Parish Groups Archive

This is a record of contributors to the life of the parish remembered and thanked

The precise date of the launch of the Christ the King Social Club is difficult to determine as records of its start and its initial meetings have not been found in the church’s archives. References in the parish council minutes suggest it was alive and well before the church was built. Indeed its creation was influenced by the influx of workers who were recruited to build the local power stations and Severn Bridge. A large proportion of these workers were Irish and so the Salvatorian and other local priests provided support and solace to these men and their families. Jane Bradshaw’s excellent history of the church “God gave the increase” refers to this period and the support provided by the clergy.

The Social Club helped, too, in providing a venue for their rest time!

The aim of the Club was to provide financial and physical support to the building of the church and the members gave both most generously. Indeed, without this help it is doubtful that the church would have been built at this stage in the early 1960s.

But its support was not limited to the church. When discussions were being held around the subject of financing the building of the school it was the Social Club that proved to be the prime financial supporter when it took on the responsibility of meeting the full costs of the mortgage that had to be raised to cover the 50% cost of the school that the local education authority declared that the parish had to pay. For 30 years the club duly paid over £1k a year to meet the cost.

Then when the parish decided to buy a separate house as a much-needed presbytery, the Club generously contributed £7k to the purchase cost and even more for refurbishment.

But its generosity was not limited to the church and school. The early minutes of the Club amply illustrate that when over a period of time various individuals and local organisations approached the Club asking for support, it invariably agreed to help, and we see a range of donations being offered.

It was not just financial support that was offered. The Club’s committee arranged social events and trips and was particularly influential in promoting a parish-wide community spirit. One particular initiative that was repeated for several years was its Beer Festival; an event that attracted community support from within and outside the parish.

Initially staffed by a band of stalwart volunteers, it then needed to take on board a series of initiatives to manage a growing business and paid staff were employed in managing the bar. All the challenges of coping with the right choice of beers, loss and wastage (“ullage” as it is known) a discerning customer base and managing a membership base all proved particularly demanding. Much of the attention in the minutes of its meetings illustrate the challenges of developing a successful business model that relied heavily on a volunteer management and a fluctuating membership.

As with similar social clubs in other churches, the CTK Club began to suffer from the winds of social change. Thornbury boasted a range of taverns, so the choice of venue was wide. Drinking patterns changed as customers were influenced both by stricter drink drive regulations and the desire to enjoy a meal with a drink. While pubs adopted more readily to the meals challenge, church social clubs couldn’t switch so readily – and some like Christ the King’s, not at all.

The Club then began to see a falling-off of membership and a consequential fall in profits. The tables then began turning and while in its early days it was the Club that was baling out the church, now it was the other way around. The parish’s finance committee now agreed to meet more of the costs that the Club had previously met.

Eventually the bullet had to be bitten and while nostalgia had kept the club alive for the last few years, the Covid virus proved to be the final straw and in 2021 the committee decided to close the Club.

This was a sad and difficult decision for so many parishioners who had supported the club to varying degrees over its 60 or so years. But the fruits of their efforts are there to see. We have a church, presbytery and school that all benefitted from the labours and generosity of the Club’s supporters. There is no doubt that the Social Club in its time made a significant contribution to the parish. Without it we would all have been the much poorer. Our very grateful thanks.

Raising money has always been a challenge for the church as it is so dependent upon the generosity of its parishioners. An idea proving popular in several churches at the time was a Lucky Numbers Scheme which involved two numbers being drawn each week and the holders of the winning numbers receiving a prize of £16 – if unclaimed the scheme allowed the prize to reach £100. The weekly donation per ticket was a princely 10p

The scheme was launched in late 1978 to help contribute to the building of a church. Len Cranston was one of the early organisers and was succeeded by Paul Beever in 1979, followed by Alan Brown in 2012 until the scheme was closed in 2020.

The scheme depended upon a collector for each mass each week and we are grateful to Mairead O’Donnell and Maureen Connolly who along with Alan Brown in recent years have generously given their time and effort in managing the scheme.

Since its launch some 40+ years ago, the Lucky Numbers Scheme has raised around £30k for the parish. This is a marvellous effort and our grateful thanks are due to all who have been involved in running the scheme.

The first group intended specifically for youngsters was formed in 1968 as a Boys Club with the object of teaching boxing. Little is known of the early years of this venture but by the early 1980s it had morphed into the Christ the King Youth Club catering for girls and boys which was affiliated to the Avon Youth Association and the Severnvale Youth Activity Group (SYAG)

Graham Fitzroy took over running the club in 1983 and was ably assisted by several other parishioners including Ann Rogers, Doreen Domaille, Carol Hogarty, Paul Beever, Jane Copeland, Jan Anderson and John Topping.

The minutes and newsletters of the meetings describe a very active agenda with trips to Alton Towers, annual swimming galas, table tennis and pool competitions. Discos then appeared along with caving expeditions, ice skating, canoeing, carol singing archery rifle shooting, dry Ski-ing, and under 12 and under 14 football leagues. A lot of the activities out of the club were organised by SYAG which included other local youth clubs and scout groups.

It seems that for several years, sponsored silences were quite successful in raising funds for the senior citizen’s Christmas lunches. By the end of 1987 a membership of 90 was recorded and the club was particularly active in competing with neighboring clubs across a range of sports-related activities.

By 1996 membership numbers had fallen to 34 and two years later there were only 17 members. 1998 saw Graham Fitzroy standing down after 15 years dedicated involvement with the club. Jane Copeland then took over running the club.

The minutes of the parish AGM in March 2001 record only seven boys attending the club and it seems that the decision was then taken to close it down.

As young peoples’ tastes changed so youth clubs gradually became less attractive and competed with specific sports-oriented clubs – particularly football – and more particularly social venues such as dance clubs. For those who did get involved in the 70s and 80s especially – whether as participants or organisers – all enjoyed the opportunity to meet and socialize in a safe and comfortable environment. The parish owes its grateful thanks to all the leaders and helpers who provided the club for our younger parishioners over so many years.

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