Our Past

A short history of The Oakley Institute/West End Sports & Social Club

In 1875, Queen Victoria granted a parcel of land for the purposes of building a church and a school for the use of the commoners of West End, Esher. Ownership of the land passed to the Church of England who oversaw the building of St George's Church and a school, which in due course became the Village Hall.

In the late 19th century, a corrugated iron building, called the Oakley Institute, was erected at the back of the school playground (now a car park). The Oakley Institute (pictured above prior to its demolition in 1972) provided a youth centre for local boys and was equipped with a billiard table and darts board.

There were also changing facilities for West End Cricket Club and West End Football Club who have both played sport on the common, in the case of the Cricket Club since 1875 and in the case of the Football Club since the foundation of the Institute. In 1972, a lease was signed between the lessors of the land (the Vicar and Churchwardens of Christ Church, Esher) and the lessees (the Trustees of the Oakley Institute).

The lease stipulated that the trustees should vest the trust property with the Charities Commission and at that time the trusteeship should pass to a Committee of Management. The new organisation was to be called West End Sports & Social Club and the Committee was to comprise of 5 elected and 9 appointed trustees. In time, the appointed trustees have been reduced to 5 - two from West End Cricket Club, two from West End Football Club and one from the Parochial Church Council. At the same time, the original building was demolished and replaced by a single storey "portacabin" type structure.

In September 2005, the clubhouse was demolished and a building erected on the existing footprint that was moved some 15 feet back from the road in order not to obscure the recently installed stained glass windows in the Village Hall next door. The new clubhouse re-opened in April 2006 and has proved extremely popular with both the sports and social sections of the Club as well as the local community at large.

Brief outline history of social institutions in West End, The Prince of Wales PH, The Oakley Institute and the West End Esher Sports and Social Club.

As written by former club president David Rolfe

The Prince of Wales Public House began life in the 19th Century on land that was used for both coal yard and brewery. Mr Mann set up his brewery and associated ale house which eventually was extended several times as instanced by the dates on the outside of the pub. Mann subsequently merged with Grossman and Paulin, at their Albion Brewery in Whitechapel. In 1958 that firm was taken over by the then Watney, Coombe Reid, who in turn were taken over in 1972 by Grand Metropolitan and merged in 1974 with Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. The brewing interests later passed to Scottish & Newcastle, but Grand Metropolitan retained the public houses. The rest is modern history. Full details are available in various local history books, websites and from the Surrey History Centre.

The Prince of Wales was run as a Watney Mann house during the 1960s and 70s probably under a 'turnover lease' arrangement, and was so when the writer came to West End in 1970.

In the 1960s and early 1970s the Landlord was 'Spike' Edmunds with his wife Winn. Spike was also a Yeoman of the Guard and ran a tight ship in the old pub style, a tenet that suited the locals very well. These were the years of the Bentley Boys and the Esher Rugby lads, when many residents had lived locally all their lives. Spike and Winn retired to West Wittering and the licence was taken over by the ex-Ebury Tavern proprietors, Tom Campbell with his wife Sarah and their Great Dane, the latter always commanding the best banquette in the house. Upon their retirement to Alderney in the early 1980s a new man, Ron Hurd and his wife took over the house, evicting the West End Pigeon Club from the old stables and turning these into a restaurant come function room extension. The old Jug & Bottle and the Public Bar became a new kitchen for a short time and the Saloon bar was refurbished. Ron was a bit of a 'road house' ambitious man and managed a love/hate relationship with his customers, some of whom were still old villagers and others the new 'incomer' commuters. The typically English 'them and us' social divide was complete.

In the 1980s, the tenancy was offered by Watneys to Harmony Inns, a start-up pub company with a couple of houses. They carried out work to move the kitchens to the rear of the premises, refurbished the bars and lavatories to a good standard, and installed Bill and his wife Carmel who built the pub into an excellent local with good food and crack, and an efficient staff. The locals were welcomed and in turn made the house hum.

Due to a proposed change in the commercial arrangements of Harmony Inns, the lease was returned after a few years to Watneys. Following this change there were a number of short-lived tenancies the last and probably best being that of Geordies, Eric and Sheila, with the pub becoming jollier but remaining much the same, until the new arrangement between Watneys and Scottish and Newcastle Breweries led to the growth of new style tenancies, pub groups and wholly owned subsidiaries. The Chef & Brewer chain took over the management of the POW, subsequently becoming Punch Taverns who continue to the present.

By the mid 1990s the deteriorating state of the POW was only equalled by the near closure of the Sports and Social Club. This organisation had occupied a corrugated iron shed to the rear of the village hall for many years, having been originally set up by a local worthies Mr & Mrs Oakley, with the aim of giving the farm lads something to occupy their time, (such as woodwork rather than the local hostelry), in their evenings off. Later the Oakley Institute became a Registered Chanty which continues today as one of the leaseholders, with the Village Hall, of part of the tranche of land given to the Village by Queen Victoria, and now administered via the Parish of Esher. Details of that action and subsequent arrangements are held by the Surrey History Centre. Suffice to say that the original intention was that the land should be used for the building of a village church and school, the school materialising but the church remaining simply a 'temporary corrugated iron 'mission church', the still popular and well-used St George's Church.

The original Oakley Institute building also was used for changing by the West End Cricket Club who had played on the common since 1875. Follow this link for more details: The History of the Oakley Institute

In 1972 the Cricket Club, urged on by the energies of some of their older members, Reeve Lynn and Cyril Handison to name but two, found enough funding to construct a new 'Peel' type timber Clubhouse building alongside the Village Hall, the latter being the old Village School. This allowed the old shed to be removed and a joint car park formed. This new building served the Sports and Social Club and the Village well until, during the 1990s, its fortunes faded and the Cricket Club was n danger of losing not only its changing and shower facilities but its very existence.

This state of affairs was anathema to many people who frequented the POW, and occasionally the Sports and Social when the POW bar closed. These were the days before all-day opening! Besides, there was the potential loss of cricket on the green, not to mention the other outdoor activities on the common, a feature of the village for many years. It was an English thing. The then active folk of the Sports and Social were the only four or five attending members remaining; their morale was very low and the beer was terrible. They were also somewhat inflexible and sadly negative about future possibilities, and retired following the Club's AGM in February 1995.

A new Club initiative gathered strength. Interested villagers, local traders and far-sighted positive supporters began a joint revival and simple refurbishment of the Sports and Social Club. The building was totally redecorated, new showers and a boiler installed and tremendous volunteer work by numerous members also ensured a welcoming and well stocked bar and clubroom. They were further encouraged by the imminent closure of the Prince of Wales for a major series of works that took four or five months and changed the interior and ambience of that house for ever. Thirsty and social persons were attracted to the Club as never before and the current growth and enthusiasm began. It is interesting to note it appears that from this point the 'them and us' differences became more opaque.

At the imminent turn of the Century, a joint initiative with the Committee administering the Village Hall caused an approach to the National Lottery Fund for money to improve both adjoining buildings and make economies by the sharing of certain facilities. A Village '2000 Fund' was also set up. The subsequent Lottery Grant proved insufficient for the original purpose and together with the proceeds of local 2000 fund-raising, was divided in rough proportion, allowing an extension to the Hall but only a welcome addition to the Club's maintenance fund. However the bait was set. By 2005 enthusiasm was high, funds had been built up and loans acquired to allow the rebuilding of the Club's premises to become the present structure.

Today the Club boasts sections for Cricket, Football, Golf and Motoring activities and the West End Esher Racing Pigeon Club has at last found an enduring base.