also retired in 1964. The incoming headmaster, Frank I Kilvington, was
welcomed by the OA club at a cocktail party on 20th September. The fete profit that year was ÂŁ438. In 1965, the club had rugby, cricket, shooting and angling clubs. There had been an old boyâ€™s medal, which was to be replaced by a prize for a school leaver. The OA room in the gateway was changed to one on the East side. The subscription was now 10/- pa or 2 guineas for 5 years and 10 guineas for life. A proposal to allow non-OAs to play cricket was defeated. In 1966, the school sought funds for a new school hall. Owners of OASA shares were requested to donate them to the OA club. The rugby club was fielding 5 sides. Many will remember the contours of Beech Bottom which provided, inter alia, a sloping 1st XV pitch. The potential loss of the pitch for a whole season caused the plan to level the pitch to fail. There was yet another fete after which thought was given to stopping the fete; nevertheless, a decision was made to run one the following year as it continued to be, despite the difficulties of finding people to organise and run it, a main source of funding for the club. A proposal for a form of lottery was made which was implemented as the old albanian hundreds in which members, in return for a monthly subscription of 1 guinea, entered a draw with valuable prizes, including an annual prize of a car. There were fetes in both 1967 [where, for the first time an external body, the C of E Save the Children fund was permitted to run a tombola] and 1968. Life membership was finally cancelled in 1968. The OA club was still circulating club information about members as a supplement to the school Albanian magazine. The contribution made by the club to the school did not cover the costs; it is not clear what action was taken to remedy this. In 1968 the return from the albanian hundreds was disappointing. It was stopped in 1969. The dinner was in the new school hall with tickets priced at 35/-. In 1969 it was again decided to stop sending the Albanian to members because of the cost; the committee were instructed to consider an alternative medium for circulating information to members. Despite this decision, the circular for founders day that year still asked for contributions to the school Albanian. It was agreed that a limited number [35 in rugby club; zero in cricket club and 4 in the rifle club] non-OAs (associate members of the OA club) could play in the sports clubs. There was a proposal to further extend the school war memorial to cover other than the two world wars but nothing was done. A board listing all the presidents of the club was planned for Beech Bottom. It was proposed to sell 2 acres of Beech Bottom for development. Major W J Baumgartner was to retire. He had been appointed as the first school bursar on his return from the second world war. He had entered the school as a pupil in 1916; his 53 years association with the school is probably the longest of any person. The final bank holiday fete was held. A committee was set up to consider the building of squash courts.
In 1970 there was a jumble sale in the Town hall, which raised £179. The 1971 Company of Ten production was another success. Through the efforts of Arthur Swinson, a president of the club and a stalwart member of the Company of Ten, the club had, each year, held a theatre evening at the Abbey Theatre. This arrangement was to become an annual fixture for many years. There were 850 members of the club. The financial state of the club was not healthy. Life members were invited to make voluntary donations. The planning application for the sale of 2 acres of Beech Bottom was refused. The 1972 Company of Ten production would be Black Comedy by Peter Schaffer. The president, Arthur Swinson, sadly died whilst in office and D G (Duggy) Owen was elected in his place. In 1972 E W “Bob” Tanner celebrated 24 years as a master. A Scottish branch of the OA club was proposed. In 1973 there were 901 paid up members of the club. A further 102 were struck off the list because their subscriptions were overdue. The rugby club was still fielding 4 sides and because of difficulties with finding enough OAs to play, formally went ‘open’ [previously, a maximum of 35 non-OAs had been permitted]. Discussions were still proceeding to find a buyer for 2-3 acres of the Valley Road end of the Beech Bottom site. The school Albanian was still being distributed free to all members at a financial loss to the club. In 1974 another letter of intent to purchase part of Beech Bottom was received subject to planning permission. The subscription was increased to £1.50. Ray Buxton had left money for a flag and pole at Beech Bottom. Dances were being held every Saturday night but these were discontinued on account of rowdeyism; dances limited to OAs were continued. It was the 50th anniversary of the OARFC. The headmaster inaugurated the first ‘gaudy’ attended by 1958-1964 leavers. In 1975 the club decided not to include the OA bulletin in the Albanian and to send information directly to members. Thus, the OA bulletin was born and was distributed twice yearly to all members of the club. Planning permission for the valley road sale was again rejected but, as contracts were exchanged, this must have been overturned on appeal and final financial arrangements were agreed. Part of the ground was leased from the school but the remaining sales price enabled the club to spend £11,155 on Beech Bottom improvements over the coming year and to retain a capital sum for investment. In 1976 the idea of squash courts was again discussed. An orienteering club was formed. The founders day dinner and ball had been losing money; the founders day dance was held in the school hall.
In 1977, Ernie Nightingale, who had taught physics to several generations and had written the standard pre-war textbooks, died. The club repurchased the freehold of Beech Bottom from the school. Generally, the club was losing money on its profit and loss account. The annual subscription was increased to £2. In 1978, consideration was given to funding a school bursary. This would necessitate changing the OASA rules, which, in turn, might have taxation implications. The committee approved and later dismissed a plan to permit the president to hold office for up to 3 years. It was not until 1996 that this was finally implemented with Ashley Wood as the first such president. Beech Bottom income was becoming inadequate by 1979. The subscription was increased to £3 pa [£15 for 5 years]. Over 70% of the OARFC were nonOAs. Following informal suggestions from the city council that Beech Bottom was a potential building site, the first thought was given to move from Beech Bottom. This idea finally materialised 22 years later when the club moved to Woollams in 2001. [see ‘the move from Beech Bottom’] In 1980 the club proposed the refurbishment of the school war memorial. This would be funded from a school projects fund. The proposal that the OASA should be merged with the OA club was found to incur capital gains tax and was rejected. The founders day ball and the annual dinner both made a loss resulting in the suggestion that both be cancelled in future years. Fortunately, this proposal was not implemented. This year was the 50th anniversary of the OA cricket club Finances improved somewhat in 1981. The annual theatre visit to the Company of Ten’s Abbey Theatre was “the most profitable yet”. The summer ball was held at the school. Frank Kilvington retired in 1984. Although the club membership stood at 900 paid up members, there were few school leavers joining the club. Special efforts were to be made to contact all leavers in their last term at school. In 1985 Simon Wilkinson was appointed headmaster. In 1986, the school development appeal stood at £330,000. First thoughts were given as to how to celebrate the club’s millennium in 1992. By next year, the school development appeal reached £350,000. The theatre evening and the annual dinner at the Waterend barn continued. In 1989, all Vice-Presidents were made associate members of the OA Club to meet the licensing law. The annual dinner had been held in the Waterend barn in November for many years; this year there was a very poor attendance.
In 1990, plans were started for the centenary celebrations to include a ball, souvenir book, special ties and cufflinks; the school war memorial gates would be replaced. The dearth of younger members of the club was causing concern. Although there was a special reduction in subscription for the first three years after leaving school, few were joining. Discussion started with the school for automatic membership for school leavers, possible financed from school fees. Attendance at the dinner was again low making it impossible to cover costs at a time when the Waterend barn’s charges were increasing. Don Colinette, a former groundsman at Beech Bottom died on Christmas day. J R (Russ) Shackley died. Final arrangements for the centenary including a ball at Sopwell House hotel for 320 people were completed in 1991. 1992 was the centenary of the founding of the OA club. The centenary brochure was well received. The theatre evening was sold out, and made a good profit. The new war memorial railings were dedicated on founders day. There was a celebrity cricket match on Sunday 14 June. The OA under 11s appeared at Twickenham before the England/Ireland match. The OA rugby club toured the USA. There was a special OA president’s reception at which all previous presidents of all the OA clubs was invited. Membership of the club would be ‘free’ to school leavers for 5 years after leaving. The club rules were changed from ‘old boys’ to ‘former pupils’ to permit the 6th form girl pupils to join the club as full members. The rifle range at Beech Bottom was still in use but additional safety protection was needed Simon Wilkinson left the school in 1993 and the new headmaster, Andrew Grant, started at the school in September. There were ongoing arguments about the licence at Beech Bottom particularly in regard to the use of the bar on Sundays during and after mini rugby. Financially the club was in difficulties with a surplus for the year of only £22. The summer ball was held in the school hall. The club arranged a visit to Royal Ascot. In 1994 concern was expressed by many at the proposal of the new headmaster to change the traditional school motto from ‘medioc ria firma’ [take the middle way] to ‘non nobis nati’ [born not for ourselves]. The headmaster invited the committee to express its views. After discussion the committee agreed to support the headmaster. It transpired that the existing motto was introduced in the 19th century and the proposed new motto was the family motto of Geoffrey de Gorham, an early headmaster. The OA club, itself, did not have a formal motto. The headmaster planned a formal leaving ceremony for pupils and invited the club to attend and explain to both pupils and parents the objectives of the club. The theatre evening was once again sold out and attendance at the Company of Ten’s performance of ‘Blithe Spirit’ was planned for 1995. Fifty members attended the drinks party held at the East India Club in London to enable OAs who do not have easy access to St Albans to meet.
1995 was the year of the world rugby cup, which was shown on a large screen at Beech Bottom during the summer. A visit to Ascot, planned for 22 June, was, at the last minute, cancelled for lack of support. The summer ball was a great success. The club formally approved that the club president could be re-elected for a period of up to three years. The OA bulletin recorded the existence of an OA hockey club, run by Mike Hodge, which had played, and won, one match each year—against the school. The club had, since its inception, been run by the OA committee who had considered and debated every item. This had become unwieldy and often resulted in overlong meetings. In 1996, it was agreed to create subcommittees covering: Beech Bottom development, the new ground, future structure of the club, social and fund raising, external communications, and the Beech bottom ground. David Culpitt, a previous president of the club who had already been most active on new ground matters, was elected chairman of the important new ground committee. Sadly, he died early in 1997, without seeing the full results of his labours. The OA dinner had been held at the Waterend Barn in early November for many years. Attendance had been dropping: consideration would be given to changing both time and place. For the first time, the club published a directory showing all members’ addresses. 1997 saw the last theatre evening at the Abbey theatre. For many years this had been a major social activity, enjoyed by all. After the play there would be drinks, a buffet and an opportunity to meet old friends. Each year had also made a profit for the club! The title ‘honorary life president’ was created. This would be awarded to those members of the club who had offered outstanding service. Initially two were created – Charles Bloxham and Mike Highstead. In 1999, the club agreed to circulate a funding brochure from the Cathedral to replace the seating with new ‘Alban chairs’. Members subscribed to 20 chairs and the club to two. There were a record number of 134 at the dinner. Many may have come to hear the guest speaker, Rory Underwood. In the event, many thought his speech uninspiring and boring. Andy Mills-Baker had been working very hard as chairman of the new ground committee. He had, for the last 4 years developed and edited the OA bulletin but felt unable to do both jobs. Nick Chappin was volunteered into the latter task. His first issue in May, 2000 continued the improvements and was considered an excellent publication. His honour John Chalkley, a western circuit judge died. Ken Embleton suggested, in 2000, that the war memorial was in need of a spring clean. This was done later that year with the cost divided between the school and Ken’s personal donation. The club published a Roll of Honour giving the names of the 104 OAs who had been killed during the second world war. D G (Duggie) Owen, a former president of the club and former chairman of school governors died. The club’s headquarters since 1931 had been Beech Bottom. The move from Beech Bottom to Woollams is described in a separate section of this history.
We finally left Beech Bottom on 31st March, 2001. The new owners, Laings, allowed us a farewell party in the clubhouse on the Saturday evening. We would be without a clubhouse until the formal opening of Woollams in August, 2002 which was celebrated by a cricket match on the new table between the Lords Taverners and an international XI. Woollams is on the school sports site in Harpenden Road, St Albans which will, over the years, increase the bonds between the club and the school. It has rapidly earned a name as a major sports ground. It has hosted a number of womenâ€™s rugby internationals and the clubhouse has been hired for many and varied social activities. The club opened its own web site [www.oldalbanianclub.com] in 2004. Since 2002 the club had, thanks to the sponsorship of Agfa, published a directory listing the names and addresses of all members. In 2004 discussions started to provide an online database, which members could access directly. The system. OAconnect, went on line later that year and was officially opened in spring 2005. OAconnect effectively replaces the OA directory. It provides facilities whereby members may insert as little or as much about themselves as they wish for other members to view. The database is secure and is only accessible to those who have formally registered. OA connect is available free of charge. At the same time it was decided to make membership of the OA club free to all staff and former pupils. At the present time, the club has records of circa 3000 former pupils of whom over 1000 have registered with OAconnect. The club bulletin continues to be published twice yearly, The club is indebted to Nick and Andrew Chappin for producing a publication of outstanding professional merit. The bulletin is available on the OA web site and is available in hard copy form for a small fee.
OA Cricket Club The Old Albanian Cricket Club (OACC) was formed at a meeting called by the hon secretary of the OA Club, and held in the school hall on Monday May 5th 1930. W H Godwin was elected as OACC’s inaugural Captain, and Maurice Wiggs was elected Vice Captain. Ron George was elected as Secretary and Treasurer, and succeeded Godwin as captain in 1934. The first match was played against St George’s School on Saturday 24th May 1930, a 6-wicket defeat for the OAs. Fortunes improved after that time and the first two seasons were successful, with 17 wins and 11 defeats from the 32 matches that were played in 1930 & 1931. Records exist of the first OACC annual dinner, held at the Peahen Hotel in St Albans during February 1931, which cost 4/- per head (26 attendees), and featured a song by K H Symington and “entertainment” by W Spinks! Initially, the OACC was predominantly a wandering club, with some home matches played at the school’s Belmont Hill ground after the end of term. The club acquired a ground of its own in 1932, after members constructed a cricket square at Beech Bottom, which was already home to the OA rugby club (founded 1924). Beech Bottom was christened by a fixture with St Albans on April 30th 1932, resulting in a 70 run defeat for the OACC after being bowled out for 35. The 2nd XI, captained by AG Harvey, played its first fixtures during 1932. Progress continued apace throughout the 1930s. Both the playing roster and the fixture list increased and improved, the latter most notably when the Lord’s ground staff visited BB in 1934. St Albans were defeated for the first time by one run at Clarence Park in 1935, thanks largely to Maurice Wiggs’ 643. Wiggs, an excellent all-round sportsman, was a colossus during the club’s early years, as bowler, batsman and Captain or Vice Captain. He represented Hertfordshire from 1936 until the outbreak of war in 1939, scored the first century for the club against Old Hertfordians on June 9th 1933, and made 11 of the first 17 centuries for OACC in the bowler-friendly early years. Over forty years after he retired, Wiggs remains highly placed in the all-time 1st XI aggregates for batting (4th, 9801 runs @ 26.28) and bowling (2nd, 1100 wickets @ 9.49). Other notable pre-war bowlers included Donald Urry and Gordon Jarry – both of whom played for Hertfordshire – PJ Davey (ex-Somerset and a master at the School), GR Walker (106 wickets in 1933) and Harry Harvey, 1st XI Captain from 1937-1939. Wiggs’ batting cohorts included K A Griffiths, whose 164 not out against Southgate county old boys in April 1939 remained the highest score for the club until 1984, Ron George, and C W C Poore, a regular
member of Middlesex 2nd XI. The 1st XI playing record from 1937, 24 wins from 33 matches, represents the most successful season in the club’s history. World War Two curtailed the OACC’s activities until 1947, when Maurice Wiggs became captain, and the sides featured a mixture of pre-war players and younger blood, including R W Smith – who represented Hertfordshire Tom Furlong, Vic Morley and Don Kiff. Winning ways resumed for the 1st XI, with 21 wins from 35 matches in 1947 and 23 wins from 41 matches in 1949. The 1950s are the least well documented in the club’s history, although records exist of three significant events. The first, in July 1953, was the inaugural OACC annual tour, which took place in Essex and featured fixtures against Clacton and Halstead. Among the tourists paying £1.2s.6d for bed, breakfast and evening meal at the Cliff Hotel, Dovercourt, were present-day tourists John Josling, Peter Van Horne and Roy Bacon. The annual tour has prospered ever since, at destinations such as the New Forest, Sussex, Kent, Norfolk, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, and remains a highlight of the OACC year. The second significant event of the decade was the maiden 2nd XI century, scored by P Rand against the school in 1954. The third significant event was the development of the facilities at Beech Bottom. The new lounge bar and kitchen was opened in 1957, while the new pavilion – designed jointly by the then OACC wicket keeper David Morgan – was opened in March 1960, with a rugby match against Old Verulamiums that featured numerous rugby-playing OA cricketers. The first half of the 1960s saw the club struggling, despite the stalwart efforts of skipper George Giffen, a prolific left-arm spinner and decent bat, and batsman Alec Holt, until recently the club’s all-time record run scorer. An early attempt to open the club to non-OAs was narrowly defeated in 1965, but playing strength nevertheless improved from that time, as a number of talented young players joined the club. These included Robin Johns, who went on to play for Oxford University and Northamptonshire; Mike Nurton, a master at the School, who represented Oxfordshire in the Minor Counties championship for many years; Dick Ashby, whose 1,238 runs and 88 wickets in 1969 represents the foremost all-round season in the OACC history, and the first instance of a thousand runs in a season for OAs; David Merriott, a prolific left-handed batsman who captained the 1st XI from 1973-1976, and recorded a then-record 1,438 runs in 1973 ; and Mike Thomas, left-arm spinner, the 1st XI’s all-time leading wicket-taker in a season (148 in 1979) and a career (1407), with 101 instances of 5 wickets in an innings, and leading career outfielder (276 catches). These players helped the OACC to win the Herts Advertiser trophy in 1966, and formed the nucleus of the side after entry into the Hertfordshire competition in 1968. The talented side continued to develop throughout the 1970s, with seam bowlers Jim Hopwood, John Puckrin and Mike Sullman, off-
spinner John Smith, batsmen Peter Marshall (an exceptional fielder), Peter Grummitt, Alan Goodier, Paul Richardson and David Rodgers, and wicketkeeper Alan Philpott, completing an extremely strong unit. Giffen remained a considerable player, taking 100 wickets in 1970 and 1973, and analysis of 920 against Leverstock Green in 1973 and 9-26 against Redbourn in 1975, on the latter occasion taking the first 9 wickets to fall. Peter Dew, a School contemporary of Thomas, joined the OACC in 1976, and these two immense cricketers formed the fulcrum of the side for the club’s greatest triumph, the Hertfordshire competition championship victory of 1979, which was based on excellent bowling and out-fielding. The preludes to this success were the 2nd XI, under Bob Thornton, winning the Hertfordshire competition 2nd XI group in 1977, and the 1st XI finishing as runners-up in 1978. Thomas’s contribution in 1979 was 148 wickets, including 55 in the Hertfordshire competition; Dew, a powerful batsman and quick bowler, scored 1,359 runs, took 63 wickets and held 25 catches. In the previous year, Dew took two hat tricks away to Harpenden en route to figures of 7-12: hat trick #1 was caught Philpott (wicket-keeper)-bowled-bowled, and hat trick #2 was bowled-LBW-bowled. Decline followed the triumph of 1979, as the championship-winning squad changed, and the 1st XI was relegated in 1985, and again in 1989 – somewhat unfortunately on each occasion, owing to a league penalty following a fixture clash in 1985, and by the narrowest of run-rates in 1989. Dew and Thomas retired in 1985, and a young squad struggled for some years afterwards. All-rounder Mark Frost and seam bowler Chris Blythe were the leading players during this time, with batsmen Nigel Roper and Andrew McCree emerging as class players with 1,000 runs apiece in 1988. McCree went on to break all manner of batting records during the 1990s, passing 1,000 runs in a season on nine occasions, and becoming the leading career run scorer (15,321) for the 1st XI, including a record 17 centuries and 87 other fifties, and a club record partnership of 291* against Sarratt in 1998 with Scott Tyson, the club’s first overseas player. Also, McCree is presently fourth on the all-time 1st XI wicket-takers list, with 888. The appointment of Andrew Lynes as 1st XI captain in 1991 heralded another successful period in the OACC’s history, as he took a new-look side back into division two of the Hertfordshire League. Alongside Frost, McCree, Roper, Richardson and previous captain Alan Goodier, Lynes was joined by his brother Martin, a classy wicket keeper/batsman, pace bowlers Hugh Ross and Shaun Du Bernard, and youngsters Daniel Barlow, David Rourke, Ed Foster, Graham Dill and Howard Sherman, in finishing as runners-up in Division Three in 1991, and clinching third place in Division Two in 1992. This side stayed together all too briefly, and harder times followed in the mid-1990s as McCree succeeded Lynes as captain. The all-round efforts of the captain and Barlow, together with express pace bowler Andy Hart and wicket keeper/batsman John Baines, were mainly responsible for OACC maintaining division two status in 1995 and 1996.
Graham Dill returned to the club as captain in 1997, after a 5-year golfing ‘sabbatical’. Assisted by increased commercial activity and revenue, which allowed the club to recruit an overseas player each year, and by an influx of young players from the successful school side of the mid-1990s, Dill led the club to promotion into division one in 1998, and near misses of further promotion in 1999 and 2000, as a wonderfully-talented side played some marvellous cricket. Dill himself broke Andrew Latham’s club individual innings record (200 not out against Fencibles in 1984), making 202 not out against Canning Crescent in 1997. This record, as well as the all-time Hertfordshire league record, was broken by Jon Freedman in 2001, when he made 208 not out against Kings Langley. Freedman and Dill were the leading batsmen of this period, along with McCree, Baines and the successive Australian players Scott Tyson, Paul Knight – who holds the seasonal run aggregate record with 1,553 runs in 2000 – and Nathan Dodd. McCree, Dill, Australian player Matthew Bruce – who became the first OA bowler to take all 10 wickets in an innings, with 10-26 against Berkhamsted in 1999 – Perry Hall, Andy Mason and French international Pascal Culverhouse, shared the bowling honours. The club bade farewell to the Beech Bottom ground after the 2000 season, during which the 1st XI won Division Four of the Chess Valley Sunday league and finished second to Knebworth Park in the Hertfordshire league division one, while Julian Baines’ 2nd XI won promotion in both the Chess and Hertfordshire league. The 2001 season was spent in residence at the splendid Shenley cricket centre, with the long-awaited prospect of the new ground at Woollams becoming reality in 2002. Many wonderful players and memorable achievements have taken place at Belmont Hill, Beech Bottom and Shenley, and it is hoped that the Woollams era will be at least as memorable. OA Angling Club The Old Albanian Angling Club was founded on the 20th September 1964 with a membership of 14, mostly composed of retired Rugby Club members who wished to continue the fellowship started in the Rugby Club. At the first AGM at Beech Bottom, Fred Keeley was elected president, Geoff Cannon, honorary secretary and John Corble treasurer. The annual subscription was set at 27 shillings. The next year, due to inflation, this was increased to 35 shillings. By 1968 the membership had increased to 28. In 1971 Reg Currell presented a splendid silver cup to be known as the Currell cup to be awarded on an annual basis for the best fish of the season. The cup is still awarded each year and the names of the successful anglers are inscribed on the base.
At the 9th AGM in 1975, Fred Keeley resigned and David Morgan was elected president, an office he holds to this day. The yearly programme includes monthly visits to different parts of the country, which includes coarse, game and sea fishing trips. Weekend visits are still organised to Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Norfolk. Small groups have been to Ireland, Florida, Canada and Alaska, with good results. A club supper and AGM are arranged concurrently and a fishwives supper is held each year before Christmas. [GLC] OA Golfing Society The first formal meeting of the OA golfing society was held on July 12th, 1931 at Verulam golf club. The attendees were R F George, R Vincett, J C Mitchell, H J Reynolds, D Wiggs, M A Wiggs, R Miskinn, J W Dickson, G C Richardson and R Spencer-Peet. The society holds three or four meetings each year, plus an annual dinner and two weekends. The major competition is for the OA cup. R F George was the first winner in 1932 and, subsequently, he won the cup six times, as did M A Wiggs. Current players include John Cox and Royce Bryant who have each won the cup four times. Several non-OAs, known as ‘Antelopes’, who are keen golfers, have been selectively invited to attend the golf days. The society relies heavily on the secretary for the organisation. Since the formation of the society, there have only been four secretaries. These have been Geoffrey Briggs, Bill Fenton, Tony Dockree and Royce Bryant, who took over in 2000. [PJD] OA Rifle & Pistol Club
School shooting and therefore 0A shooting as well has always had to fight against the odds for its continued existence. Montague Jones started it probably as soon as he became Headmaster in 1902. He certainly started a school cadet force then. Monty always claimed that St. Albans was the first School to have an OTC! Monty was himself a keen Bisley shot and had a hut built there in 1930, the year he retired. In 1908 the school entered a team for the ‘Ashburton’, for the first time and every year (except the war years) until 1932, Monty himself coached the
team with later help from W J Baumgartner who was his protégé from 1916. Under W T Marsh, the new headmaster, only small-bore shooting was continued. This took place in the old ‘underground playground’, before the miniature range was opened at Belmont in the early 1920’s. From 1923 until about 1925, boys went by char-a-banc on several Wednesday afternoons to the ‘Open Range’, at Old Welwyn and there are few references to shooting by the old boys at that time. Monty founded the 0A rifle club in 1929 and remained president until his death in 1938. His son, Brigadier Montague-Jones, fired the opening shots on the small-bore range at Beech Bottom in April 1962, and himself became president in 1964. The success of full-bore shooting at school in the 60’s & 70’s was paralleled by that of the OAR + PC which gained prominence in the world of smallbore. Owen Simmons shot in the Hertfordshire county rifle team for many years and in one particular season gained a county pistol team badge as well as one for prone rifle, a rare combination. lain Conacher and Andrew Wllkie were likewise members of the twenty strong county rifle team. Others, such as David Buxton had occasional invitations to shoot in specialist county matches such as the ‘Time Limit’. In 1968, prompted by Owen's success and a general interest within the club, it was decided to take the plunge and add pistol shooting to the disciplines on offer. Several working parties later, a pit had been excavated in front of the 25 yard firing point on the outdoor range at Beech Bottom. Standing in the pit kept the sightline the same as for prone rifle. This enabled pistol shooting to start with only minimal modifications to the range. After the initial flush of "let's have a go" enthusiasm there was a quiet spell where the pistols would only come out if there was some time to spare at the end of a rifle shoot. The object of these early practice sessions was to succeed in getting ten shots on the target, not as easy as it sounds at twenty yards with a short barrel and shaky hand. But once that had been mastered, interest in the new discipline grew. For a period in the late 70's the amount of shooting which took place during the summer season at Beech Bottom required sessions on both Saturdays and Sundays. This overcame the conflicting demands for range time between pistol and long range rifle shooting. On top of this, Monday evening sessions at the 25 yard school range continued - as did visits to Bisley to shoot in annual two way competitions against the Old Lawrentians, the Old Alleyians (for the Arnold Cup) as well as the larger scale Ashburton Supporters Match, Malvern Cup etc. It was in 1967 that the OAs achieved their most notable full-bore coup when, for the first time, a team of three schoolboys and three OAs was entered in the Malvern Cup competition and won with the record score of 560 despite some of the worst weather that Bisley can offer. The record stood until only a few years ago. At the start of 1976 the original wooden school range burnt down leaving the club in considerable difficulties with the seasons indoor winter shooting
calendar. It was time to seek help from the contacts made in our associations with the county. Eventually the problem was overcome through the kind offices of the Marconi rifle club who allowed OAs to become associate members of their club and to use the 25 yard range in the canteen of Ballito's old stocking factory in Fleetville, which Marconi Instruments had taken over. Eventually the school range was rebuilt allowing the club to return to the regular Monday evening meetings, this time in the relative splendour of a brick built building. Since that time the OAR + PC have maintained a close relationship with the Marconi Club who would still join us to shoot long range competitions on the outdoor 100 yard range at Beech Bottom. During the period when the school continued to flourish in the full-bore world it was important to maintain and foster the links with the OAR + PC. To achieve this the Clubs met three or four times a year at Bisley for various full-bore matches including the annual match for the Montague-Jones clock, presented in 1965. Bisley was also a regular meeting place for our country members including such stalwarts of the day as F A Messenger, Howard Ridge and Roger Cluff, and many others too numerous to mention. For a time the CCF was able to use the ranges at Colchester for early season training. Whilst the facilities were better suited to military rather than sports shooting the opportunity to get in some early season full-bore practice for the OAs was welcome despite the somewhat raw weather conditions in March. On a number of occasions the OAs were able to assist Sam Kilpatrick in coaching the lads but escaping from the office became increasingly difficult and this combined with range availability difficulties led to the eventual demise of this annual session. In order to build on the links between school shooting and the OAR + PC the Coles family, of which three generations had shot at school, presented the Coles Trophy. This is an annual small-bore event (as opposed to the full-bore clock match) shot between teams of schoolboys and OAs. In its most recent history the match has been held at the school range as part of the founders day activities. As with any organisation, things are never static and from the early eighties there has been a notable decline in the number of schoolboys taking up shooting as a sport. The retirement of L G Walker and Sam Kilpatrick brought to a temporary end a long-standing era of shooting excellence at school. Pressure on the school to succeed as an independent meant that shooting had to take something of a secondary importance with a reduction in members joining us from school. Then came a series of body blows in the guise of public outcry and legislation resulting from events at Hungerford and elsewhere. Added to this was a loss of numbers due to people moving away from the area. Just prior to the departure of the Conachers to a new home in Scotland, the rifle club went â€˜openâ€™ in order to leave the way clear for members to be recruited from outside the school. Later, in 1990, following the departure of other members meant that membership fell to an all time low. Since that time, membership has remained steady with a small but enthusiastic group; occasionally boys join us on Monday evenings and there are tentative signs that things may be improving.
Owen Simmons is currently our President & Secretary; Andy Moore the treasurer; and Andrew Wllkie the club captain. The club and individual members continue to take an active role on the committees of the OA club, and the sports association. Despite the small numbers there is no lack of enthusiasm and sporting representation continues at county level with four members of the club holding positions in county team leagues. We also keep in touch with our "country" members, who, unable to join us on a regular basis, support our activities in various ways, usually a much-needed cheque! The nature of shooting has undoubtedly changed over recent years and nowhere is this more evident than at Bisley. Gone is the almost overwhelming presence of the military and slowly a more sport-orientated attitude is emerging. Improvements in weapons and ammunition have brought about a succession of reductions in the size of the bull to the point where the emphasis is now very much on the mental and physical approach of the shooter. Gone also now is the pistol shooting as a result of the terrible events in Dunblane and the over-reaction by the government. We were a small band of pistol shooters but enjoyed reasonable success at various levels. We have enjoyed the presence of ladies in the club for some years now and they are quite capable of holding their own in shoulder-to-shoulder competition. Indeed, Jane Knighton was the first of our county ladies champions, and since then Jan Conacher and Prucilla Simmons have both represented the club at county levels. With the demise of pistol shooting, there was a lesser need to use the outdoor range at Beech Bottom and the OA shooters drifted away from the club to the less windy confines of the school range. We have always enjoyed a special relationship with the school and all pupils are always welcome to join us. So we have tended to concentrate our small-bore shooting at the school range. Our small numbers and restrictions on use make any move to the new ground impossible and we will continue to make best use of the kind hospitality of the school. As ever, we are always seeking new members to join and swell our ranks. So if you were a shooter or wish to start, come and see us sometime. Shooting is undoubtedly a precision sport offering a challenge to both personal skills and determination individually or as part of a team. Pursuance of this sport fits well with the ideals of the school and we in the rifle club look forward to continuing those ideals long after schooldays have ceased and potentially beyond retirement. â€˜straight barrels!â€™ [DB] OA Lodge
It is traditionally reported that St Alban towards the end of the third century introduced Freemasonry into England. The first Lodge of which we have a record in the city was The Red Rampant Lyon Lodge dating from 1739, since when masonry has flourished in St Albans, and indeed the masonic province of Hertfordshire. The first seeds of a lodge associated with the school probably date from 1907, when with full masonic ceremony the laying of the foundation stone for the school hall took place. The provincial grand master, the Rt Hon Thomas F Halsey officiated. We have a record of this magnificent occasion in the form of a photograph showing the provincial dignitaries processing in full regalia, including top hats, along Romeland, with the Abbey Gateway resplendent in the background. A plaque commemorating the event, inscribed in latin, in the east wall of the building must have tested the linguistic abilities of many generations of OAs! This occasion must have brought even the limited traffic of the day to a halt in the city centre as the procession made its way to and from the town hall and school. On 24th September 1928 a similar public display of masonic ceremonial took place, when the keystone of the new building (the junior school) was laid by the then provincial grand master, Charles Edward Keyser. The members of the old albanian lodge, consecrated some four months earlier on 19th May 1928 took great pride in participating in this second ceremony, a fitting platform from which to launch our school lodge towards the prominent place it enjoys in Hertfordshire today. The consecration was a magnificent event, held at Freemason’s Hall London, following which the brethren enjoyed a sumptuous repast of 10 courses, at a cost of £1.6.0d followed by musical entertainment under the direction of S E Richardson. A far cry from the more modest, though adequate, fare provided in the school dining hall today! Many well known names have been associated with the lodge over the years. The first master was Edward Percy Debenham, sometime town clerk and clerk to the school governors, whose family has been prominent in St Albans since arriving in the city from Suffolk in the mid-19th Century. Other founders whose names will be well known to many were W Fisk, W Buckingham, S E and G C Richardson, R H Saltmarsh, L G Toogood, and R A Giffen whose two sons, John and George, and grandson, Jonathan, maintain the family tradition into the 21st Century. The Lodge was formed as a masonic base for old boys, masters and governors of the school, and thus a close working relationship has been maintained with the school throughout. Who can forget such names as W T Marsh, “Bob” Tanner, C T Bloxham, G E Pryke, C F Harris, Sgt Majors C E Argent and S Kilpatrick, all of whom have served the lodge with distinction. Later, in 1950, the lodge sponsored a royal arch chapter for those who wished to extend their masonic knowledge.
We have been honoured to have had a deputy provincial grand master, Geoffrey Pryke and assistant provincial grand master, Colin Harris as members of our lodge as well as a number who have achieved grand rank within the craft. The lodge became a founder, in 1947, of the federation of school lodges, and has strongly supported this body ever since, having hosted the annual meeting jointly with Old Verulamian lodge in 1981. A special meeting was held on St Johnâ€™s day 24th June 1948 as part of the celebrations of the millennium of the foundation of the school in 948, when a past master of the lodge, J C Mitchell, JP, addressed the lodge with a history of the school. As we move into the 21st century, some of our members have memories of participation, as boys, in the pageant at Verulamium. Our lodge has played a major part in the charitable effort of the masonic province of Hertfordshire, the most notable achievement being a donation by the lodge of over ÂŁ50,000 to the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution in 1998. Past presidents of the O A Club who have also occupied the chair of the lodge include E P Debenham, J C Mitchell, J R Shackley, R J Giffen, P D Smith, D Kiff, G Giffen, and, in 2001, D F Carnell. [GAG] X-Bar Club Shortly after the purchase of Beech Bottom by the OA Sports Association, partly with the aid of a loan from the RFU, the rugby and cricket clubs decided to erect a pavilion. They acquired surplus 1914-18 wooden army buildings and erected the old pavilion, which had social and changing facilities on the same site as the current building. Soon after its completion, it was decided to include a bar; this required the club to obtain a license. A separate club to which members subscribed was a condition of the licensing authority and thus the X-Bar Club was born, with a one shilling annual subscription. In theory, only paid up members were allowed to purchase drinks and a membership list had to be retained behind the bar, available for inspection by the licensing authority at any time. Visiting clubs were asked to submit lists of their team members before matches and these were required to be displayed behind the bar, a practice which continued for many years after the resumption of activities post 1946. The bar was a simple structure in a corner of the social room with a separate beer store behind it. Draught Benskins beer was racked in the store where it was tapped so that all beer was drawn directly from wooden casks. Bottled
beers were stored after closure in a “cellar” which was really only a large square concrete pit with cellar door flaps. A volunteer rota of members staffed the club. Duty members had to check an opening stock and cash sheet and after closing the bar they were required to record a closing stock and cash check. The books had to be balanced by extending each separate item. Thank goodness the number of stock items was relatively small! This state of affairs came to an abrupt halt in 1939 and did not resume until immediately after the war in 1946 when sports activities were restarted. Those who opened up the beer cellar after 7 years were assailed by a rather strong odour, so we are told. In 1946, the cost of a pint of Benskins mild was 11d (just less than 5p!). The X–Bar Club prospered and continued with a new bar in the new pavilion erected in 1957 and was still run by a members' rota. However, in 1961, a steward/groundsman was appointed who was responsible for the bar and ground maintenance under the umbrella of the XBar committee. Financially, the expense of a full time steward proved difficult to sustain and, in 1963, the OA Club with its larger resources decided to take over the bar and ground maintenance under the control of a ground subcommittee. This meant that, with the change of license from X-Bar Club to OA Club, all paid-up members of the OA club were entitled to use the bar. Members of the various sports clubs, including vice-presidents, who were not OAs, became associate members in order to comply with the licensing laws. This situation continued until March 31st, 2001 when we left Beech Bottom. [WEF] The move from Beech Bottom In 1979, the St Albans & District Council indicated to the club that Beech Bottom was potentially prime residential land and that a possible alternative site could be found. For some time the club had realized that Beech Bottom would require major expenditure. An informal working party was established to examine the possibilities and identified eight/nine sites around St Albans that might be suitable should the club decide to move. It was probable that we would be subject to capital gains tax (30%) on any sale proceeds. The freehold of Beech Bottom was
vested in the Old Albanian Sports Association Ltd (OASA), which, in turn, was controlled by the OA club, as majority shareholder. In 1981 a formal new ground development committee was created, under the chairmanship of David Culpitt, to pursue the idea of selling Beech Bottom and relocating elsewhere. It was envisaged that any new ground should include at least three full size rugby pitches, a cricket square, plenty of room for expansion of these sports or other activities and a rifle range. In 1983, after discussion with St Albans council officers, a planning application for the development of Beech Bottom was submitted. Concern mounted as the council’s response was delayed (this was to become a feature of our dealings with the council). The council suggested that, in the interim, we should consider a site on the Jersey Farm estate although this did not look ideal, the club agreed with the council to consider it. At a public meeting, it became obvious that there was significant local opposition. Although the development committee believed that we had less than a 50% chance of success it was decided to proceed but without a rifle range. The Jersey Farm saga limped along. The OA club learned that the council’s leisure committee had resolved in principle to approve. The following year, a public meeting regarding the Jersey Farm proposals identified significant local opposition. Our public relations campaign was clearly not successful: a referendum of the local residents voted 990 in favour, 2700 against with 6000 abstentions. Very shortly thereafter the council planning committee rejected the application. Another prospective site at Hawkswick was identified in 1986. The suggested purchase price for Hawkswick was considered to be above the market price. Nevertheless, in 1987, we lodged an appeal against the rejection of our planning application. Later in the year Hawkswick was dropped as a possible future site. There still remained the problem at Beech Bottom of the ‘ransom strip’ owned by Abbey Homesteads that precluded access from Valley Road. In 1989, a possible site for a rifle range in Sandridge was identified. This proved an abortive exercise and, reluctantly, it was accepted that the requirement for a range should be dropped altogether. New ground problems continued in 1991. New government proposals would limit the use of rural roads for access. This, it was felt, would impact any proposal to use Sandridgebury Lane. In 1991, the school governors, chaired by Bob Sharpe, reinvested the Woollam endowment (arising from the earlier sale of Belmont) into the purchase of Cheapside Farm, on the northern perimeter of the city, from the Luton Hoo estate. The intention was to develop part as playing fields to
replace King Harry and to give OAs an opportunity to acquire land to replace Beech Bottom. In 1993, Beech Bottom was included in the local district plan as a site for residential development. A consortium of local builders then expressed interest. It was proposed that they be granted an option to purchase at 85% of the open market valuation at the time of completion provided that they would pay all costs of planning applications with the club reimbursing all costs if the deal were not completed in a 10 year time scale. The selling price would be determined by the price of land at the time of vacation. It was clear that future siting for a rifle range at a new ground was unlikely. The club reached agreement in principle with the school to utilise part of Cheapside A special annual general meeting of the OA club was called on 12 May 1993, at which the proposal to sell Beech Bottom was formally approved by members. A legal agreement was then entered into with the consortium. In July both the school’s and the OA’s outline planning application for Cheapside were refused. It was assumed that the rallying activities by residents local to Cheapside had influenced the decision. The formal reasons given were: • necessary levelling and the scale of the work would cause extensive damage to the topography; • there would be a detrimental impact on the rural environment of the locality. A planning appeal hearing on Cheapside took place in the autumn of 1994, which was lost, but it was also indicated that realigning the sports field (north/south) along the side of the main A1081 road would be likely to achieve success. In early 1996 we received notice that the Colney Heath sports ground and adjacent land owned by Oaklands College was available to purchase and while this could well have met our requirements it was decided to hold off for the time being as the Cheapside application was at a critical stage and the known availability of an alternative might prejudice our chances. Ultimately it was decided to persist with Cheapside. The battles with the council continued; often the council officers’ recommendations being over ruled by the elected councillors, until finally in 1997 approval was given for the development of some 70 acres of sports grounds and two pavilions. Even then there were numerous conditions attached which the school’s advisors considered to be unreasonable for a sports ground development and/or ambiguous. So variations were sought which the council took to a public enquiry. It was July 1998 before the situation was resolved. Negotiations with the school, which had been on and off since 1992, to determine the terms and conditions of OA club’s tenure at Cheapside were
recommenced in earnest in 1997. The School was adamant that it would not agree to the request for freehold ownership. The discussions spread over some years. Ultimately heads of terms were agreed including the granting of a lease comprising two consecutive 125 years periods with certain financial and other guarantees in the event that the school enforced variation provisions. The committee recognised that the move from Beech Bottom would require a rethink of the overall club structure. An open forum was convened to give everyone the opportunity to present ideas for discussion. The structure of the club depended on potential capital gains tax liability from the sale of Beech Bottom, licensing laws, and who owned the Cheapsde ground. Because these areas remained unclear a decisions on the future structure of the club was, therefore, put on hold. The location of the access had been imposed by the Herts highway authority, which, to some extent, determined the layout of the internal roads and playing surfaces. David Culpitt, who had been chairman of the development committee, said that he hoped to see the new ground opened. His untimely death in 1997 prevented his attaining this aim. Andrew Mills-Baker took over the chairmanship of the committee. In November 1997, the club invited 4 architecture firms to present their suggestions for the design and management of the construction of a clubhouse. The choice was a small London practice (Fisher Associates), which had presented an innovative design and put together an enthusiastic team. In spring, 1998 substantial bank finance was arranged. This would cover the cost of design, planning and professional fees associated with obtaining detailed planning permissions, the lease premium payable to the school and the landscaping and pitch preparation at Cheapside, secured initially against the freehold cottage and later against the overall Beech Bottom freehold and leasehold at Cheapside (when acquired), until receipt of the Beech Bottom sale proceeds. After seventy years, a move away from Beech Bottom, within the next 6 years, became inevitable. An attempt, made in 1999, to clarify whether OASA would qualify for “roll over” relief was disappointing in that the Inland Revenue declined to give a definitive response but did suggest that the relief would not be available as OASA did not appear to meet the requirement that it was “in occupation”. However, it was established subsequently that as over 90% of the shares were held by the Old Albanian Club, the relief could be allowed and the Revenue agreed.
In 1999, following the acceptance by the consortium of proposals by Geoffrey Cannon maximising the plot sizes, the development plan for the site, which included 49 superior properties and six social units, was submitted for planning approval and approved. This scheme was dependant on the purchase from Abbey Homesteads of that part of their land necessary to create an entrance to Beech Bottom from Darwin Close. The failure by the council to consider within the allowed time frame OAs’ detailed clubhouse application led to the lodgement of an appeal for nondetermination and entry of a duplicate application. By May 1999 all outstanding matters had been approved except the detail for the school’s pavilion, which then became the subject of yet another appeal before the design was accepted. Unfortunately, it was to prove later that the club’s scheme was beyond our budget and a revision had to be sought; as it was smaller it was passed without difficulty. Discussions with the consortium to establish the sale price for Beech Bottom became protracted; their offer remained below the bank’s valuation. External enquiries suggested a higher price could be obtained; reference to arbitration was available or we could let the option die come 2003 as we were not obliged to sell but would become liable to reimburse the consortium’s expenses. It became apparent that the consortium would be amenable to an arrangement whereby the land was offered on the open market, on a sealed tender basis subject to a reserve greater than their offer; again with 85% to the club and 15% to the consortium. This route was adopted, the ransom strip was acquired from Abbey Homes and Beech Bottom was sold to Laing Homes Ltd in November 2000, subject to vacant possession on 1 April 2001. A grand farewell party was held on 31 March 2001 thus ending those often happy, sometimes dramatic but forever memorable years at Beech Bottom. The following day, the OA pavilion became Laing’s development office and the bulldozers began digging up the 1st XV pitch. During 2000, the school named the new playing ground Woollams. It was agreed that the OASA would have a 250 year lease on 28 acres. With the School, we had entered into a joint development agreement and work on the playing fields and the access from Harpenden Road commenced in January 2000. Following competitive tendering, the building contract had been let to Bickertons, a long established St Albans company and the work commenced in April 2001. We grew increasingly unhappy with the lack of progress and in December issued a contract termination notice; shortly thereafter Bickertons ceased to trade. Two and a half years later a payment under the
performance bond was received to mitigate some of our additional expenses flowing from this unfortunate episode. A replacement main contractor was selected and following various surveys and assessments of the changes necessary, work recommenced in February 2002 and progressed apace with overall practical completion in September. It was clear that both the rugby and cricket clubs would be without a home ground for at least one season. The likely timetable was for rugby to open the ground with the 2001/2 season. The work progressed well up to and including the seeding of the school’s playing surfaces but two days before the OA club’s area was due to be seeded the weather turned wet, very wet and stayed that way. It was not until spring 2001 that work could be recommenced. For the 2001 season, OACC played at the Shenley Cricket Centre and OARFC were accommodated at King Harry with the Rose & Crown in St Michaels as their clubhouse. The OA Woollams site was officially opened in August 2002. A charity fund raising cricket match between the Lord’s Taverners and Lashings was held. The Lord’s Taverners, formed in 1950 are a charity, which raises teams to play at various venues. Lashings brings notable players (for a fee) to play in charitable matches. One of the stars was Shoaib Akhtar (the “Rawalpindi Express”), the first bowler to break the 100 mph ceiling. OARFC opened their season with the traditional roast beef lunch followed by OA Rugby v An All Stars XV. During the planning stages the potentially sensitive subject of pitch lighting in a rural environment had been put to one side. In 2002 the rugby club used the old mobile lights brought from Beech Bottom. This gave rise to an enforcement notice (28 February 2003) from the council giving 28 days notice to discontinue use of these lights. This effectively allowed use to the end of the season, but an appeal had to be lodged as the application for permanent lights was still pending. In the event the inspector rescinded the enforcement notice. An application for permanent lights was approved in time for the 2003/4 season. On 30 December 2004, OASA converted to a charitable company limited by guarantee. The charity’s objectives are directed towards the promotion of sport and recreation generally and assisting the young and underprivileged to participate. This gives certain tax and other financial advantages; no persons have any proprietary interest in the company, its assets being dedicated to charitable purposes. The charity is controlled by its committee of management which is made up of the president, secretary and treasurer of the Old Albanian club, up to five others nominated by the OAC, two nominees from the OARFC and one nominee from the OACC. The first named beneficiary in the event of dissolution of the charity is St Albans School. The club made a donation of £500,000 to establish the 948 sports foundation, a charity to provide sports and recreational opportunities for young people with
its trustees selected from those persons supportive of the overall “Old Albanian” concept. At Woollams, the OA club has an imposing clubhouse, 2 cricket tables, and six rugby pitches with space for further development. The pitches have been produced to top level specifications and require considerable maintenance to ensure they remain in that state. Beech Bottom had been run with largely volunteer help supporting the one employed groundsman/steward. It came as a culture shock to realise that henceforth there would be many fully employed and that the size of the new operation would require professional management in order to ensure an income that would cover expenditure. OASport, reporting to the OA committee, was set up to manage the operation. Andy Mills-Baker became the first chairman of OASport. Organisations or individuals wishing to use Woollams would negotiate terms with OASport. Once we moved in, we started to incur the considerable costs of maintaining club house and to keep the rugby pitches and cricket tables to their top level standard. A number of fund raising activities were pursued. It was essential to provide additional income by letting the club house for parties, weddings, receptions and regular meetings. A fitness centre operates on a commercial basis. The pitches have been hired out on an occasional basis (Saracens rugby club, for example). Perimeter advertising boards were created with excellent results. The OA cricket club, historically lean in numbers and therefore always short of funds, entered a new era. The new facilities have attracted new players and coaching for juniors has begun at weekends. The club regularly now runs four teams throughout the summer. The OA rugby club runs five teams and is in a top non-national league. The associated women’s rugby club is now playing in a national league. Woollams has now established itself as the most prestigious sports ground in Hertfordshire. It has hosted both men and women’s county and minor international fixtures OA Rugby Football Club [to be added later] Famous OAs Apart from those mentioned in this article there have been many famous OAs over the years, including, in recent years, Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge mathematician/cosmologist; Lord Renfrew of Kainsthorn, the archaeologist; Sir Charles Pereira who attended OA dinners until his death in 2004.
The school is preparing a review of famous OAs from the last few centuries. -
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Note Regretfully, there is very little information relating to the early years of the club. Most of the information in this document has been extracted from the minute books. If any reader can provide additional information for this history, please contact the club.
Roger Cook 12th August, 2007 Version 1
Presidents of the club
Conveyance for Beech Bottom (part of) 1st June 1928
Old Albanian sports association papers, 1928
Plan of Beech Bottom pavilion
Woollams club house
Opening of Beech Bottom
Football side 1902
Woollams main bar
Boer war photograph
Appendix 1 Presidents of the OA Club 1891/2 1892/3 1894/5 1895/6 1896/7 1897/8 1898/9 1899/0 1900/1 1901/2 1902/3 1903/4 1904/5 1905/6 1906/7 1907/8 1908/9 1909/10 1910/11 1911/12 1912/13 1913/14 1914/15 1916/18 1919/20 1920/21 1921/22 1922/23 1923/24 1924/25 1925/26 1926/27 1927/28 1928/29 1929/30 1930/31 1931/32 1932/33 1933/34 1934/35 1935/36
C Woollam G C Barnes A H Debenham Sir Spencer Wells T Kent Dr E H Lipscomb J Debenham E Arnold H A Reves E P Debenham S P Austin G C Barnes A H Debenham G E Palmer H S Bailey F H K Mardall H F Reynolds Rev H W McKenzie Dr E J Lipscomb Brig-General H A Raitt R T Kent W Whitaker S Hall Club closed J C Mitchell J C Mitchell A J Reynolds J W Dickson P C Blow Gen R T Kentish E W Hitchcock W L Rind H S Gibbs E W Arnold W L Dorant Lt Col A B Cliff G D Haynes Rev E A B Royds H R D Arnold Sir Alfred Faulkner W G Marshall
1936/37 1937/38 1938/39 1939/40 1940/46 1946/47 1947/48 1948/49 1949/50 1950/51 1951/52 1952/53 1953/54 1954/55 1955/56 1956/57 1957/58 1958/59 1959/60 1960/61
F A M Webster G C Richardson L B Myers A G Harvey Club closed Brig A S Buttenshaw Sir Alfred Faulkner R H Saltmarsh R Spencer - Peet G C Straker Col Howard Green E H Lashmar F Popplewell E Brimelow J Godfrey B A Astley R F George G M Briggs M A Wiggs C W Swinson
1961/62 1962/63 1963/64 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
C F Knighton P Cox D C Urry H L Harvey R J Giffen A C Strofton R Bartram R W E Buxton
1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980
A H Swinson D G Owen D G Tate P M Lambirth P M Van Horne S L Ryder L G Walker T W Newell J R Shackley P D Smith D Kiff
W Franklin R W Thrale
1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988
F J Josling R D Bacon P J Sherring R B Sharpe G Giffen M G Smith
1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996-7 1998-2000 2001-2003 2004-2006 2007-
J H Smith D A Culpitt P J Dredge I F Jennings P N Barnes A Mills-Baker S P Eames A H Wood D Carnell A Mills-Baker A Barnes S Burgess
Appendix 2 -- page 1 Conveyance (part) for Beech Bottom (1928)
Appendix 2 -- page 2
Apppendix 2 -- page 3
Appendix 3 Beech Bottom (1928) miscellaneous documents Page 1
Appendix 3 Page 2
Plan of Beech Bottom pavilion
5. R. LILLEY 6. K. DAVIES 7. A. I. CRICK 8. G. HARDING 9. K. DAVIES IO.R.P.BROWNE 11.J. WHITE 12.D. V. HOBBS 13.J. C. E. PRIME
4. M. W. KNEE
5. J. CHANDLER
6. M. MULHERN
7. R. WILSON
8. L.J. HOL T
9 D. P. G. MORGAN
10. G. GJFFEN (Capt)
II. R. NASH
12. N. CARTWRIGHT
13. R. F.T. SIMON
J. BEBB (LSRFUR)
W. E, FRANKLIN
15.L. H. ASHTON
14.M. R. WICKENS
3. B. ULLYATT
15. M. H. PATTISON
14. M. R. CLUTrERBUCK No 8
4. N. E. GREEN
3. R, H. GOODSPEED
W Right Wing
2. R. J. BRADSHA W
I. G. B. WENDEN (Capt)
I. D. E. COOMBS
Looking to the future, the loan has first to be repaid and then we hope to build tennis courts and squash courts until Beech Bottom is the true home of all the associated clubs of the Old Albanian Sports Association.
It has taken over twenty years to progress from the two ex-army huts. erected by a group of enthusiasts to our present palatial brick building, and our thanks must go out to all who have contributed in the gradual progress and improvements at Beech Bottom over this period.
The Rugby Football Union has loaned ÂŁ2000 to enable us to complete the present changing rooms which would not otherwise have been possible for several years to come. Mr Ramsay is further associated with the O1d Albanian Club with whom our various sports clubs have had very happy associations over the years.
When the Sports Association bought Beech Bottom in 1927. the Rugby Football Union supplied four fifths of the capital required, a debt that was not finally repaid in full until the Second World War.
We are very proud and honoured to welcome Mr. W. C. Ramsay today to open our pavilion. He was President of the Rugby Football Union for the season 1954-55 and has been Treasurer of that body for the past ten years. It is true to say that without his and his predecessors help, the Sports Association and Beech Bottom would not be in its present healthy position.
Appendix 6 - page 2
Appendix 8 Woollams main bar
Boer War photograph