Wells War Memorial Institute and Women’s Lib

Read a fascinating personal insight into the club by John Tuck

 A Brief History

Afer the first World War, people in Wells decided that instead of just having a memorial in the form of, for example, a cross, a building which could be used by local people that incorporated a memorial would be a better option – a living memorial rather than a passive one. A committee was formed and fund raising began.

At the same time, the British Legion was gifted a piece of land by local merchants F & G Smith, to be used for building a memorial.

After several years of fund-raising, neither organisation was able to complete the project and the British Legion gifted the land to the Wells War Memorial Institute committee who by now had the money for a building but not the land.

The building was completed and officially opened on 18th September 1933.

Official opening of Wells War Memorial Institute, 18 September 1933
Official opening of Wells War Memorial Institute, 18 September 1933

The British Legion prospered and eventually had a club of their own but both this and the Memorial Institute Club had been in decline in the early 1970s and the club eventually closed. In 1975, with the help of one of the trustees Derek Styman, the committee of the British Legion were invited to take over the building. The legion’s billiard table was moved to the institute, the beginnings of better times ahead.

An increasing number of local people wishing to use the bar and facilities ensured a brighter future. Cribbage, dominoes, darts and now billiards and snooker thrived and the arrival of the first fruit machine, initially lent by Donald Gray, who became the first president, boosted income accordingly.

In the early 1980s, the committee decided to enlarge the building with a new bar, a lounge and toilets. The plans however ran into legal difficulties. Three of the trustees had not been legally appointed… and the only one who had, Donald Wells, was by now in his 90s and not in good health. The committee’s rules needed updating and, to cap it all, the British Legion alleged that the the gift of land made so long ago was not legal and that the club and the ground it stood on was theirs. New rules were drafted and agreed with the help of Rex Hiskey of Hayes & Storr and a QC was employed to defend the institute’s rights. After many months of concern, a judgement was made in favour of the Institute.

With the help of a £5000 loan from Green King, the first extension was built but it rapidly became a victim of its own success. The committee soon realised that the increase in membership along with a need for more billiard tables and bar space mean that a further extension was necessary. Many months of planning and financial concerns led to a plan for a further large extension which would include room for two more billiard tables, additional bar storage and a lounge area. The tender was won by A & N Marshall who were both club members and who rapidly built this very large social area.

The club since then has continued to attract new members and a great many regulars and has prospered to the present day and we trust that it will continue to do so.