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Historical Notes

 

 

    

1 - Proposal To Form Watford Circle

 

 

Formation of a Watford Circle was proposed at meetings on 21 and 28 April 1928, attended by Messrs Yates, Sweeney, Stanton, Minch and Pearce.

The application for a Charter was signed at a meeting in Holy Rood Church Guild Room on 10 May 1928 in the presence of Brothers Potter, Deverall (Provincial President) . Lewis and Ritchel. The application was signed by the following as Brothers, mostly of Harrow Circle. Yates, Sweeney, Minch. Darley, Hearn, Stanton, Potter. Corbridge, Pearce and Bell. It was also signed as gentlemen by Messrs Barton, Carman, Dunham, Collins, Carroll. Thompson. Sexton. Cooney, Kelly, Blemell-Pollard and McLeod.

On 19 June 1928 at a meeting at 'Fleetwood', The Avenue, Bushey, the home of Brother Yates, he, Brothers Sweeney, Stanton, Hearn, Corbrldge, Pearce and Richard Potter proposed the following Council:-

 

 

President W. Yates Chamberlain H. Minch
Vice President T.F.W. Hearn Pres. Marshall M. Sweeney
Secretary E.H. Pearce V.P. Marshall J.T. Bell
Treasurer W. Corbridge Registrar G. Stanton
  Guard L. Darley (or MS. Dunham)
Auditors S.E.D. King and J.M. Collins

 

 

2 - Formation

 

 

The Inaugural Meeting of Watford Circle No 98 was held at Bucks Restaurant, High Street. Watford on Tuesday 17 July 1928. The opening officers were:-

 

 

Grand President T. Fattorini (Chair) Grand Secretary F.J. Rudmnn
Grand Director P. Kelly Provincial President F.C. Devereli

 

 

W. Yates proposed the formation of the Circle. This was seconded by H. Minch and carried unanimously. The following candidates were initiated and received the signs of Recognition G. Barton. R. Carroll, C.A.StC. Sexton, C.L Kelly and T. Carman. Absentees were :- J.M. Collins. F. Thompson, J. Cooney, R. Blemell-Pollard and D.S. McLeod. 59 Brothers were present at close of the Meeting. It was decided that the Circle should meet on the 4th Monday of each month, the next Meeting to be In September 1928.

A Special Meeting was held on Wed 1 August 1928 to Initiate those unable to attend on 17 July:- Messrs R. Blemell-Pollard, F. Thompson and J.M. Collins. Mr J. Cooney was sick at home and Mr D.S. McLeod was not present; both were Initiated later. 16 Brothers attended the Meeting.

 

 

3 - Beginnings

 

 

The first Council Meeting was held on 13 September 1928 at the President’s home. The next Circle Meeting was to be in the Essex Rooms of the Essex Hotel, Market Place. Watford at 8pm on Tuesday 25 September 1928. G.S. Potter and MS. Dunham were co-opted to the Council.

At the first Circle Meeting, the Annual Fee was fixed at 10/8d. Each Brother was to pay 1/6d on entry to a Circle Meeting - this to Include one drink and to allow for the entertainment of visitors, the balance going to the Benevolent Fund. The next Council Meeting was to be on the 2nd Tuesday In October 1928 and the next Circle Meeting on the 4th Tuesday that month.

At the Council Meeting held on Tuesday 10 October 1928 at Brother Hearn’s home it was decided that Circle would meet in future, at the Oddfellows Hall, St. Albans Road, Watford. The next Council Minutes recorded that a fee of 10/ per evening had been negotiated for use of the small hall, a doorkeeper to be engaged at 7/6d.

The fee of 10/ per evening represented a reduction from the 15/ originally asked. Although not stated at the time it later became clear that there was an understanding, certainly on the part of the Oddfellows, that associate membership of that association would be taken up by Catenian members. It was recorded that on 8 March 1932, the Oddfellows Hall had refused to have refreshments sent up because only eight Catenians had become Associate Members of the Oddfellows’. How the matter was resolved is not recorded.

The second Circle Meeting on Tue 23 October 1928 had elected T.F.W. Hearn as Provincial Councillor and H.S. Dunham as Catena Correspondent.

A joint Dance with Harrow Circle was held on 13 November 1928 and a Children’s Christmas Party was held at the Vagabonds Hall on 29 December 1928.

The first Annual Dinner and Dance was held at Bucks Restaurant, Watford on 7 February 1929 - price 10/6d.

Early Council Meetings were held alternately at the homes of Brothers Yates and Hearn and then usually at the Rose & Crown, Watford or at the hotel of the same name at St. Albans.

Delegates attended the Catenian AGM at Cambridge on 4,5 and 6 July 1929. In the same month, Brother L. Darley was thanked for conveying Brothers to Ilford on an out visit to West Essex Circle.

Catenian Directories were available price 1/6d.

The first death in the Circle occurred on Tue 10 September 1929, that of the Secretary E.H. Pearce. His place was taken by Brother W. Corbridge.

Council Minutes for 29 October 1929 recorded the transfer of the bank account from Lloyds to Barclays Bank.

 

 

4 - Expansion

 

 

Although there were no specific offices as such, provision was made in early days for one Brother to be responsible for 'Service' and another for 'Propaganda'. The latter term did not then have the sinister connotations which it acquired during and after World War II, but referred to the propagation of the Catenian Association. Circle Meetings in 1930, were held on alternate months in Watford and at ‘The Salisbury Arms’, Hatfield with a view to recruitment in North Herts.

It may be asked why with adult male congregations in Watford, Bushey and Rickmansworth, it was felt necessary to go so far afield. An answer may be found by departing from factual reporting in favour of the view of one who grew up in the early Thirties, flawed as it may be, by personal prejudice.

Catholic congregations in this area at that time, consisted in the main, of only a few affluent families, the remainder being either poor or of modest means. The faithful attended Sunday Mass as a strict obligation and in a personal capacity, far removed from the corporate act of worship known today. Friendship was limited to kith and kin and to those considered as social equals. Everyone 'knew his or her place' and kept to it and opportunities for social advancement were very limited. Social elitism, or snobbery to give it its true name, was rife and as some older members can recall, existed in this Circle into the Fifties.

Catholic employers were few and far between, Masonic influences limited career advancement and the stated qualifications for Catenian membership were interpreted almost to the letter. The effect was to disenfranchise a large part of the potential membership.

Watford Brothers were conveyed to the first Meeting at Hatfield on 13 May 1930 by a garage owner Mr L. Darley who returned with them as Brother Darley, a shrewd enrolment by the Circle. Twenty other candidates from North Herts were enrolled, some living as far afield as Sawbridgeworth. Considering prevailing road conditions and the low level of car ownership at the time, it is not surprising that difficulties in attending evening meetings in Watford soon became apparent. It was stated that of the Letchworth area members, only two worked in London, the remainder having to travel to meetings in Watford by train via London. In 1931 meetings were held alternately in Watford and Welwyn Garden City and not surprisingly, in October 1931, a decision to form a North Herts Circle was confirmed.

 

 

5 - Division

 

 

Those who resigned from Watford Circle to form Circle 108 acknowledged that no obstacle had been placed in the way of the foundation of the new Circle although it gravely diminished numbers in Watford Circle which then turned to the St.Albans area to recoup its losses. Alternate Meetings were held in the Oddfellows Hall, Watford and in St. Albans, 'The Peahen' and latterly at 'The Rose & Crown' or at the 'Red Lion'. The absence of defined catchment areas, led to charges of 'poaching' by Circle 108 in the St. Albans area which Watford considered its own. However, it was the reluctance of Watford Brothers to travel to St. Albans which led the Circle to withdraw to a compromise venue at 'The Hertfordshire Arms', Garston where it remained from 28 April 1936 until the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 apart from Inter-Circle Meetings with Northampton Circle at 'The Swan' Leighton Buzzard on 22 June 1937 and 22 June 1939.

 

 

6 - Wartime

 

 

At an informal meeting at ‘The Hertfordshire Arms, Garston on Tue 26 September 1939, it was decided that in view of 'Black-out' conditions, Circle and Council meetings would be on Saturday afternoons. These were held at 'The Clarendon Arms'. Watford Junction from Sat 21 October 1939, apart from meetings at 'The Bull', Gerrards Cross on 11 November and 16 December 1939 where candidates were initiated to form the South Bucks Group.

The last meeting at 'The Clarendon Hotel' was held on Sat 26 October 1940. It was that the hotel was unsuitable for entertaining visitors and the Circle left there precipitately, meeting on Fri 22 November 1940 at the home of the President in Kings Langley. The Circle venue moved to St Augustine's Hall, Rickmansworth from 28 December 1940.

An unfortunate consequence of the move to Rickmansworth was that Brother A.C.J. Smits, a Belgian national and therefore an alien, was prohibited from travelling the two or more miles there from his home. The problem was resolved when he joined the Belgian Army but eventually, war service prevented him from attending meetings.

Wartime conditions led to many Brothers having to move to other parts of the country and conversely, to visits by Brothers from Circles far removed from Watford. Concern was expressed for the son of Brother Carroll, reported missing and comparative relief when it was learned that he was a prisoner of war of the Japanese.

In June 1942, Circles were permitted to apply suspension of Rule 42 without reference to Province and in March 1944 it was stated that Grand Council had decided that members of the following organisations might attend business and social parts of Catenian Circle Meetings.


・Knights of Saint Columbanus - Ireland


・Knights of the Southern Cross - Australia and New Zealand


・Knights of Saint Columbus U.S.A. and Canada


Prior claim on the Hall by Boy Scout leaders led to a final Circle Meeting there on 28 November 1942 and to the 19 December 1942 Meeting being held in the President’s home in Rickmansworth.

St Joan of Arcs Convent provided hospitality from 23 January until 24 April 1943 after which the Circle returned to the Oddfellows Hall, Watford, meeting there on Mondays from 25 May 1943 until 23 April 1945.

 

 

7 - Post War

 

 

The next Meeting the 200th, was celebrated at Bucks Restaurant, Watford on Friday 6 July 1945 with the 201st at St. Augustine’s Hall, Rickmansworth. The Oddfellows Hall was no longer available on Mondays, so the Circle met there on Thursdays from 23 August 1945 until 24 March 1949.

The Circle moved to 'The Green Man', Market Place, Watford from Thursday 28 April 1949 and apart from a foray to The Maldon Hotel on 21 December 1950 and the exceptions which follow, remained there happily until Thursday 2 September 1954.

Missionary attention had turned towards Aylesbury and the Circle Meetings on Thursdays 22 June 1950 and 6 November 1952 were held there at 'The Bull’s Head', nine signing the Roll for the Aylesbury Group on the latter occasion although formation of the Group was not approved until the next meeting in Watford on Thursday 20 November 1952. The meeting on Thursday 16 July 1953 was an Inter-Circle event at 'The Bull', Aston Clinton and the 300th Meeting was celebrated in the Small Town Hall, Watford on Tuesday 8 September 1953.

The 306th Meeting was held on Thursday 18 March 1954 and a decision was taken to change to the 1st Thursday of the month commencing 6 May 1954.

The Green Man was one of the few venues from which the Circle moved reluctantly. The Brewers decided that dinner should be available to the public from October 1954 and so notice to quit was served on the Circle which met there for the last time on 2 September 1954. A short stay at the Victoria Hotel, Rickmansworth from 7 October to 2 December 1954 was followed by a transfer to 'The King's Head', North Watford from 6 January to 5 April 1955.

Circle Meetings were held at Durrants (Old Merchant Taylors), Croxley Green from 5 May 1955 until 1 August 1957. The next move was to 'The Swan'. Rickmansworth where the Circle remained from 5 September 1957 until 7 September 1961 with the exception of the 378th Meeting on 3 March 1960 which was held at Moor Park Mansion and the 382nd Meeting, an Inter-Circle event at 'The Bull's Head', Aylesbury on 4 July 1960.

The next move was to 'The Sportsman'. Chorleywood where Meetings were held from 5 October 1961 until 13 December 1962, apart from the 400th Meeting which was held at Moor Park Mansion on 18 January 1962.

Sharp disagreement with the manager led to hasty departure from 'The Sportsman' to The Victoria Hotel, Rickmansworth where Meetings were held from 3 January to 4 April 1963 after which the Circle moved to 'The Crown', Garston, remaining there from 2 May 1963 until 1 April 1965.

Meetings were at Top Rank, The Pond, Watford from 6 May 1965 until 5 August 1971 and then at the Caledonian Hotel, Watford from 2 September 1971 until 2 January 1975. Sharp disagreement with the management led to hasty departure from the Caledonian Hotel. so hasty in fact, that Brothers had to be advised by telephone that the Meeting on 6 February 1975 would be at the Southern Cross Hotel, Langley Road, Watford.

The room available at The Southern Cross was long and very narrow with a sliding door. all conversation being clearly audible to those in the public bar next door and after a second Meeting there on 6 March 1975, the Circle returned to 'The Crown', Garston where it rested from 3 April 1975 until 2 June 1983 when impending alterations forced a move to the Caledonian Hotel, Watford.

 

 

8 - The present

 

 

The Caledonian Hotel. St. Albans Road, Watford provided a breathing space for the Circle from 7 July 1983, despite changes of management and of name to the Dean Park Hotel from November 1985. Mounting dissatisfaction led to a supposedly final meeting there on 6 January 1994. The Meeting on 3 February 1994 was held at 'The Tudor Arms'. North Watford where the sight of Brothers wearing suits and collars and ties caused such merriment to patrons that a return to the Dean Park Hotel for one Meeting on 3 March 1994 was tolerated.

Relief was in sight through the good offices of Brother Roy Symons and latterly of Brother Anthony Kilkerr, in effecting a move to the Metropolitan Police Sports & Social Club, Bushey where the Circle has met since 7 April 1994.

The October 1983 Meeting was held jointly with Aylesbury Circle at the Civic Centre there on Monday 10 October to mark the Golden Jubilee of Maurice Walshe who had joined Watford Circle on 24 October 1933, had been President in 1939/40 and 1940/41 then Secretary for nine years before taking the Chair again in 1951/52. He relinquished dual membership of Watford Circle on 31 March 1968, retaining membership of Aylesbury Circle.

Grahame Taylor Rose completed forty years membership of Watford Circle in February 1996 as did John Bos in November 1997 and Reg Bennett and Tom Hilder in September 1998.

Grand President was present at the December 1998 Meeting to mark the Golden Jubilee of Maurice Maguire's membership of Watford Circle.

On the 6th January 2000 a joint meeting was held with West Middlesex Circle at the Metropolitan Police Club to celebrate the new Millennium.

Grand President was present at the Watford Circle on Thursday 4th September 2003 for the celebration of the 900thmeeting. Also present was Bernard Collins a visitor from Seaford who's father was one of the founding members of the Watford Circle in 1928.