A history of the MSC, part 3. 1901-1917

Peter Waine sent me this copy of the menu for the 1901 Annual Dinner. It illustrates two notable features of the early years, apart from the sumptuous menu which must have cost a fortune. 

First notice that the top illustration is of “One Designers” racing at Norton Pool. Norton Pool is what we now know as Chasewater. The middle picture is of “Raters” racing at Edgbaston. Whilst sailing was being established at Rotten Park, it was also growing at Norton Pool.A little later boats also sailed at Barnt Green.

Midland Sailing Club then was like a “holding company” with three branches, Edgbaston, Norton and Barnt Green. Amongst the records which were lost, I remember seeing Club Books which were headed according to the Branch, particularly the Norton one which contained the names of many prominent Walsall burghers of the day. Bernard Lee's history of Barnt Green Sailing Club also acknowledges that sailing took place at Bittell before the First World War, but does not indicate that it was part of the Midland Sailing Club! In fact L.B.Chatwin, one of our founder members, was also heavily involved in setting up B.G.S.C in the 1920s.

Second the records indicate that the Norton boats were Southampton Sailing Club's One Design Sharpie Class and they cost £13.00s.0d. each on rail at Southampton.

Peter Waine recalls his father telling him that if a boat was delivered by a member to Icknield Port Wharf, it only took a few hours for it to be transported by barge and offloaded at Norton. This illustrates why Midland was divided into three. Very few cars existed. Travel was by boat (freight) or rail (passengers and freight) tram or bicycle. Thus the main Club meetings were social events held in Birmingham, to which members travelled by train, but the sailing meetings were at the Branches.

Edgbaston Branch for a time used the old shed vacated by the defunct “Bohemians” but plans were drawn up to have their own Clubhouse. Members were asked to give 5 guineas (21 old shillings) apiece. It was designed by George Cox, an architect member, built by Harrison Smith Buildings of Vauxhall ; and at a cost of £119.7s.6d. Salters kindly donated £50.00.0 towards the cost. If you look at the architect's sketch you can clearly see the door which was marked “cycle store” on his original drawing.

This Clubhouse was somewhere on the side of the Reservoir between where TS Vernon and the Rowing Club are now. I have not been able to find the exact spot. However there is a building marked on the 1932 1:5000 O.S. map which is not on the 1905 one and I suspect that is the first Clubhouse because it was constructed in 1909/10. This building is about in the middle of where the viewing car park is now.

Members either cycled there or caught the 33 tram which ran along Ladywood Rd. and into Icknield Port Road and took a short walk or, if they were well to do, no doubt they were driven in cabs by their grooms from the larger houses in Edgbaston.

The whole scheme was supervised by the then Captain, A. P. Marks, the Commodore being then largely a ceremonial post. The Edgbaston Branch, according to Storer, was the only one to have an uninterrupted record of racing seasons from its foundation until the outbreak of the First World War. The Club had an Opening Day in 1915 but it said on the racing programme 'owing to the War no prizes will be issued this year". At the AGM on 22nd. March 1917 it was agreed as in 1916 “ there should be no official programme and no racing whatsoever on account of the state of affairs prevailing in the Country”.

Amazingly only J. Weatherhead lost his life in the war, but Gordon Smith was shipwrecked twice. Nevertheless these must have been amongst the most difficult years in the history of the Club. The late Mike Poole used to recount that he had heard from older members that during the war the boats on moorings at Norton were used as lunchtime target practice by the miners and one by one they sank! Consequently sailing at Norton did not restart and since no sailing was taking place at Barnt Green, it was decided at the AGM in February 1919 to drop the words “Edgbaston Branch" since that was the only part of the Midland Sailing Club left and therefore the whole Club. And so we have our name!

Photos of Edgbaston Reservoir from 1900 to 1917.

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

Midland Sailing Club
Icknield Port Rd
Birmingham
B16 0AA