Having recently reached 70 years of age I’m conscious that I’ve been a continuous member of the DAAC for 57 of those years, just pipping Brian Groombridge one of our Life Members by a year. I fished the club’s waters prior to that though.  As a child and before there was a junior section in the club I was taken fishing on the club’s waters by my Great Uncles’ Cecil Wells and Cyril Dann who were members as well as Frank Manktelow, and Noel Burr two of my Father’s friend who were also members; that would therefore take my memories of the DAAC back almost to when the club was formed.

Many of the club’s committee meeting minutes have gone missing so I decided I should document as much as I can recall, providing a history of the club the best I can. Luckily most of the club’s financial records have survived as well as a few newsletters from the 1970’s.  These have provided me with a lot of information and acted as an aide memoire.

Keith (Nim) Grose

Secretary & Treasurer

2017

THE EARLY DAYS OF THE DAAC

The Dorset Arms Angling Club, Withyham was formed circa 1955, the 1956 accounts show a balance of £20.6s.8d being carried over from 1955 but no other information for that year or previous years. The objective of the club was securing fishing rights on local waters for local anglers as at the time many waters in the area were coming under the control of large angling clubs located outside the area.

The Dorset Arms Hotel in Withyham was selected as the headquarters for the new club as two of the local landowners supporting the club’s objectives were the 9th Earl De La Warr and his son Lord Buckhust who had offered the club the fishing rights to three lakes at Buckhurst Park in Withyham. The lakes had been listed in Bernard Venables Guide to Angling Waters in the South East published in 1954.  Earl De La Warr also made fishing available on one of the streams running through the estate known locally as the Paygate Stream.

Earl De La Warr and Lord Buckurst in supporting the club’s ideals asked that a limited geographical area be designated for the recruitment of members and so one of the club’s first rules was that members had to reside within four and a half miles of the Dorset Arms Hotel. There were no junior members initially and junior subscriptions don’t appear in the accounts until the 1958/59 season.  It was then decided that membership numbers should be limited to a maximum of 100 senior and 25 juniors, this was incorporated into the rules.

Another land owner and supporter of the club was Lord Gibson who owned the Penns in the Rocks Estate. The stream that ran through Sherlocks Farm and Hendal Farm on the estate was added to the list of waters the club could fish.  At that time the stream had no name but today is known as the Eridge Stream although Google Earth have incorrectly called it the Mottsmill Stream.

Two local farmers, Billy Swift and Rob Medhurst also gave the club the fishing rights on their stretches of the Upper Medway. Billy Swift also allowed the club to fish the stretch of the Eridge Stream adjoining the Penns in the Rocks Estate at Ham Bridge that ran through his land.

What of the members who founded the DAAC, some of the names have been lost in time but some notable ones I recall. Frank Manktelow a builder and undertaker in Groombridge and three of his employees, Cecil Wells, John Osborne and George Howell were early members. Cyril Dann, Cecil Wells’ brother in law was another.  Three members of Lord Gibson’s staff, George Bosworth his butler, George’s wife who I believe was cook at Penns in the Rocks and Ted Bryant the gamekeeper were also early members.  From Hartfield there was Des Burfield, Frank Stapley and J Hodge, all three at some time being officers of the club.  Members /retired members of the armed forces seem to feature a lot in the early financial records either as members or Vice Presidents.  Amongst these were Admiral Brind who lived at Lye Green, Major Williams, Colonel N A Keith, Brigadier A G Nunn, Major Morgan, Major Paynter, Colonel White and Major Ellis.

In the early years the club ran annual dances to raise funds, presumably in the Kings Hall in Withyham and an annual dinner was held at the Dorset Arms Hotel when cups and trophies would be presented. Lord and Lady Buckhurst attended a number of theses dinners and Lady Buckhurst presented the prizes and trophies.  At some dinners there was a film show and a projector and operator were hired.  The films of course were fishing films.  The annual dinner was replaced by a Buffet Supper in 1978 and this event carried on for a few years but records from 1987 show Annual Dinners had commenced again.

For a number of years Ted Bryant assembled a cricket team from members of the DAAC to play against Withyham Cricket Club whose headquarters was also the Dorset Arms Hotel. The team was named “Ted Bryant’s Jolly Anglers” and the game always took place at the end of the cricket season.  After the game all concerned headed to the Dorset Arms Hotel and a tradition was born when George Howell, needing a new pair of cricket boots for the following season, burnt his old ones on the large log fire in the public bar. In following years someone always found an old bit of cricket kit to throw on the fire after the annual match.  Ted who had been Vice Chairman was made a Life member for his services during the early years of the club but sadly passed away in 1970 and after his death the cricket matches ceased.

PRESIDENTS, OFFICERS AND NOTEABLE MEMBERS

Lord Buckhurst was President of the club when I joined and I believe had been President since the clubs formation. He continued to hold the office as first Lord Buckhurst and then the 10th Earl De La Warr until his death in 1988 aged 66.  His untimely death was a great loss and shock to the club as he had taken his own life.  But for him and his support the club would probably never existed.

Our next President was his successor the 11th Earl De La Warr who continued in this office until the 2008 AGM when he was not re-elected. The reason for this will become clear later.  For the next four years the club operated without a President but in 2012 A B Smith (Bert) one of the clubs long serving members’ was elected as President.  Additionally he has since also been made a Life Member for services to the club.

The first Chairman I recall was Frank Manktelow but I believe Des Burfield preceded him. Frank gave good service to the club over many years and when he stepped down he was made a Life Member.  He was I believe the last of the founder members of the club when he passed away in 2016.

Bill Rayner, a retired Army officer, was a prominent Chairman in the 1970’s and if my memory serves me well succeeded Frank Manktelow. Under his guidance DAAC membership increased.  There was such a waiting list for the junior section that the club had to approach the then Lord Buckhurst to get his approval to raise the limit on junior members from 25 to 50.  Interest in attending working parties at Buckhurst Park also increased; members would bring their families and a picnic lunch making it a day out.  Bill wrote the club’s newsletter and his writing was always full of humour.  He was also responsible for the club gaining the fishing rights to Old Mill in Crowborough Warren during the 1969/70 season, a water that is now long gone.

When Bill Rayner moved to Peacehaven following the death of his wife he stepped down as Chairman. He was made a Life Member in acknowledgement of his services to the club and Ben Trice was elected as his successor.  Ben was the landlord of the Junction Inn in Groombridge.  Other Chairman over the years that followed were John Manktelow, Frank Stapley and Guy Tasker.  Guy was and still is a tireless worker on behalf of the club and for his services was also made a Life Member.  Rod Akehurst took over from Guy until he moved from the area and was replaced by Martin Simmons in 2016.  Martin is our current chairman.

I believe the first Secretary to have been J Hodge from Hartfield but when I joined in 1961 it was Ian Stephenson from Groombridge. His successor was Ted Dyer.  Ted had a good relationship with Lord Buckurst, they had I believe both been on the Normandy beaches in 1944.  In 1970 when Ted Dyer stood down I was elected Secretary for the first time and held the post until 1977, also enjoying a good working relationship with Lord and Lady Buckhurst.  By the time I stepped down I had been on the committee for a total of 16 years and was greatly honoured when I was made a Life Member.  Tim Milam then took over for a number of years and was also created a Life Member when he stood down.  I’m not sure who replaced Tim, but it was most probably Chris Young who I know did hold the post for a while. Guy Tasker was also Secretary prior to becoming Chairman.  I believe there were two other Secretaries covering the period up to the 2007 AGM but without access to the club’s lost records this cannot be confirmed.

After the 2007 AGM the club was left without a Secretary. I didn’t attend the 2007 AGM but on hearing of the club’s plight from Roy Phillips the Treasurer I agreed to step into the post for a second time on a temporary basis and I’m still here 10 years later!

In 1961 Cecil Wells was Treasurer but for the first few years this post had been held by W Mitchell. Roy Phillips took over from Cecil Wells and continued for many years until his death in 2008.  I agreed to take on the post of Treasurer as well as secretary on a temporarily basis until the 2009 AGM.  As no volunteers came forward at the 2009 AGM I agreed to continue in both posts as long as I had some help with the membership subscriptions and so for the first time in the clubs’ history a Membership Secretary was appointed from the committee.  Martin Simmons was the first Membership Secretary followed by Bob Hickson and then Simon Hickmott.  Sadly Simon took his own life in 2016.  Andy Baker took over that year whilst I continued as Treasurer and Secretary.  It seems quite amazing that there have probably only ever been four Treasurers since the club’s formation.

The subscription in 1956 was 5 shillings (25p) but doubled the following year to 10 shillings and the next to one Guinea (£1.10p). There were three interesting purchase shown in the 1956 accounts.  Milk was purchased from Buckhurst for 4s 3d, a tea urn for 4s 1d. , also a broom handle for 1s 2d.  Reading between the lines I think the milk and urn were used to provide tea and coffee for members on working parties.

For many years until his death the clubs annual accounts were audited by Bill Hudson. Bill wasn’t a member but he was a good friend to the club.  He lived at Fishers Gate on the Buckhurst Estate and spent most evenings in the Dorset Arms socialising and playing darts with the likes of Ted Bryant and the Rev Peter Scott who was also a member of the DAAC at one time.  Bill Hudson did much good in the community as a whole and would help anyone.  One of the finest people I ever met.  He ran the Withyham & Groombridge Boys Club from a hall, now long gone, that stood immediately behind the Dorset Arms Hotel.  I was a member as were many junior members of the DAAC.

Over the years there have been many committee members who have worked tirelessly for the club. Other than those previously mentioned there are currently 6 other Life Members and 3 of these Derek Cook, Fred Stillwell and Colin Vickery are still active anglers.

Since the cub’s formation DAAC’s Vice Presidents have been great supporter of the club. Until their deaths Lord Gibson, Billy Swift and Jack Bowthorpe the founder of the Hellerman Deutsch group of companies were Vice Presidents.  A succession of Wealden MP’s has also supported the club as Vice Presidents.  The first was Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith, followed by Charles Hendry and today Nus Ghani.  Judge John Gower QC and Hugh Gibson have been a Vice President for many years and Rob Medhurst who had been a Vice President since the club’s formation passed away in July this year.  Judge Gower used to regularly  walk around the lakes in Buckhurst Park when the club had the fishing rights and always stopped and showed an interest in what the members were catching.  The head of his walking staff was memorable; it was a leaping Brown Trout. Trevor Wells, the son of Cecil Wells, is also a current Vice President as are Clive and Andy Medhurst the sons of Rob Medhurst.

THE CLUB WATERS

As previously mentioned the club’s first waters included three lakes and a stream on the Buckhurst Park Estate. Later the club was also given the fishing rights on the Main Lake at Buckhurst Park as well and allowed to fish a small lake at Fishers Gate for a while.  For a time the Main Lake was shared with Crowborough & District Anglers Association.  Fishing on the Half Moon Stream also on the Buckhurst Park Estate was added.  In the early 1970’s the Main Lake was drained and dredged using traction engines, one either side of the lake with a bucket drawn between them.  The Half Moon Stream that ran through the lake was diverted to run round it in an attempt to reduce silting.  The DAAC were then instrumental in re-stoking the lake, some of the Carp coming from Weirwood Reservoir.

The club had enjoyed easy access to the lakes at Buckhurst Park until the 10th Earl De La Warr died in 1988.  After that restrictions began to be placed on the club including where members could park.  An area in the Withyham Cricket Club car park was allocated but members were not allowed to drop their tackle off near the lakes before parking and had to take a long hike carrying their tackle with them.  The club were also being charged more for the fishing rights but raising the money wasn’t possible with the restriction imposed on the membership numbers so after agreement from the Buckhurst Park Estate membership was opened up with no restriction on the number of members.

Unlike the club’s good relationship with the 10th Earl De La Warr the relationship with the 11th Earl De La Warr and his wife was not an easy one and in 2008 the clubs fishing licence was withdrawn.

During the 1986/87 season the club were granted the fishing rights to two lakes on the Burrswood Estate in Groombridge, the largest of which needed dredging. This work was carried out at a cost of £1,250.00 and then restocked.  More recently a small car parking area has been added for use by Blue Badge holders with help by way of a grant from the Environment Agency.

Jack Bowthorpe allowed the club to fish the small pond beside the Edenbridge Road at Hartfield until his death in the 1970’s.

For a time the club held the fishing rights on Scarletts Lake at Cowden but in 2010 when the owner died the lake was sold to Bromley & District Angling society, they approached the DAAC offering an amalgamation of the two clubs but this offer was turned down by the committee as it was felt the DAAC had a future in its own right despite losing the fishing rights to both Scarlett’s Lake and Buckhurst Park in a very short period of time. The Match Lake at Birchden Farm was another water the club had for a short time before the fishery was closed.  As previously mentioned Old Mill Lake that was shared with Crowborough & District Anglers Association was another and as a result of the joint venture the Warren Shield came into being and was and still is fished between the two clubs. Annual fishing matches were also held against a local gun club.

For a couple of years the DAAC held the fishing rights to three small lakes in Rosemary Lane, Ticehurst, sharing the water with Crowborough & District Anglers Association for part of that time.  This water was given up due to a problematical leak in the dam of one of the lakes and rising water rents.  One of Shannon Davis’ lakes at Eridge was also shared with Crowborough & District Anglers Association for a while.

Around the same time as obtaining the fishing rights at Rosemary Lane the DAAC were granted the fishing rights to the two small lakes at Ticehurst House, Ticehurst owned by The Priory. These lakes had previously been RTWAS waters and when they became available several clubs were interested in them and it was a “feather in the DAAC’s cap” when it was decided by the Priory that the DAAC were the best suited club to take them over.

The waters running through Billy Swifts’ land were unfortunately lost following his death to RTWAS but more recently the club has been able fish them again via a third party, RTWAS having given them up.

A number of years ago the club joined the Rother Fisheries Association and also became affiliated to Weirwood Reservoir, this provided members of the club with new venues to fish. Another water was also added to the club’s portfolio when Trevor Wells gave permission for the club to fish his lake.

Waters have come and gone over the years and this year (2017) we have added Renhurst Farm, Mark Cross to our list of venues.

THE CLUB HEADQUARTERS

Up until 2013 the DAAC’s headquarters was the Dorset Arms Hotel, Withyham, hence the name of the club. In the early days the landlord was George Crawley.  He used to allow the committee to hold their meeting in his lounge above the bar and many memorable annual dinners were held there with the 10th Earl De La Warr and his wife attending to present the trophies.  There have been a number of landlords after George Crawley all of whom supported the club but after George committee meetings were moved to the bar area.

The Dorset Arms Hotel had been part of the Buckhurst Estate but it had been sold to Harvey’s’ of Lewes. In 2013 it was bought back by the Buckhurst Estate and then closed for refurbishment so the DAAC had to find somewhere else to hold committee meetings.  The Crown Inn in Groombridge, close to the clubs lakes at Burrswood, seemed an ideal venue and the committee received a warm welcome from Steve Harmes the landlord.

When the Dorset Arms Hotel reopened it was seen to be inappropriate to return there and use it as the club’s headquarter as the connection with Buckhurst Estate had ceased long before in 2008 with the withdrawal of the licence allowing the club to fish the lakes and streams on the estate.

Since 2007 records of committee meetings and other documents have been computerised or kept in a manual filing system and it is hoped that the old minute books may turn up one day so that additional information relating to the DAAC’s history can be added to what is written here.