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Stourbridge Fencing Club

Est. 1961

Stourbridge Fencing club was founded in Spring 1961, it is thought in April. Unfortunately the original club records went astray in the ‘80s. None of the founder members are still with the club but our oldest surviving member from those early days tells us that he joined in May 1961 and believes it was about a month after the club was formed. In its early years the club was very active and its members represented the county and were prime movers in the creation of the then Worcester (now Hereford & Worcester) County Fencing Union. After a bleak period in the early 1970's, the club was revitalised in 1976 under the leadership of the late Peter Bird, when the nearby Quarry Bank Fencing Club was struggling for existence and decided to close down and resurrect the Stourbridge Club. Its new life started in the hall of the newly comprehensive Reddhill School, formerly one of the borough's two grammar schools. Welcomed with open arms the club soon found relations soured. The grammar school ethos was still very strong and included keeping the hall floor highly polished. No non-slip polishes in those days, so it could be quite dangerous. Pleas to leave the polishing until the followingday fell on deaf ears. Of course, the odd scrape from a weapon didn't go down to well and, for some reason, neither did the judicious sprinkling of a little French chalk by a member who shall remain nameless! In1978, therefore the club moved to its present venue, then called the Grange School.

Since that time the club has never looked back. Funding, in the form of payment for coaching and a small annual equipment grant from the local authority Community Services department was a legacy from the Quarry Bank club that was retained (despite the disbanding of the department) until the late '90s. At the time of the large scale cuts to Local authority funding, the Youth Services department to which our file had been mysteriously transferred (unknown to us), began a review of its support for various organizations. It was true that we had few junior memebrs at the time so we feared the worst. The outcome was that we were given a grant to run a beginners' course specifically for juniors, this being condition upon which we would continue to get support. That suport was to be in the form of paying for hall hire, which proved to be beneficial. It turned out that, without informing us, whoever was the successor to Youth Services cut that funding about four years ago. For two years the school itself continued to cover our hire charges, then announced that it could no longer afford to do so. Fortunately, the rate negoitiated is still reasonable.

In the late '90s the club, in partnership with the school, came close to winning £2M in Lottery Fund grant to set up a Regional Fencing development centre on he site with the building of a new sports hall and the turning of the existing gym into a dedicated fencing salle. Sadly it fell at the final hurdle. However, the gym was refurbished in 2002 with a new floor. The club had sufficient funds at the time to pay to have pistes marked out and was then one of the few clubs in the area to have that benefit. With new lighting the venue suddenly became much more attractive. Space is a bit limited, although there are 4 pistes squeezed into a typical '60s gym - one badminton court with a decent space around it. Over the summer holidays, the Games Hall, which was the original pre-war gym and has since been used for a variety of purposes, had its floor sanded and re-varnished. This too had new lighting a couple of years ago and now provides an excellent, very well-lit second facility, which the club uses, particularly for running the beginners' courses. The club has built up a good supply of electric equipment and a couple of years ago won what was then the largest grant to a fencing club from "Awards for All" when it had some £10,000 for equipment, which included two roll-out carpet conductive pistes.

Naturally, numbers have fluctuated but eventually expansion to a second evening was tried and, on this first attempt, survived for only about 12 months. From around 2005 the 2nd session was re-instated and this time was more successful. Unfortunately just at the time of the decision to pass on the hire charges, that group was struggling for numbers and its retention could not be financially justified.

In the early '80s Epée was the strongest weapon and the club became the de facto centre of excellence for the weapon in the region, attracting the top epéists both as members and visitors. Later sabre became the dominant weapon and it is this that has brought the greatest success beyond county and regional events. It was the first in the region to be equipped for electric sabre. Since the mid 1980's the club has had a steady flow of competitive success, both in team and individual events at county and regional level, at times dominating the medals. Although never in a postion to produce large scale national or international success, only a few years ago there were 3 members in the top 50 of the national sabre rankings and a member won a Bronze with the Welsh team at the 1994 Commonwealth Fencing Championships and fenced in the G B "B" team later that year. Three members have aslo won representative honours for England and GB at Veterans level. championships over the last few years and more recently in the World Veterans Championships and in 2003 one was World and European 60+ Veterans Champion, whilst the other reached the last 8 of the European individuals in the same year. In that category, the club finally had real international success with two members winning of European team Bronze medals, followed by European & World Gold medals in the same year(2003) by one member, who then went on to take the World Bronze in 2008.

New members are welcomed at all times and we try to run a beginners' course at the start of each school term. Peter Bird, formerly a school headmaster, was not keen to encourage children into the club. He was happy to run after school clubs for them and did much to promote schools fencing in the region. He felt, though, that he had had enough of kids by the time of the evening club. Therefore, being an adult dominated club it has taken some time to develop the youth aspect. For some years there have been a fair sprinkling of later teenage members. Indeed, shortly before he retired from coaching, Peter brought into the club at one go a dozen members from the local 6th form college, where he had a class. They went on become some of the most successful fencers the club has produced. The last remaining member of that group still turns up occasionally. Now, however, there is a growing group of pre- and early teenage fencers and each beginners' class adds a couple to that group.