Solent Rifle Club was formed in 1944 by some of the members of the local Home Guard (Dad’s Army). The range was then situated at the Drill Hall in Park Gate. There is still a range there but now comprises an underground ‘tunnel’ formed by concrete sections. We consulted Bill Kimish Jnr. who informed us that the founder members included Eric Moody, Captain George Taylor and Gordon May. Early members were Bob Snelgar, Jim Snelgar, Jack Wilding, Ted Gardner and Bert Sawyer. Captain Taylor was the club Secretary as you can see from the notice board below.
The notice board was found in 1989 when the current range was being re-built and extended. It was under several generations of carpeting – it seems that members all took their redundant carpet and put it in the range to uplift the comfort therein ????????? The board was taken away and re-furbished by Alan Purser.
Regrettably we have no other knowledge of this era and must, therefore, fast forward to 1951.
The local family, De Selincourt, had given a piece of land to the Sarisbury Community for a Centre – this being where the Sarisbury Community Centre stands today. They, in turn, leased a portion of the land to be used for a Rifle Club and hence the Sarisbury & District Rifle Club was formed. We only have one member who knows the background and we are indebted to Bill Kimish for his knowledge.
The President was Colonel Spencer –Smith and Vice Presidents Reg Moody, Alan Moody and Dr. Mackie. The latter three gentlemen financed the building of the new range built on the current site in 1951 and opened in 1952.
A two point range was built comprising blocks of a mixture of concrete and sawdust for the walls and a solid concrete wall behind the butt area. The main walls and the butt wall were additionally supported by buttresses of concrete suitably reinforced with angle iron (ex bedsteads) and any other material which could be ‘found’. The roof was ‘big 6’ asbestos sheets which remained in place until the re-build in 1989. To the side was a clubroom some 3 meters wide and 8 meters long. Within this clubroom was built an armoury and general safekeeping arrangements for the equipment.
Bill Kimish Snr and Jim Snelgar laying the last block
The range was opened for use on 26th April 1952 with the ceremony being performed by Mrs DeSelincourt with other local enthusiasts being in attendance. There are many at this opening whom we are unable to identify but those we can are:
Mrs W Moore, Miss M Moore (later Mrs Mary Maiden), Colonel Spencer-Smith and Dr. Mackie.
Mr Bill Kimish Snr and his wife Sybil , Mrs Kimish Jnr.
The first shot was fired by Mrs De Selincourt with Col.Spencer-Smith in attendance.
The Club became affiliated to the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs (now the National Small-Bore Rifle Association) and is Club No. 790. The local Society was the Southampton & District Rifle Association and also the Hampshire Small-Bore Rifle Association and continues to this day. Another early member is Peter Lutman who joined the club in 1963 and was Secretary from 1967 until 1972 when the post was taken on by Andrew Sculpher who continued until 2006. We have the documentation during that period but nothing earlier.
Our President, Terry Gleed, first shot here in 1954 at the age of 15 but knows no other details. He simply remembers that the club was no more inviting than other clubs in the Southampton area. Every club seemed to be content with minimal facilities and little or no heating. At Sarisbury this was with paraffin heaters and egg boxes around the walls as a form of insulation. Another member, David Cleeve, joined in 1971 and remains so to this day. There is a lack of clarity about the club activities in the 60’s and 70’s but we do know that Bill Stubbington, our past President joined early in the 70’s and the club was affiliated to the Hampshire and Southampton Associations during that time.
A vast change took place in 1987 after the new Committee was elected in May of that year.
The club had languished for many years with no enthusiasm at all to progress the club or bring it into the 20th century. The club room was no different when the writer joined the club in 1986 to that which he had last seen in 1960. At that time it was a two point range with the range dropping over a meter between the firing point and the butts. The range was covered in old discarded carpeting and was in no way in a condition to encourage newcomers to look upon the club as a pleasant place in which to learn the sport.
At the first Committee Meeting following the AGM a proposal was put forward to update the club, particularly the clubroom, and for this an amount of £250 was agreed to do the work. What followed was just the tip of the iceburg when compared with the work carried out over the next two or three years.
The clubroom was fully battened and lined with a fibreboard to partially insulate and to give a sound surface to paint and generally brighten the place up. The two windows in the outside were bricked up such that access was more difficult. A new electric cable was run from the Centre to the club (the existing cable was run over the roof and was not able to cope with the demand) and in the same trench a gas and water supply was also laid. The heating to date had been paraffin heaters followed by mobile gas heaters donated by one of the members) and the gas supply allowed of a considerable update to the comfort for members and visitors. One member supplied a second hand domestic warm air heater which was cannibalised such that warm air heating could be used for the clubroom allowing the mobile units to be used in the range.
Over the winter season 1987/88 the club had to endure many comments from visiting clubs about the work including, of course, many who expressed their appreciation. As said above, this was just the beginning. Ideas were now being actively discussed on improving the range facilities. Many hours were spent deciding the way forward with the outcome being that sketch plans were made to increase the range from two firing points to four or five. Clearly this would take some financing and a general design and costs were sought. This resulted in an estimate of £19000 which was always a non-starter.
Subsequently it was agreed that if this was to go ahead we would have to do the work ourselves. A brief was given to a local architect and a design produced. Budget costs were sought from suppliers and the plans submitted to the Fareham Borough Council. Agreement was reached and we then had something positive to address.
Within the club there were various trades and expertise which could be tapped. This is not the time to name names as subsequently most members did what they could to assist the progress of the work.
On 27th December 1988, after getting the agreement for what we wanted from the Centre (our landlords) the building area was cleared and prepared for the new build to start. This happened on 1st April 1989 and, as can be seen, from the following photos taken during the work, proceeded until the middle of July as which time the integrity of the ‘old’ range was breached and the range closed.
Work continued at a fairly brisk pace and the range building completed externally over the next two months. In July the original range was breached and we were out of business.
Over those two months the butts were built and the range made available to the MOD for inspection. This was carried out on 28th September 1989 and a certificate issued. We were back in business and had a fully functional 5 point range. What was lacking was a ceiling and a concrete floor. We had no finance for this and it had to wait until 1990. We were at a point which we all hoped could be achieved but were never quite sure.
The range ceiling and floor were completed during the summer of 1990 and, generally, the range is as it can be seen today. The range soon became the one which the Hampshire Association and the Southampton Association use for representative matches and continues to this day.
Two years later the clubroom was ‘extended’ by removing the armoury and building a new one to the side of the entrance still only accessible from the clubroom. Nothing much has changed since then except for general maintenance and the occasional paint job.
It is an excellent club and continues in a very friendly, if business like, atmosphere. Newcomers are made welcome and we continue to be forward looking even if the sport appears less popular than it once was.