Extract from an unpublished Book written by Ian Leslie about the Boys Club during the wartime years 1939-1940

We thought this part of Ian’s book would be pertinent at the time when we are remembering the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.



The two living streams that were the Hoxton Manor and the Crown came together in early October 1939 when Arthur Llewellyn Smith, with Jimmy Doyle and “Darky” Read opened the doors of Hoxton Manor’s fine building on the banks of the Regent Canal. By this time the other managers were otherwise occupied – Harold Llewellyn Smith in evacuating his boys from St Marylebone Grammar School to Cornwall; Michael Holme called up for service with the Essex Regiment; Joe Howard, although still looking after Wykeham House (a Winchester settlement house) (then in St John’s Road) busy orgaising his office preparatory to joining the Essex Regiment in June 1940); and Ian Leslie heavily engaged with Civil Defence work in Finchley.  Soon there were only ALS and Jimmy, for “Darky” Read’s stay was brief – Arthur Villiers raising objection to his membership of the pacifist Peace Pledge Union as being likely to prove an unpatriotic example to the boys.  But Club life went on much as usual – with football, boxing and street running (while the evenings remained light) – until the blitz began in the autumn of 1940.  Rationing and observing the blackout regulations had been the principal worries, but now the whole picture changed.


The first Nazi bombs fell on England on the 11th August 1940 and life in London and in many cities and towns underwent a radical change.  Not least in Hoxton, recipient of a good deal of attention from German aircraft as they made their way up the Thames to the heart of the City.  Raids became an almost nightly event, not surprisingly bringing many of the activities at Wiltshire Row to a stop.  The enforced interruption of normal life and general confusion following on partial breakdown of communications – roads primarily – but also telephones and postal services and interruption in food supplies delivery – were sufficient in themselves to keep away some of the boys living at a distance from the Club.


A postscript to the Annual Report of 1939 – 40 written by Arthur Llewellyn Smith, gives a picture of how the Club coped. Dated 28th September 1940 it runs:


‘As we go to press, London has withstood three weeks of continuous night bombardment …..Hoxton has had its full share, especially in the first week.  Latterly the chief brunt of the attacks seems to have fallen elsewhere, though each morning, fresh gaps appear in the rows of houses.  One little boy, Sidney Murray – a newly-joined member – lost his life when his Anderson shelter was blown up on the night of 11th September; and a few of the boys are temporarily homeless through air raid damage and unexploded bombs……The Settlement and the Club have so far escaped damage, apart from the slight effects of an incendiary bomb which penetrated the Club roof one night and burnt out harmlessly on the gymnasium floor. Hoxton, in common with the rest of London, is bearing up wonderfully under changed conditions and is coming to regard them as part of the day’s work.


At the Club, attendance has naturally fallen but we have 20 or 30 boys regularly every night. We have of course, had to adapt the Club programme to the new situation. We hope to continue with week-end activities such as football  But in the evenings, we now open at 5.30 p.m. and members come as early as they can to get through some training in the gym before the sirens, or perhaps have a run through the streets while daylight lasts.  The hot showers now fulfil a greater need than ever before.  Then when the guns open up, we adjourn to the newly built shelter and carry on…..We have seized the opportunity to re-direct our energies to forms of activity more directly connected with grim reality, such as classes in First Aid and the control of incendiary bombs.


With the barrage at its present intensity, there is no question of going home to bed.  Fortunately, the shelter seats are reasonably comfortable.  Boys bring their own blankets and doss down for the night under the care of Mr Read, who has taken up his quarters in the Club, so as to be available in case of need.


The year ahead is likely to be strange.  It is certainly uncharted; but with the support of our friends we hope and expect to see the Club come out on top’”



For the information of old Club members who do not have the chance to visit the Club, we have a Quiet Room, which is used just for teaching and meetings. This room contains a Memorial Wall of photographs of all of our members and some of the Old Wykehamists who were killed in action during the war.


We also have a Memorial Wall for the wonderful people who helped to create this magnificent club

We, the staff and members of the Crown and Manor Club hold their memory in the deepest respect.

September 2009