Back in the early 1930s a group of local traders decided they needed a place to meet in Selsdon to discuss business and meet socially over a drink or two as there were no ‘drinking houses’ in Selsdon. In fact, Selsdon was called the New Jerusalem of the borough because of this. To this day, there are still no licenced ‘drinking houses’ in neighbouring Sanderstead.
Eventually, with the help of local butcher Harry Ockleford, a venue was found for the local men to meet and have a drink at the rear of Selsdon Farm where Aldi now stands. It was not the ideal venue because being at the rear of the farm it was more of a barn than a room, the facilities were basic and there were no toilets. However, the early stages of The Village Club were formed and about forty Selsdon men had started their social club.
Another local club came and went: in 1935 the Selsdon Social Club had been formed and was raided by the police just before Christmas for supplying alcohol after hours; the manager was fined, their licence was revoked and the club folded.
The Selsdon Garage, which was on the Broadway, moved to its present position in 1938 and the owner, Mr R Bailey, was approached for possible accommodation as the Club needed to move from the farm site to more suitable premises. Although Mr R Bailey was not a drinking man, he agreed to provide a new home for the Club at the rear of the garage premises.
In 1941 the Club had to close for a month as alcohol was being sold without a licence. Another of the founder members was a gentleman called Mr H. Bryant: there is a record of a letter from him in the Selsdon Gazette from April 1950 where comments are made about the Village Club. In 1948 the Gazette reported on the Village Club’s successful Sunday outing to Margate and gave results of the Club’s cricket team.
The Club continued to grow and in 1955 Mr F H Murray submitted a proposal to Coulsdon & Purley Urban District Council asking for permission to erect a club on the
neglected Cowley Nursery site (where Cowley Close is now). The Club had also contacted the Residents’ Association for their views which were supportive. However, the proposal was rejected as the Council had designated the area for domestic housing, not business premises. An appeal against the decision was lodged and rejected.
In 1956 the Sanctuary Tea Rooms was put up for sale: situated in the middle of the ‘High Street’, the premises were seen to be of perfect size and location. In February 1956 Mr F H Murray had a successful application to the Council approved for a change of use and the finances for the purchase of new premises was raised by the then present members. In 1957 permission was gained by Mr R W Borham, Club Secretary, for an extension to be built and there has been a further extension since.
Interestingly, Mr Harry Ockleford was the Village Club’s first Chairman and held the honour of that office for twelve years, obviously a well-liked and respected gentleman.
The Village Club now boasts a membership of over 600 members and we even have a few members who remember the ‘Selsdon Garage’ days. Each one of us members can only be grateful and thankful to the original 40 for creating The Village Club.