South Staffs Burgee
South Staffordshire Sailing Club
RYA Volvo Champion Club National Lottery - Sport England
© Neil Hawkins

From Calf Heath to Gailey 1964 - 1974

The Building of the New Clubhouse

by Antony Darbey

Having obtained the new water, the next consideration was a new Clubhouse. Clearly, larger and more comprehensive facilities were required than those at Calf Heath. Various solutions were discussed, but the problem was solved when a member informed us of a temporary Bank building at a new shopping precinct in Birmingham. The Bank was moving into permanent premises, and the pre-fabricated temporary Bank was available at the bargain price of £50, providing that the purchaser undertook to take down and remove the building within four days after the close of business!
 
One of our members was able to provide a van, so that the remaining internal fixtures could be removed and stored. (Unfortunately the safes and contents had already been removed). The next Saturday morning, at 7.30 a.m., a large party of volunteer Club members assembled on the site, together with two lorries (one a 32-tonner) again provided by members. Dismantling of the Bank building commenced by the light of headlamps, members hoping that the local police had been satisfied with our bona fides! Work continued during the day, interrupted only for short breaks for refreshment, and once to remove to hospital a member who had stood below a descending roof beam. Fortunately, one stitch later, he was able to return to the fray.
 
Eventually, all was completed, and the last loaded vehicle left the site at 7.30 p.m. As a final touch, the large signboard reading "National Westminster Bank Limited" was tied on along the side of the large flat lorry carrying the stacked wall and roof sections. The building was then stored at John Brandon's until the site at Gailey was ready to receive it.
 
Sewage disposal was always going to be a tricky problem, as the site was so close to the reservoir. Main sewage was much too far away, a septic tank was not acceptable, and it was agreed with the relevant authorities that a dumbwell would have to be installed. Fortunately we were able to obtain, on favourable terms, a redundant 5,000 gallon tank for this purpose.

By Sep tember 1971 the planning requirements were complete, and working parties were organized to take advantage of the various skills (or lack of skills) of the members. A concrete foundation was laid, and excavation was made for the dumbwell, which was then installed (a major operation in itself). The building was brought out of storage, and work commenced on the erection of a 1200 square foot jigsaw. The shell was completed in two weekends, and work continued throughout the winter to complete the fitting out and decoration. With the exception only of the plastering and the roof felting, all work was carried out by volunteer labour, and many of the materials were obtained at cost price or even less.
 
The water supply had to be installed and laid for three quarters of a mile, from the A5 main road. A prefabricated toilet and shower block was obtained and installed at the rear of the clubhouse building, and duly connected up to the water and the sewage tank.
By May 1972 the job was complete, following some 3,000 hours of members' spare time. The result was a large comfortable clubroom, bar and kitchen, changing rooms and toilet facilities, that made the chemical closets of Calf Heath seem 100 years away.
 
Marion Barber designed and made the black frontage to the bar. The bar counter had been the bank counter!
The new clubhouse was a tangible tribute to the spirit of self-help and co-operation which has always characterised the membership of SSSC.