After the First World War a number of serving and retired officers came to live in Hartley and because they missed the facility offered in the services of an Officers Mess, they decided to create one, in part of what is now known as the Hartley Social Club.
In the period 1924/5 the Officers Mess was absorbed by the formation of the Hartley Constitutional Club which expanded and leased the whole of the Hartley Social Club building. At about this time the 10 acre pasture field to the west of the Club was offered for sale.
Mr Charles Ellerby, a member of the Club committee and an agricultural contractor, was able to come to an agreement with William Sale, the field owner for a lease of five years at £100 per annum, with an option to purchase for £1,000 within the 5 year agreement. In the period 1926/7 the Constitutional Club founded the Hartley Sports Club with a view to using the field for cricket, tennis, etc. With the assistance of some of the members and financial support from the Constitutional Club and Hartley residents, Mr Ellerby was able to create a cricket square and outfield which allowed cricket, followed by tennis and bowls, to be played.
The “Officers” eventually made the decision to exercise the option to purchase the land and Captain Charles Bignell undertook the task to float a company, entitled The Hartley Country Club, and to build a clubhouse on the site. Captain Bignell was able to raise the capital, shares and loans for the purchase and building work and the Clubhouse was finally opened in 1934 by the local Member of Parliament. The Hartley Country Club was registered as an open space for all time and was designed to be a non-religious and non-political organisation. On the formation of Hartley Country Club the Constitutional Club ceased to exist and became what is now known as Hartley Social Club.
At the outbreak of World War 2 all the sports at the Club stopped because the young men were conscripted into the services to fight for their country. During this time Hartley saw their village encompassing an Italian prisoner of war camp, an ammunition dump in local woods and the position of anti-aircraft guns.
After the War more work was done on the ground. Two more grass tennis courts and two hard courts, replacing the first two grass courts, were added. The bowling green was expanded and moved to where it is today.
The period after the War saw a change in the structure of the Clubhouse, which was previously for men only. It was decided to build a room, which would allow women into the Club for the first time. The image of a family club was born.
The 1950’s saw the Club prosper with increased membership and becoming a very popular part of the community, which it still is today
Information gained in an Interview with Charles Ellerby ( b.21.6.1900, d.28.12.01) in June 2000.
Culvey Close, Hartley, Kent, DA3 8BS
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