President Mike Lax
SVP Simon Farrell
Bridge Trust Old Boys Society
A school, now known as Handsworth Grammar School, was founded in 1862 supported by funds from a Trust established in 1612 by Nicholas Hodgetts. The School was then called the Bridge Trust School; hence, on 18th September, 1878, when an organisation was formed for former pupils of that school; it was called ‘Bridge Trust Old Boys Society.’
The basis for the Society was purely social, with old boys of the School enjoying Dinners, Socials, Dances, even Smoking Dinners, as well as an annual trip away, through what was obviously a well structured organisation. Relations with the School were close, with many interconnecting links and indeed many common personnel.
Inextricable links also bound the Society with the Old Boys Football Club formed in 1893 and the subsequently established Swimming Club in 1919, with members of both sporting sections having common membership of the Society upon payment of a fee (in 1926, 1 shilling). A Cricket Club established in 1905 had sadly lasted only 2 seasons.
A major and unfulfilled requirement for the Society was a base where its members could meet. In 1934 circumstances fell into place with the Football Club needing a new ground, a piece of land becoming available, and the foresight of Albert Lindon. Negotiations took place with John Levick, concluding in the purchase of 7.5 acres of farm land in Romilly Avenue, Handsworth Wood, for the princely sum of £925. The ownership of the land was put into a Trust for the Society’s use and since that day four members of the Society have acted as Trustees. Five years later, 1939, a further parcel of land (c1,000sq. yds.) was purchased from H Dare and Son Ltd. for £60 to act as a car park, incorporating a Right of Way from the road to guarantee permanent access. The ground was actually shared with sheep and cattle, as the Society allowed a Perry Barr butcher grazing rights, as a means of providing income.
A small building was erected on site, which became a pavilion. Post war, and to remember those fallen, this building was superseded by a War Memorial Pavilion, opened on 1st October 1950, although it was another 20 years before water, sewerage and electric light were added.
The modern day Cricket Club came into existence in 1948, but had to play all games away for 2 seasons while the new square became established.
The Society, as the parent body, has seen the comings and goings of many other sections, all autonomous but linked in common alliance e.g. the Old Boys Lodge, badminton, tennis, archery, basketball and golf.
The heyday for the sporting prowess of both football and cricket clubs was the 60’s and 70’s, with trophies galore and representative honours showered on many exceptional players. This could not have occurred without constant hard work. Improvements to the ground in general, the 3 football pitches and the cricket square have been carried out by a host of volunteers until this day, though special mention should be made to the contribution of Keith Morris, who led this work for many years.
Another driving force in the Society, Fred Bayliss, headed the next development, with the construction of a Club House on the existing car park. It was erected in 1967 by Vic Johnson, old boy and local builder, sadly in timber, due to planning constraints, and opened in 1968 exactly 46 years after the Society’ first attempt. With clubroom, bar, kitchen and committee meeting room, it has been a centre for social life of the Society ever since, with profit from the bar bringing unheard of financial stability and the chance to upgrade the ground and keep playing costs to a minimum. An extension, a new Committee Room, was dedicated to Fred’s memory and opened in 1990.
Back on the ground, 1996 saw the start of an attempt to create a new Pavilion. By the year 2000, the sum of £30,000 had been raised and a wider appeal launched to increase that to £100,000. While the project continued until 2005, the technical difficulties of construction and a shortfall of funds laid the project to rest, although the funds raised were used to refurbish the existing pavilion and ground. While this was going on, a major disaster occurred in 2004, when the original pavilion was destroyed in an arson attack. As it was used for storage, a huge amount of supplies, plant and equipment was destroyed generating an insurance claim of c£50.000.
Over the years notable anniversaries have been celebrated – the Society’s Golden Jubilee in 1928, its Centenary in 1978 and the School Centenary in 1962. Society social life now continues in a more moderate style. The Annual Dinner which moved to the School in 1955 became a victim of the PC world of non smoking and drinking on site and now continues at outside venues; Tony Seeley has run the Mens’ Supper in the Club for 25 years with much success; Past Presidents meet annually to reflect on times gone by; plus an occasional quiz or other form of function.
The demographic of School pupils, the change in ethnic mix, and in social attitudes to our type of organisation, but especially the explosion of pupils attending university and not returning to Birmingham, have caused a decline in membership. The sporting sections are now dominated by non old boys, who do, happily, continue the sporting traditions of the Society and plans are in hand to retighten our bonds with the School and restore interest and membership of a Society, through which former pupils can maintain a link with childhood friends.