THE HISTORY OF THE OLD DARTFORDIANS' ASSOCIATION AND THE "OLD' DARTFORDIANS' SPORTS CLUB.
Dartford Grammar School was founded in 1576. The school roll was so small that even at the end of the nineteenth century the average number of school leavers could not have exceeded ten. It is surprising, therefore, that in 1986, a chronicle should be printed and circulated with the object of keeping Old Boys in touch with their school. This monthly bulletin, which might be regarded as the first step towards an Old Boys' Association.
Indeed the first Old Dartfordians Football Club had been founded in 1892. While the number of pupils at the school was so small, any activities confirmed exclusively to Old Boys would have been difficult to organise and this club. For which J.Davis, a former pupil and a member of staff was an enthusiastic worker, called an outside support and achieved considerable success.
At a meeting of Old Boys held at the school on the 13th January 1911, at which the Headmaster was Chairman, it resolved to form an Old Dartfordians' Association. The united committee appointed to frame rules and appoint officers, was under the chairmanship of J.Davis, who became the first Hon. Treasurer and continued in that office until 1922. At the time he was also Hon. Secretary of the Football Club and, through him, the origin of the Old Boys' Association might be carried back to 1896.
W Lindsey White, originally Vice-Chairman, served as Chairman for many years until the upheaval of 1926. In the first year, with P.W.Plant and R.N.Ekins as joint Hon. Secretaries, the association gathered 84 members, all of whom appeared on the School Roll from the beginning of Mansford's headmastership in 1902. The first Annual Dinner was held at the Hoborn Restaurant on 25th May 1911 and other social activities common to such Associations, including sports fixtures against the School, were established to continue with varying success down to our own day.
All activities of the Association ceased on the outbreak of the 1914-18 war. Social events were resumed immediately afterwards. In this difficult period W.F.Norris, a master at the School, joined the Committee. He was destined to play an important part in the reorganisation. A few years later T.B.Price, another master anxious to promote Old Boys' activities was elected to the Committee.
April 1924, when Major Pochin activated by the success of the School Rugby, called a meeting of Old Boys and suggested the formation of an Old Boys' Rugby Club. A small committee investigated the problems of finance, fixtures, playing fields etc and reported to a second meeting of Old Boys. It resolved to form a Rugby Club.
During 1928, coupled with the organising genius of Mr. Norris, resulted in a great upsurge of activities. Separate sections, each presenting its own financial account were established for badminton, dramatics, harriers, hockey, motoring and music, to which a cricket section was added the following year. When Mr.Norris resigned, after serving for seven years, the membership of the Association was 278 and the bank balance was £125. A dinner was held in his honour at the Bull and Victoria Hotel on 12 October 1935 and was elected a Vice-President. He again acted as Secretary and as a trustee during the 1939-45 war. The Association returned to it's maiden name of Old Dartfordians Association in 1935.
War once again interrupted.
J.W.Kerr who had become Secretary and Treasurer in 1939, called together the available officers and revived the Association at a meeting held at the School in September 1945. A dinner followed at the Bull Hotel, Dartford, during October every endeavour was made to restart the customary activities.
1947 D.S.Jones began the first of two long terms as Chairman, first of the Executive Committee and later of the Association, during which time his technical and professional experience were of inestimable value to the Association.
A War Memorial Appeal was launched in 1948 with D.P.Pritchard as Chairman and W.S.Gimber and F.T.Harris as Joint Hon. Secretaries, to which the association made an immediate donation of 200 guineas. The object was to acquire an Old Boys' Sports Ground and the erection of a Memorial Pavilion. By March 1952, the fund had reached only £1,650. The search ended at Bourne Road, but the real difficulties had yet been faced. Planning permission of building licence, development value, formation of a registered club with liquor licence, and not least the raising of the money to build, to level the ground, to erect a fence and other unforeseen items.
A building licence had having been obtained in May 1952, the pavilion was dedicated and opened on 19th September 1953, the total cost then having exceeded £2,700. Loans had been negotiated from the bank, from the Rugby Football Union and from Charrington and Co Ltd, the repayment of which have been met successfully. In 1957 the War Memorial Ground was bisected by a deep excavation for the works of the West Kent Sewerage Board putting half the ground out commission for several years. A long drawn out claim was settled in 1960 for some £1,250.
Six years passed and plans for a new Clubhouse were drawn and a scheme to raise the necessary capital was launched. Successful Annual Dinners, an August Bank Holiday Old Time Fair and Cricket match provided a welcome addition to income. Bar sales exceeded £3000 annually from 1961 and produced the main source of revenue to support the Association's activities. A photographic section failed to gain support, a hockey club was often mooted and debates were a partial success. Basketball proved attractive and badminton has always catered for a few faithful followers. The Rugby and Cricket Clubs attest to their own success.
The old Clubhouse was eventually demolished to make way for the new and one Rugby pitch was replaced by a round-about and a flyover. Construction of the new premises had been going ahead under the jurisdiction of the Association led by J.D.H.Stevens and J.Buckle. The new Clubhouse was eventually ready for occupation in March 1968, although the official opening was held over until the following September. The purchase of the ground was completed in 1977 and many improvements to the Clubhouse have been carried out.
The various Chairman, secretaries and treasurers including D.Eastley, C.P.Mills and I.F.Bell and the quiet and continuous work of others such as W.C.Johnson and D.G.Leonard to name but two have earned the thanks of all Old Boys. This account would be incomplete without reference to the School's Headmasters who, when help was needed such as when the ground was temporarily out of use, readily allowed the Association full use if the School's Facilities.
At the Club's A.G.M at the end of the 1967/68 season, a resolution was passed enabling non. Old Dartfordians to become full members.
A new era is unfolding and the facilities provide opportunity for the wider community.
May the Old Dartfordians' Clubhouse and ground remain a fitting memorial to those Old Boys' and Staff who lost their lives in the World Wars.