The Club was founded in 1951 when the Community Association was housed in buildings adjacent to the large roundabout at Rosehill. Up to the early 1930s a large private dwelling (Rosehill House) with a stable block is listed on this site, but by 1934 a hall had been added and it was known as the Sutton Trades and Labour Club. It is not known when the Community Association was formed but during the Second World War it was used for many purposes. One of these was as a fire station when two corrugated sheds were erected to accommodate the engines. My first memories do not include the stable block, but the old house, the hall and rusting sheds are quite clear. The Club started in one of the larger rooms in the house (one table) and then graduated to the hall on one night a week (1954) before taking over two nights (1956). The hall provided a four table venue.
One of the founder members of the Club was Derek Wedge who is still our Secretary as well as being the General Organiser of the Community Association. We started with one team in the Sutton and District League and increased the numbers as the Club expanded. In those early days the local leagues were the focal points for table tennis throughout the Country and the first step on the ladder after your Club was to represent your League, then your County and then your Country.
In 1964 the Surrey Junior Table Tennis Club (the coaching arm of the County Association) was formed by me at the Tweeddale Road School (near St. Helier Hospital) and a close relationship was built up between the two organisations. During the 1970s the two organisations amalgamated. Thanks to the use of the school on every night of the week, plus the two evenings at Rosehill, the Club was able to run a full coaching programme as well as running fourteen teams in the Sutton, Croydon, Leatherhead and Wandsworth Leagues.
In 1982 the Club became the first sports organisation in the Borough to host all the Twin Towns in one tournament. This took place at the Westcroft Leisure Centre with a reception in a local hall. The Twin Towns taking part were Gagny (France), Apeldoorn (Holland), Minden (Germany), Gladsaxe (Denmark ) and BSG BfA Berlin (Germany). The visitors were accommodated by Club members and it was an outstanding success. We visited both Gagny and Apeldaorn in following years.
In 1989 the association with the School came to an end, mainly due to rising costs. During this 25 year period the set-up produced nine Internationals as well as many County players, English Schools Champions, etc. Many of whom played for the Club. During this period we were also given the opportunity to build our own premises and a money raising scheme (the Hundred Club) was formed. Sadly the financial implications of such a scheme got a very poor response from the membership. Fortunately the proceeds of that scheme have kept the Club alive during some difficult years.
Those difficult years mainly centred around the deterioration of the property and the reluctance of the London Borough of Sutton to invest any money in maintenance. The lack of a strong Committee was also highlighted as the membership declined. A number of schemes were put forward until finally it was decided to sell off the site for housing and to re-house the Community Association. Our old site is now The Park at Rosehill as developed by Bellway Homes.
In 2003 the Sutton Arena was opened and we were moved into the pole vaulting area whilst our old premises were demolished and our present home (which used to be the changing rooms for the footballers and cricketers) was refurbished. Thanks to Derek Wedge we were able to persuade the London Borough of Sutton to equip the hall to ETTA specification as far as floor, lighting and walls were concerned. We moved into our new premises in time for the 2003/2004 season. During the 2004/2005 season severe flooding closed the Club for a few months and the floor had to be completely replaced. Following a number of investigations it was decided that the Club was actually situated in a “flood plain” and flood barriers were placed at each of the doors which have to be lowered into position each time the hall is vacated.
Since moving into the Rosehill Pavilion and the installation of a more active Committee the Club’s position has improved but we have to stay on our toes as many more activities are seeking to use the improved facilities.
Planning for next season has to start as soon as one season finishes and all members are consulted as to their plans so that we know how many teams to enter in the local leagues. Apart from the league matches we organise our own Club Tournament which features Open Singles, Open Doubles, Intermediate Singles (excludes all first division players), Handicap Singles, Doubles Competition (organiser mixes up the players to try and give everyone a chance), Junior Singles, Veterans Singles (over 40s) and Super Vets (over 60s). With refreshments available it is hoped that members will treat this event (usually spread over a number of evenings) as a social event as well as a chance to win trophies. Coaching has been arranged for the younger members but any senior player can ask for assistance. A Summer Competition has not been a regular event as it depends on someone volunteering their services.
As well as the above trophies we have the Narding Cup (for the player with the highest average in any Division of the local leagues), the Sid Thwaites Trophy (for the best Club Team performance) and the Presidents Prize (awarded for outstanding services to the Club). We have also entered Junior and Cadet teams in National Competitions. The local leagues and the County (Surrey) are also run by volunteers and over the years Club Members have been very active in these fields.
If you are looking for information there are two notice boards. One in the entrance lobby carrying general information and one on the back of the door to the table tennis storeroom containing fixture lists, table layout, etc.. A web site has been created and a newsletter has been published. We also have to maintain an attendance register which is completed by a Duty Officer. This list should also contain the names of any visitors who are always welcome and are expected to abide by our rules.
All the Club facilities and activities have been checked out by the ETTA Development Officer for London as a result of which we were given “Premier Club” status with an “Advanced” rating in 2005.
The Club is run according to a Constitution and a list of Rules. Every September we hold an AGM to elect the President, Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Club Captain and enough Committee Members to ensure the smooth running of the Club. The AGM is your opportunity to voice your views so please exercise this right. Volunteers are always needed so do not be shy in coming forward.
I trust the above gives you enough information to give an overall picture of the Club. What we must always bear in mind is that the Table Tennis Club is a part of the Rosehill Community Association and we have to take into consideration that other organisations use these premises which are leased from the London Borough of Sutton. I said earlier that Derek Wedge is the General Organiser of the Community Association, I am the Deputy Chairman and we are also allowed a table tennis representative. It is essential for the Club to maintain this representation.
On behalf of the Club I bid you a warm welcome and trust you will enjoy your membership to the full. Please remember the old saying “you only get out what you put in”.
Words by Mike Kercher