Yacht Clubs
The First Yacht Club The Alexandra Yacht club came perilously close to extinction in its early days, but it was never closer to being a write off than in 1972. Right in the midst of preparations for the centenary festivities, the club almost went up in smoke in November when a fire destroyed the main bar and most of the roof, and many valuable trophies were close to the melting pot. The club was formed on 15th January 1873, and it started not as a yacht club but as the Alexandra Club based in Alexandra Street. Its rules included: “No unlimited loo (a round card game with penalties to the pool), hazard (a game with two dice), or other games of chance shall be played; no dice shall be used in the club except for the purpose of playing back gammon and no smoking shall be allowed except in a room set apart for this purpose.” This was one of the rules retained when the name was changed to the Alexandra Yacht Club four years later. The inaugural meeting was held at the house of a Mr Barron and Mr G. W. Lay presided. A fortnight after the the club was founded, a meeting room was secured at the back of the old Public Hall which later became the Empire Theatre in Alexandra Street and later still the ABC Cinema. The annual subscription for ordinary members was fixed at one guinea, and after March 1st an entrance fee of 10s 6d was imposed. The first balance sheet on 24th July 1873, reported subscriptions of £59 1s 7d, one of 10s 6d and four of 5s. The rent was £16 15s and the cost of periodicals, papers etc. was “20 11s. There was a credit balance of £20 0s 4d. At the annual meeting in January 1874, the club’s existence was threatened by financial difficulties and a special committee was appointed to consider whether there was sufficient support to carry on. When this committee met on 2nd February 1874, it was agreed that certain members should pledge themselves to bear, in equal shares, any deficiency in the club’s finances which might appear at the end of the year. Subsequent events proved that the generosity of these members was the salvation of the club. On 12th October 1874, one of the members, a Mr Hatch, considered the club was in the wrong place and suggested that a house should be rented where a room could be set aside for billiards, and beds provided for members. Drastic changes were made the following month when it was decided that all holders office should cease to act at the end of the year, that the rules be revised, and new officers appointed. It was also agreed that a billiards table be purchased, and that the wages of the marker should be 7s 6d a week. In order to carry out these reforms, it was agreed to raise the annual subscription to two guineas, at least 40 members being required at this amount to make it economic. Non resident members were to be charged an annual sub of one guinea. Eight members put up the cash to purchase a half-size billiards table, and it paid for itself in 17 months; the members getting their money back. It was in January 1877 that the question of a new clubhouse was raised, and although it was suggested that £1000 be raised in shares, the committee, a month later, did not consider it advisable to make a change at this time. But at the same meeting, it was agreed, on the proposition of Mr W. G Brighten, that the name be changed to Alexandra Yacht Club and that membership be increased. There was some opposition but the name was changed on the 1st March, the subscriptions however, remained the same. The club played a big part in the Round Great Britain yacht race which started off Southend in 1877. A big day in the life of the Alexandra Yacht Club came on 6th September 1883, when it was agreed to purchase a house and land on the cliffs, property occupied by by Mr Jack Chignell for £850. A company was formed with the object of erecting and equipping a new clubhouse for £3000, the money to be raised in £1 shares. An amendment to secure cheaper premises was lost and the club still remained operating on the same site. The Alexandra Yacht Club had always offered hospitality to national and international sailors and often acted as hosts to Royal Navy ships anchored off the Pier. The club has also been visited by a reigning monarch in the Royal Yacht. On the evening of the 23rd August 2014, the now derelict Alexandra Yacht Clubhouse suffered a devastating fire, the club had previously moved elsewhere, following a report on the 100+ year old building which brought to light structural issues. Its construction was mainly made from wood with brick chimneys, what little was left of the building was later demolished and the site cleared. Other Yacht Clubs There have been many other yacht clubs formed since in the Southend area. One of the earliest was was the Essex Yacht Club, formed in 1890 when functioning from a small bungalow at the foot of Leigh Cliffs. Members later moved their headquarters to the floating Gypsy, and when this craft became unserviceable the club obtained Carlotta, the former Tilbury ferry, in 1930, and renamed her Gypsy. With the outbreak of World War Two, the headquarters ship was requisitioned by the Government and stationed near Tower Pier in London. It was sunk during an air raid. This left the club homeless and, for a time, members used the old Leigh Station buildings before purchasing the Lady Saville in 1947. This was a Dover harbour tender of substantial proportions and was their headquarters moored at the foot of Leigh Cliffs. Leigh Sailing Club founded in 1911, now installed in the old station at Leigh, first had its headquarters the ship Veronica moored just east of Bell Wharf. Just before World War Two, she was replaced by a larger craft, the trading ship Lady Quirk which was moored on the same site. When barbed wire fences during the war made her inaccessible to members, the Lady Quirk became useless as a club centre and later was broken up. They had temporary use of the Crooked Billet in Leigh Old Town. In 1935, Leigh welcomed membership of a rather unique yachting club formed by the boys of Westcliff High School, sailing dinghies and other small craft. This section was known as the Crowstone Sailing Club, but failing to survive the war, was absorbed by the Leigh Club. Thames Estuary Yacht Club, with its fine headquarters in The Leas at Westcliff, is more of an amalgamation than the original. German action during the war destroyed the headquarters of the Nore Yacht Club which had previously been known as the Minima Yacht Club. It was renamed the the Nore in 1902 when Alderman J. C. Ingram was its commodore. The club continued with its headquarters at the foot of the Cliffs until World War Two caused the entire seafront to be sealed off by the naval and military authorities. It was used as a Service centre until, by an unhappy fluke, it was completely demolished by a German bomb in 1940. The bomb killed 10 servicemen, one of whom was to have been married the following day. Some of the old-time sailing fraternity declare that the Minima (later the Nore) was really a continuance of what used to be the Westcliff Yacht Club. This club, they say, came into being around the 1900s and had its first headquarters on an all metal boat moored of the Westcliff front near Shorefields. This was bombed out of existence and another boat was brought over from Holland. They also say the club went out of existence altogether between the wars. And from that conglomeration of information, they say the Westcliff, Minima and Nore are now known as the Thames Estuary Yacht Club. Other yachting facilities include the Wakering Yacht Club, Thorpe Bay Yacht Club, The Halfway Yacht Club.
Postcard The Gypsy Leigh-on-Sea
Postcard Alexandra Yacht Club
Postcard of the Nore Yacht Club
2020 Leigh-on-Sea Sailing Club
Minima Yacht Club
1955 Sailing Week, Seafront, Westcliff

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