A history of the MSC, part 1.

The beginning of a sailing club on Edgbaston Reservoir.

In the early 2010's a statement in the club magazine “Mainsheet” lead one of our most long-standing members, Alan Birch, to do a little research.

The statement was that in 1894 Midland Sailing Club was “only open to the great and the good (our first Commodore was the Earl of Dudley)”.

Alan says that after reading this statement in Mainsheet he “was intrigued” because when he wrote the historical notes for the opening of the new Club-house in 1967 he found the following in the first minute book of the club: “On the 11th. June, 1894 at the offices of Mr Cecil Crosskey at 32 Waterloo Street Birmingham Dr Kauffman proposed “a sailing club be formed with headquarters in Birmingham” and it was seconded by Mr J.Storer. The founder members present at that meeting were : Mssrs. C.Crosskey; J.Storer ; J.Osler; J. W.Ryland; Dr.Kauffmann; L.W.Mathews; L.B.Chatwin.”


Following is the first of Alan Birch’s History of the Sailing Club.

I wondered at the time what manner of folk they were (the founder members). Were they really the great and good?

Stimulated, I recently spent a morning on the fifth floor of Birmingham Central Library delving into old press cuttings and found, at least, some of the answer. This is what I have discovered so far about our founders. Most were aged in their twenties to my surprise.

Dr Kauffmann was appointed Hon. Physician to out patients at the Queens Hospital in 1892. He later had a very distinguished medical career becoming Professor of Medicine at Birmingham University.

L.B.Chatwin was educated at K.E.S.Birmingham and went to Merton College, Oxford. He trained as a solicitor at Ryland Martineau (now Martineaus). At Oxford he had been a member of the Oxford University Yacht Club. After the First World War he was a founder member of Barnt Green Sailing S.C. He was very keen on amateur dramatics.

I could not find out much about Julian Osler apart from the fact that he, too, was very interested in acting but also mountaineering. Apparently he climbed regularly with William Mathews, also a solicitor and his father Charles Matthews. They were members of the Birmingham Alpinists.  Julian climbed in Wales with the redoubtable Dr Dorothy Jordan Lloyd who became the first lady to climb the Eiger. The Oslers were a well known Birmingham family.

Cecil Crosskey was also a solicitor. He was the son of the Minister of the Church of the Messiah and had been articled at Ryland Martineau. He had served in the South African War and presumably had only just got back. He later became a Lt. Colonel (in WW1?).

It was difficult to find much about James Storer, although I know from other sources that he was still active in the Club in 1922. An 1881 census search found only 2 James Storers in Warwickshire, one of whom was“boarding” in Ladywood, aged 23. He was described as a butcher. I think that was him and believe he probably was “in trade” in Edgbaston by 1894.

J.W.Ryland is the main conundrum. There was such an initialled prominent Birmingham manufacturer, who was into everything although he lived at Rowington. He died in 1896. He was Chairman of Llewellyn Ryland of Balsall Heath, paint manufacturers. He would have been very much older than the rest. I can find mention of a William Ryland who also worked for Ryland Martineau but not a J.W. Ryland. Perhaps J.W.Ryland is William Ryland.

It was on 25th, February, 1895 at the first AGM that the Earl of Dudley was invited to become Commodore. I suspect that this might have been because he was Chairman of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, the then owners of the Reservoir, but in the time available I couldn't substantiate this.  However I did discover that he was a keen yachtsman and regularly sailed with the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, in “big boats”!

My researches did discover another connection. The second Commodore was Sir Charles Hyde. Apparently Lt. Col. Crosskey met Sir Charles Hyde during the Boer War and they were afterwards both trustees of the South African War Benevolent Fund. He was the owner of the Birmingham Post. Sir Charles was a founder member of the Royal Cruising Club so he too was a yachtsman. He was a generous benefactor to the University Medical School.

There are two other interesting themes that presented themselves. A number of the founder members were Unitarian Church of the Messiah in Broad Street. Secondly all, except Storer, were part of the closely intermarried Bimingham industrial and professional classes of the day. They were not great, like the Earl of Dudley who was later Governor General of Ireland and later Australia, but their families were good and Birmingham owes a great deal to the parents of our founder members. And, of course, we the present members owe a great debt of gratitude to Kauffmann et al for starting our Club.


Alan Birch



Do not copy or reuse any part of this work without permission of the authors.
Postcard of Edgbaston Reservoir courtesy of Mac Joseph www.oldladywood.co.uk. Kindly do not reuse on any website or other publication without the permission of Mac Joseph.

For other photos and information about Edgbaston Reservoir and Ladywood please refer to www.oldladywood.co.uk