The Move to Penn Street - and back again to Wiltshire Row

On 17th December 2010, the Crown and Manor made yet another piece of history by closing its doors at Wiltshire Row after 80 years of residence.  We had made the 17th an Open Day for everyone to come along and say farewell to a building that has meant so much to so many people. Unfortunately, heavy snow that day rather reduced the amount of people able to come.

In mid November 2010, the Crown and Manor Old Boys Association held a farewell party for all its members and well over 70 attended, together with their wives, partners and families.  This was a great show, considering that the youngest of the Old Boys Association Members are now in their late sixties.

Clearing out a building that had stood on the site since the 1920’s threw up a massive amount of wonderful history – for instance, in the early 1930’s the Crown and Manor Club actually had a women’s fencing team.  Reading through some of the documents that came to light, one realises that the Crown and Manor in all its life, has been part of the social history of the area.  For instance, where else, in what was after all a slum area, were hot showers and towels provided for members? Where else for instance were prospective employers checked out on behalf of members to ensure that they were working in a safe environment. 

Why is this Club different from other Clubs people ask?  Just ask any ex-member or present member and watch their face and see it light up when speaking about the Club and how it has changed their lives.  We have pride in who we are and what we do. Our members are here to enjoy themselves through boyhood to adult life, through sporting to educational activities. 

Thanks to the kindness of one of our Old Wykehamist members, much of our equipment was stored on a farm in Gloucestershire and we would like to thank Robert Philipson-Stow and family for their generosity to the Club. 

The London City Mission who own the Penn Street building were absolutely delighted that the premises were being used for the benefit of the youth of the area.  Guiding young people into becoming valuable members of society has long been one of the basic tenets of the work that the London City Mission has carried out in the area for many years and of course, the Crown and Manor too hold dear to this precept.

Due to refurbishment work at Penn Street, the Crown and Manor were not able to re-open its doors to members until March 2011, but despite this three months lay off, weweere delighted that all our members came back and our membership continues to hit the 300 mark.

Of course the Penn Street building was so much smaller than Wiltshire Row, but we were still able to continue with most of our activities.  The only exception wasd Karate and we are sorry that we lost the services of William and Francis Gow because of the lack of space.  Thanks must go to William and Frances for their work at the Club over many years.

2011 saw Crown and Manor members representing their Club in tournaments on two continents  - trips were made to Rimini (30 aged between 15 and 16) Disneyland Paris (14 aged about 11) and here in Britain trips were taken to Pakefield, Suffolk, Minehead in Somerset, Woodrow High House at Amersham and thanks to the efforts of the team itself and its parents 15 members between 12 and 13 went to Atlanta, US.  Future trips are being planned for the coming years.

We watched day by day our new building on Wiltshire Row going up.  Our completion day was often moved back but we were finally given the date of 7th January as THE date.  However, due to technical problems, we did not actually move back into Wiltshire Row until the 11th February 2013.

This meant, in effect, that an empty shell had to be created into a comfortable youth club for our members in time for the formal Opening Ceremony on 28th February 2013.  This was attended by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnon, together with Sir Keith Mills, the Chairman of the Olympic Committee. It was a great do with everyone having a good time.  We were live on London ITV Tonight News and featured a double paged spread in The Sun the following week.  The Evening Standard also covered the event.

Sir Keith Mills' organisation Sported, were magnaminous in their support of refitting out the new Wiltshire Row building, as were BBC Children in Need, the Mercers Company and the Drapers' Company.  The Worshipful Company of Girdlers have long supported the Crown and Manor in all its work and they too pulled out all the stops to help the Club get fitted our for general use.  Thank you to all of our supporters.  We could not manage without you, from the old age pensioner who regularly sends us £10 per month to the big boys, who often put a couple of noughts on that sum.  Everyone of you is valued and respected for your wonderful generosity.

Now, amost a year later back in Wiltshire Row, the Club is beginning to feel like home again.  We are sad that some remedial repairs have got to be done, which may necessitate closing part of the Club for a short while, but as usual, our wonderful staff will cope with whatever fate throws at them and cope amazingly well.

We will up date this account every few months or so.


January 2014