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The Club was founded in 1978. The records of the Club’s first days don’t appear to have survived but we know that the first chairman was Vernon Forster.
An extract from the Committee’s minutes dated November 1982 gives a snapshot of the early days of the Club. The Committee then comprised: Chris Zeuner (Chairman), Helen Baldwin, Keith Barnard, Mike Camp, Mike de Jong Smith, Zeta Good, Grace Randall, Diana Read, Ron and Teresa Warner. Helen is still on the Committee and several of those 1982 Committee members were still Club members in 2015. And until recently, Peter Linfield’s granddaughter was Secretary. Looking at the Committee business, it hasn’t changed much!
Initially, the Club mostly organised social drives. But by 1980, it was running the Lisa Joyce one day event and by the early 1980s, an annual Show.
Social drives were popular. Although there are now only three or four a year, even 10 years ago, there was at least one a month. There is still an annual award for the driver attending the most drives and there used to be rosettes for those completing at least six in a year!
Lisa Joyce ODE
Lisa was the daughter of founder members Bob and Mona Joyce. Lisa was tragically killed in a riding accident in 1979 and her parents decided to establish a one day event in her name, to be held around October each year to mark Lisa’s birthday.
This was quite different to the kind of event we know today.
– People often drove traditional carriages such as dog carts, spindle back gigs – and even a London trolley, as shown in the photo below!
– The ‘hazards’, as obstacles were then known, followed the marathon, rather than being integrated.
– There were no hard hats, let alone body protectors! There were mishaps of course and sometimes these were filmed and used to entertain members on winter evenings!
The event was initially confined to members. Yet a local paper reported in the early 1980s that there were 20 entries, including 10 pairs!
The first event was held in 1980 at Stansted Park, West Sussex and continued there until 1993. After a year at South Harting, it moved to Dounhurst, a specialised carriage driving centre near Wisborough Green, West Sussex. But the sale of Dounhurst in 2004 meant the event had to move on again, this time into Hampshire: first to Durley and since 2010 at Grayswood Carriages at Fisher’s Pond.
(A fuller history of the Lisa Joyce ODE by Carole Brewster appeared in the January 2014 issue of Carriage Driving magazine.)
Showing, especially private driving, used to be much more popular than it is today. Even in the early 2000s, there were enough entries to support two rings; now there is only one.
Initially, these shows were held at West Dean College, as in the photos below.
(Click on the thumbnails to see larger photos.)
The schedule for the 1984 Show shows that it had moved to the Weald and Downland Museum, where it still takes place. Grace Randall was the secretary. There were 13 classes and five judges! Spectators were charged and there was a licensed bar.
Sophie Adkins remembered (in 2015) “These shows used to be great..my favourite. Used to catch the 4am ferry with the cattle lorry full of ponies and carriages and picnic!” (In those days, lorries were usually just that – no fancy “living”.) Sophie has maintained her links with the Club, judging at the Open Show in July 2014.
Thanks to Sophie Adkins, Carole Brewster, Helen Baldwin, Lynne Hamill, Sue Norriss and Penny Richmond.