Our Club History

In just a few years time The Rotary Club of Twickenham will celebrate 100 years of existence. A lot has happened in that time and we are justifiably proud of our heritage. The following is a brief history of some of the club's important landmarks.

The History of the Rotary Club of Twickenham

In 1924, Lenin passed away; Britain’s first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsey MacDonald, was elected; George III of Greece was deposed and a Republic declared; and on the 17th of November the first meeting of The Rotary Club of Twickenham was held at the Albany Hotel, near Twickenham Station, with some 14 local businessmen.

This meeting was attended by the Chairman of District 13, the Hon. Treasurer and Hon. Secretary of R.I.B.I., the Presidents of Richmond and Kingston Clubs as well as the Vice-President of the Teddington Club. Following this and other preliminary arrangements came the formation of the Club at the Inaugural Luncheon on 5th January 1925, again at the Albany Hotel.

Since its inception the Club had been part of District 13, but in 1927 a re-districting was put into effect and we became part of District 14. This was the year that our Car Service commenced: "The President suggested drawing up a rota of members having cars who would be prepared to be called on in urgent case of sickness". It was agreed.

Around this time Summer outings commenced with a visit to the Morris Motor Factory at Cowley and a visit to the London Club "to meet Paul Harris, the Founder of Rotary". One of the activities mentioned in past minutes was the continued supply of white sticks to the blind, first mentioned in 1934, the year the Club moved to the Cole Court Hotel,London Road.

During these early years aid for boys formed a considerable part of the Club’s work, particularly with the Twickenham Boys Club and its move into Arragon House. The depression of 1938 saw District 14 initiate the "Opposite Number Scheme" which led to the Club adopting Garndiffaith near Pontypool and purposeful fund raising began with gifts of clothing, toys etc being sent and visits by our Club members. In addition, some boys from Wales were accommodated at Fortescue House School in Twickenham thanks to the Headmaster, a member of the Club.

Conditions during the first year of the Second World War were confused with depleted membership, food and petrol rationing and the "black out". This led to the inauguration of luncheon meetings and enabled the Club to function to a limited extent. The Boys Club closed down and equipment supplied by the Club going to Fortescue House School. Most families of Garndiffaith were now in work but that some Old Age Pensioners were in very poor circumstances led to boots and clothes being sent together with other supplies. By 1941 activities picked up a little and the Club adopted a boat from Lowestoft, sending money, books and correspondence with crew members. This work was assisted by the Inner Wheel Club who knitted many comforts for the crew. The Club combined with Kingston, Esher and Teddington Clubs to provide a convalescent room for the American forces in Bushey Park.

 Post war saw an increase in activities which included our 21st anniversary dinner, a Christmas party for Dutch children housed in Twickenham and the accommodation of some 50 unaccompanied children at Fortescue House School. Other activities included entertaining displaced persons from Europe; entertaining survivors from Belsen and othercamps in conjunction with other clubs; supplying a seat in Heath Road for the use of old people; the House of Friendship at international rugby matches; a Book Prize scheme; Public Speaking competitions; Essay competitions; Citizens courses for youth in the Borough and Annual Church Services. In addition the Club continued with regular Rotary activities such as the provision of funds and candidates for Rotary Foundation Fellowship; the entertainment of past members; close association with the Inner Wheel and Round Table as well as fund raising through Christmas Sleigh Collections; Carol Choir; Boxing Tournament; Barbeques and Garden Parties.

In 1948 the Club moved to the Fountain Hotel, Staines Road and then to The Jolly Gardeners Hotel, London Road, Isleworth.

In 1964 the Club organised a Rotary Week of fund raising activities to provide a mini-bus for the use of Fortescue House School. A 1968 suggestion to provide a home for aged persons developed through the years, thanks to the efforts of many, until 1973 when the Abbeyfield Home was opened in Lebanon Park. This was merged with Richmond’s Abbeyfield organisation in 1993 then closed in 1995 but remains one of the biggest projects undertaken by the Club. In 1974 the Club sponsored the formation of a local Rotaract Club for young people between 18 and 28.

Traditional lunchtime talks included some interesting social issues such as staff turnover in Britain; industrial relations; the implications of VAT and VAT in action. Following previous unsuccessful overseas contacts a link was established in 1968 with the French Rotary Club of La Bassee which has resulted in visits and exchanges promoting friendship and understanding appropriate at the time of Britain’s entry into the European Community. Financial aid for international disasters, for VSO in Africa and India, provision of medical instruments, water drilling rigs in drought areas, amongst many emanated from the Club’s fund raising efforts.

The period between 1965 and 1975 saw the Club provide several members in District Office including the late Frank Bandey and Past President Len Smith who served as District Governor in 1977-78 and then as President of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland in 1989/90.

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Rtn Len Smith, Past District Governor, Past President Rotary GB&I

In 1977 the Club was instrumental in the formation of the Twickenham Probus Club and a year later the Rotary Club of Twickenham on Thames, an evening club, was inaugurated. Then in 1983 the Rotary Club of Kew Gardens was sponsored by all the Clubs of the Borough. During the 1980s certain annual events were customary such as the Summer Outing to the seaside for the Blind Club, a Christmas Party for the residents of Dalemead Old People’s Home and from 1982 a Christmas Party followed by a visit to the Pantomime at Richmond Theatre for the Vietnamese Children who were then living at Hampton Court House, all assisted by the Inner Wheel Club.

 Our committee structure has enabled a variety of projects to be supported such as the collection of books for the Ranfurly Library; the filling of emergency boxes almost every year; medical equipment for Nepal; earkits for overseas deaf; eye camps for the blind; Jo Homan’s Boys Towns and Water Aid from our International Committee. The Vocational Committee has assisted with Public Speaking Contests and supported candidates for Sail Training courses and in 1979, 1980 and 1981 our Arts and Crafts competition was for all schools in the Borough. This was revived for the three Special Schools in the Borough and continued for many years thereafter.

Fellowship within the Club arose from various fund raising activities, from "Ladies Lunches" on selected evenings, Christmas parties, theatre visits, sporting activities such as golf. In 1980 Rotary celebrated its 75th year and we took part in the joint meeting with partners and with the other Borough Clubs. A new mini-bus was provided in 1986 to replace the original. 1987/88 saw the start of Rotary’s Polio Plus Campaign to immunise all of the children in the world against polio. Each club was allocated a sum to raise and we provided £1,600. We were visited by a G.S.E. Team from India.

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"Clowning around" at the 1995 Arts and Crafts Competition prize giving

 In 1993/94, our President’s charity choice was to raise funds for cataract operations at Ashford Hospital, a joint venture by the five Borough clubs and it was the year the Club moved to Fulwell Golf Club after 33 years at the Jolly Gardeners. The following year, Judith Lovelace was inducted as our first lady member (and in 2001/2 served as the first lady President of the Club). 1995 was the 70th for our Club and, to respond to the challenge of "Rotary Windows Week", Len Smith turned over all eight windows of his shop in Heath Road to display an excellent collection of Rotary photos and memorabilia and publicise the work of Rotary.

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and Len Smith flank the Mayor and Mayoress of upon , Cllr and Mrs Tony Manners, outside Len Smith's shop during Rotary Windows Week in 1995

In 1996/97 we celebrated Ron Snell completing 50 years membership of Rotary, and in 1997/98, Past President Dick Stanford’s 50 years Rotary membership. Sadly both have since passed away. 1998/99 saw the demise of the House of Friendship, as a result of a number of changes relating to Rugby Union and the growth of corporate hospitality.

In 2000, nations across the world celebrated the new millennium. The Rotary Club of Twickenham also had cause for celebration as that year was its 75th anniversary and to commemorate the occasion a gala dinner was held at The Rose Room, RFU Ground, Twickenham. Two members of the club, David King and Miriam Edwards had cause for their own celebration as they were married and became the only wedded pair of members in the club's history.

The next year saw local MP, Dr Vince Cable, being made an honorary member of the club and in 2002 a trip to Kenya was organised by club member, Pindi Tamana. A small but enthusiastic group of Rotarians went on the trip and as a result an alliance was made with The Rotary Club of Kilindini who went on to become one of our contact clubs.

The sight of club members dressing up as Santa is not unusual and in 2004 when the club helped finance a Christmas party at Sandown Court sheltered accommodation in Hampton Road, Twickenham, members took Santa along to entertain the residents.

Just a short while later, on Boxing Day in 2004, the world was shocked by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean which brought massive devastation and loss of life in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Like other Rotary clubs, Twickenham was quick to respond and members were collecting within days. The public responded in a very generous manner and the club's contribution to the disaster appeal was £3,222. A total of £220,000 was collected in District 1140 and throughout Rotary GB&I the full contribution was £6.5m.

Len Smith, Rodney Bennett, Ian Stanton and Bill Dimond collecting for the Tsunami Appeal.

In 2005, the first Swimathon was held at Teddington Swimming Pool. The idea, which organiser Barry Buttenshaw openly admitted, was borrowed from Purley Rotary Club and involved supervising sponsored entrants swimming lengths of the pool. The event proved a great success and was immediately adopted by the club as an annual fund raising opportunity. 2005 was also the year of Rotary's centenary celebrations and all five clubs in the borough collaborated to make the occasion one to remember. This involved a special service at St Mary's Church and a Centenary reception at York House. The Twickenham and Twickenham upon Thames clubs joined together to provide a commemorative street map and plaque in Church Square, Twickenham. A bed of Rotary Centenary roses was also planted at Twickenham Green to mark the occasion.

Another annual tradition started in 2006 when it was suggested that Rotary cooperate with The Stroke Association to take people's blood pressure and raise awareness about stroke prevention. Twickenham Rotary Club was fortunate in having a retired GP (Paul Bartlett) as a member and the stroke awareness events at Squires Garden Centre have since become a regular fixture in the club's activities.

2007 saw a good collaboration with St Catherine's School and in one week the club achieved 34 mock interviews to assist pupils to prepare for life beyond school. District Conference that year was held in Lille and several of our members attended giving them the opportunity not just to experience the break in France and fellowship with English Rotarians but also the chance to renew acquaintance with old friends in our contact club of La Bassee which was not far from the conference venue.

Two more firsts in 2008 were the Prostate Cancer awareness event initiated by Rodney Bennett and the Charity Golf Day organised by Salim Laher at Stockley Park. Both events have since been adopted to become regular features in the club's calendar. A special dinner was held to celebrate Len Smith's 50 years of membership in the club during which time he had served as District Governor, President of Rotary GB&I and had held various distinguished posts in Rotary at the highest levels. Len was made an honorary member of the club following his move to Hampshire where he quickly took up active membership of The Four Marks and Medstead Rotary Club. Three years later in 2011, the club was also able to celebrate another Rotarian, John Nicholls, achieving 50 years membership. Sadly John passed away shortly after this event.

By 2013 the club was considerably reduced in membership having just 18 active members. However, the close of the Rotary year saw an increase in membership and we hope that trend is on the rise.

We continue to raise funds to try to satisfy the many calls we get for assistance through a variety of regular events like the Christmas collections at Squire’s Garden Centre, Twickenham our annual Swimathon, the Twickenham May Fair and various social occasions and other fundraising opportunities.

We look forward to the future with enthusiasm.


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The traditional Rotary Christmas collection in aid of local charities


Our Club History sub-pages:

A few words about our first Club President

more We are indebted to Martin Edmonds for the following information about his great grandfather, Hilton Jason Saunders, who was the first President of The Rotary Club of Twickenham.