In this, the centenary year of the Royal British Legion, I thought it would be interesting to try and trace the history of the Timsbury Branch.
We know that it was formed on the 29th September 1929, but regular meetings do not appear to have been held until 1933 when both the Mens and Womens Sections were set up on a permanent basis. The first monthly meeting was held at Pendogget Cottage (now known as Parish’s House by kind permission of the then owner, Major R A Addington. The Chairman was Mr Clifford Ruddock who was also Chair of the Parish Council.
One of the first decisions was the establishment of the Benevolent Sub-Committee under the chairmanship of Major Addington. Fourteen years before the creation of the welfare state, the sub-committee was to play a very important role in supporting the people of the parish by providing vouchers which could be redeemed against the appropriate requirement, such as the purchase of seeds for the growing of vegetables or the purchase of clothing, such as winter shoes and coats.
Some of the early meetings of the Sub-Committee took place at the British Legion HQ on South Road known as ‘The Hut’ and since demolished but many were held in either the Old Rectory, the Old Post Office or the private houses of Committee members.
As far as can be ascertained the Benevolent Sub Committee held its final meeting in November 1965, being renamed the Service Committee which continued it’s good work until approval for expenditure on welfare matters was taken over at a County level.
By 1958 Branch Committee Meetings were being held in ‘The Hut’. Detailed records of the early meetings no longer exist but it is known that, in 1958, the then Chairman, Mr Bob Pullen and Treasurer, Mr Curtis, both long-serving members of the Branch Committee, decided to resign and were replaced by Major R Bartelot as Chairman and Mr Rowsell as Treasurer.
Timsbury British Legion was flourishing and, in 1959, planning permission was obtained for a small extension to ‘The Hut’. On completion ‘The Hut’ was redecorated, the floor of the entrance porch concreted, the roof re-felted and the stove replaced by a blower heater. Plans were then drawn up to double the size of ‘The Hut’ by extending a further 40ft behind the existing structure. Mr Holbrook, who owned the land on which the extension would be built, agreed to donate the required ground and British Legion HQ solicitors agreed to raise the necessary paperwork to legalise the situation without charge to the Branch. Unfortunately, despite a lot of work by many people, among other requirements, the local planners wanted the provision of twelve parking spaces which could not be created due to the high cost of levelling the necessary ground.
Change of location
After this setback, the Branch Committee began to consider other locations for their activities. It is not recorded where the idea originally came from but, at a meeting on the 29th April 1964 a letter from the Parochial Church Council (PCC) was read to the Committee proposing an exchange of buildings between the Legion HQ (The Hut) on South Road and the Church Hall on Newmans Lane.
After some consideration the Branch Committee agreed that the exchange should go ahead at a meeting held on the 17th June 1964. A great deal of work had to be carried out by Branch members at both premises. ‘The Hut’ had to be adapted to meet PCC requirements before the transfer could be finalised and the Church Hall required alterations to make it suitable for Legion purposes.
The exchange was formally completed in 1966 but the PCC kindly allowed Branch members to start work on adapting the Church Hall (to be known in future as the British Legion, Timsbury Branch HQ) before completion. Rewiring, the provision of heating and some structural work was required. The Rising Sun Public House at Bloomfield (known locally as The Black Dog) had closed and the new owner, Mr Moon, a local builder, agreed to donate the bar structure to the Legion for incorporation in the new building, where it is still in use today.
During the period when neither of the premises could be used for meetings, the Branch Committee met in The New Inn, Timsbury (later renamed the Guss and Crook).
The first full committee meeting in the new HQ building took place on the 26th January 1967. At this meeting it was decided that a social club should be formed to be known as The Timsbury British Legion Club Ltd. and this is still in operation today.
Award of the Royal Charter
In May1971 the British Legion was granted its Royal Charter, thus becoming The Royal British Legion and, in 2021, a further change to Royal British Legion.
On the 5th May 1972 planning permission was granted for a War Memorial to be built outside the Legion HQ on Newmans Lane. The memorial was paid for by the Branch and built by Mr. Wyatt and Mr. Box, both being members of the Branch. It superceded the three Rolls of Honour on the wall of the Lady Chapel in St. Marys Church, the first of which was erected in 1920 to commemorate the sixteen Timsbury men who died in the 1914-18 War and the other two in 1948, listing the ten men who died in the 1939-45 War.
The Branch Room
On moving to the new premises the branch had used what is now the kitchen to hold its meetings. On 4th September 1996 the Branch Committee agreed that this arrangement was no longer suitable and decided to build an extension on the side of the club to be known as The Branch Room.
The first meeting in this new Room was held on 2nd July 1997 and was officially opened on July 11 1997 by Mr. L. Blacker, the County President. It is worth noting that the concept, planning and erection of the Branch Room was mainly down to the hard work and dedication of Mr. B Mathews, then the Branch Chairman.
Amalgamation of Farmborough Branch
The Farmborough Branch was founded in 1930 but, by 2003, an aging and reducing membership meant that it’s existence was no longer viable. The Standard was laid up and, with the agreement of both Branches, the Farmborough Branch amalgamated with Timsbury, giving Farmborough members the same benefits as Timsbury members.
Over the years the Branch has continued to support welfare cases around the area and also to honour the memory of servicemen and women who have given their lives for their country. The Timsbury RBL Club is playing a significant role in the life of the village with the many social activities that it supports.
In 2018 the War Memorial was redesigned and enhanced, the work being paid for by the Parish Council. A rededication ceremony was held attended by County Officials. The principle guest was Mr. B Mathews, a long serving officer of the Branch, Honorary Life Vice President, former Branch Chairman and one of the last remaining D Day veterans.
Timsbury Branch Committee is now down to five ageing but stalwart members and continues with the good work of the past 100 years.
New members are always welcome and you do not have to have served in the armed services.
Lt. Cdr. Barry Sewell RN
Timsbury Branch, Royal British Legion