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Club History

966215 orig

First clubhouse from the air 1960s

The Club was formed in 1950 by Dr Alex Brenan, the Island's local doctor. He was a very keen sea angler and kept his motor launch in Mengeham Creek on moorings rented from Cole Bros. of Salterns Quay. He called a meeting of other creek users with the idea of forming a club after first ascertaining that the vacant timber building was available.

This was originally the clubroom of Hayling Island Sailing Club before they moved to their present premises at Sandy Point in 1936. In the late 1940s it was home to Harry & Betty Bowen and their daughter, Glenys, who subsequently married Paddy Lamperd (a long time member of our club}. Dr Brenan had visited the house and discovered that it was up for sale.

The property and surrounding land was owned by Read Admiral Ralph Fisher, D.S.O. and family.

At the meeting it was agreed to form a club to be called the Mengeham Rythe Fishing and Sailing Club and be open to interested boat owners of moderate means. The first commodore was Dr Brenan, with the owner of the property, Rear Admiral Fisher accepting the position of President. The annual rent was £50.00.

After ten years or so the fishing side was dropped as more people came into sailing. About the same time Rear Admiral Fisher decided to move from Hayling Island and the club was offered the building, Coles Quay and buildings ie. The Salt House, the Black Shed, etc. (Cole Bros having retired), sixteen acres of marshland, including old Oyster Beds, for the sum of £6000.00. By raising loans from members and the bank, the property was purchased.

This watercolour of the Old Clubhouse was painted by Les Hudson in 1972. The view from an upstairs window of a house in Marine Walk, shows the open pasture aspect of the area, with ponies grazing on it, and a number of boats, both ashore and on the chain moorings. The original can be seen on a wall of the central staircase.

In 1973 a new and larger timber building was erected by club member on the same site as the original to cater for the growing membership. The building was acquired from Ford, Dagenham. It had been the canteen and was dismantled onto a lowloader and transported to Mengeham. It was erected on stilts and the area underneath was used for storage. It was later filled in to make room for showers, etc but it was freezing in winter.

Then the club was offered the chance to purchase the Tidal Mooring areas of Mengeham Creek plus mudland bordering the club boundary from the estate of the late Captain Ivan Snell of Tournerbury, a fine supportive family of the Island. We were pleased to purchase these tidal areas as it gave us protection and secured the future and safety of our eighty or so moorings for our cruisers and dinghies.

The club officially opened its current clubhouse in September 2003. The building of a new clubhouse was made possible by a grant from the Sport England Lottery Fund for community projects and supported by the Royal Yachting Association. This, together with a grant from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts towards a Junior Training Room, as well as grants from Havant Borough Council and the Hampshire Playing Fields Association, enabled the club to provide up-to-date and larger facilities including modern changing rooms and toilets, dedicated training areas, as well as office space and a new kitchen (galley).

The Club Burgee depicts the green ground of Tournerbury Woods opposite the club where an ancient encampment is known to exist. The Heron in flight is because of the heronry in the woods reputed to have been mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

The oyster management and salt panning carried on here as well as an experiment to extract gold from the sea water can be found in the books "The King Holds Hayling" by Major Thomas and Longcrofts "Bosmere Hundreds". In spite of all the improvements that have gone on since 1950, the Club still holds dear the founder's wish "A Club for all of moderate means".

Dr Brenan's letter

This is a letter written by Dr Brenan on the 17th September 1957. I do not know to whom the letter was addressed. I have copied this word for word as the copy I have is hard to read. This document was given to me by Mick Rich,
John Barnett

"This is my preamble leading up to the formation of Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club as far as I can remember.

After serving for some three years on convoy escort during the last war I was posted to HMS Northney at Hayling Island (I had never heard of this place before then). Met my wife, a Wren, and we were married in Chichester. During this appointment I helped Dr May and he asked me to join him after the war. After demob we moved to Lindisfarne in Beach Road. Population of the Island at that time was about 5,000. I bought a motor cruiser about 19ft long which had been berthed in a mud inlet in the garden of a house in Salterns Lane. This was for fishing and cruising.

There were two boatyards at Mengeham Rythe. To the west from the jetty at Wall Corner (black shed) the moorings were placed and owned by a Mr Wilson who also had a boat shed there.

The jetty and the black shed was the boat yard of the Cole brothers, and they owned and placed all the moorings from this jetty eastwards and up the creek as far as the first major bend. There were a few moorings laid by Hayling Island fishermen which they claimed as their right and this was never disputed.

The mooring rights in the creek were owned by Captain Snell and this again was not disputed as he did maintain an orderly layout of the creek; but he also charged a rent.

The Clubhouse was there, and this had been the original HISC Clubhouse until Captain Snell built the clubhouse at Sandy Point and moved HISC there. The Clubhouse at Mengeham was occupied by a couple who worked for Captain Fisher. There was a walk along the top of the wall which joined a cinder track which went to the entrance at Salterns Lane. This cinder track was wide enough for a car and could be used to transport boats by car; but there was no car parking until later when a small car park was created along this cinder track on the mudflat towards Mengeham. Otherwise the only car parking to be had was at Salterns Lane at the entrance to the cinder track. Mr Wilson had a separate entrance to his boatyard and he had arrangements for car parking. The entrance to his yard was also from Salterns Lane.

I moored my boat in the creek just beyond The Clubhouse. I rented my mooring from Mr Cole and I believe I paid about £12 per year and an extra £5 for my dinghy which was kept in a friends pen on the top of the jetty. The many dinghies were moored fore and aft by rope to a laid chain. The outboard was kept in Mr Coles shed and we each had a marked area on a board to secure the outboard to, we also kept our oars in this shed. We were given a key which served both the padlock on the jetty pen as well as the shed. The Cole brothers kept all their gear in this shed and undertook maintenance jobs for boats and engines. They also ran a thriving fishing trip business from a small boat for bass and mackerel over the Winner. The Salt House I do not remember had any specific use other than storage. The Wilsons ran a similar business but did not undertake fishing trips.

Formation of Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club.

I would go to my boat at The Rythe and naturally would get into conversation with the others there who wished that the club had not moved to Sandy Point. With encouragement from these I met at the Creek, and in particular from Mr Storey (retired dentist) and also support from many ex-members of the HISC, I sent out 10 post cards calling a meeting at The Neath House Hotel, Southwood Road, loaned to me free by the proprietor, a Mr Jarvis, who also supported the idea of a new sailing club at Mengeham Rythe. Between 80 and 100 people attended this meeting. There was a very enthusiastic response, and it was unanimously decided that a new club should be formed at Mengeham Rythe to cater for the island population and that the subscription should be kept as low as possible. The officers for this new club were then elected and these were:

Commodore: Dr Alec Brenan, Rear Commodore: Mr Leslie Stevens,
Secretary: Mr Vivyan Dougherty, Treasurer: Mr Bunny Barnes,
Solicitor: Mr Leslie Adams (Adams and Blair).
A committee to be formed when membership opened. The above officers to get the club off the ground. (Mr B Barnes lives at 29, Sea Front Estate).

I attended many exploratory meetings at HISC (Sandy Point) to assure them that it was not the intention to be in opposition to that club but that it was necessary to get the co-operation of Captain Snell for mooring rights in the creek, and also to get Captain Fisher to rent us the old clubhouse. This was not helped by the fact that Captain Snell had decided that there was no need for a new club, and Captain Fisher was then Rear Commodore of HISC. However support eventually came my way from many members of the HISC committee members and Captain Fisher agreed to rent to the new club the old club premises as soon as he could move his tenants into new accommodation.

Mr Leslie Adams did all the legal work on this transaction, and his advice and help at that time was invaluable. We eventually took possession and removed partitions so as to restore the premises to a clubhouse. There was a separate room for Mr Dougherty as secretary, and we just had to keep the bath!! I believe that there was a telephone present, if there wasn't then it was very soon put in.

A committee was then elected, I do not remember who was on it but I have an idea that it comprised Cecil Walker, a Mr Day, a Mr Fairbrother, a Smith or two, Mrs Gutteridge, Mrs Goldring and Mrs Walker. At a committee meeting, after a club competition, the badge was chosen; the Heron was chosen to represent the ancient Heronry in the woods opposite the club, and green and white were to colours of the old club. I cannot remember who designed it except that it was a lady and she had art experience. Maybe a school teacher or art student.

On learning of the new sailing club many islanders came forward offering their help in creating the club. Amongst the many offers I remember Mr J Bartlett of Salterns Lane gave the long mooring chain for dinghies and Mrs Vay of The Rick, St Catherines Road gave a donation of £100, Commander and Mrs Cameron gave the cup named after them in gratitude on the formation of the new club also in memory of a son lost during the war. They had been members of the old HISC.


On the formation of The Club we joined The Federation of Chichester Harbour Sailing Clubs.

Then a decision on the class of sailing boat was made in favour of the Island Class. This boat served a dual purpose of being used to race as well as being a family boat. I suppose there were some 8 to 10 of them. Later there were some Firefly boats being raced. But there was also a motley collection of ill-defined and certainly not class boats. Racing was by handicap and it was known as The Russian Convoy! None of your ruthless competitive races, the racing being fun. I well remember Adrian Strugnell had a boat which would often come in last by a long way and yet win on handicap! Racing was only at weekends.


At the club's commencement, fishing was the major activity of the club. There were regular fishing competitions at selected sites outside the harbour. The Nab Tower, Bracklesham Bay and so on. There was much excitement at the weigh-ins. I did include some photos taken at these events. (I can identify most of them present).


There were occasional outings with a number of boats joining in such as a run up to Emsworth and going ashore for a beer. Also tea parties at East Head. Cockling parties on Pilsea Sands.

Annual Dinner

There was an annual dinner originally held at The Grotto (Now Four Seasons) which was then a restaurant. As we progressed we moved to The Royal Hotel on Beachlands for this annual dinner. This included a dance as well as prizegiving. Attendance would be about 100.


This was kept to a minimum to encourage membership from the residents. Started at £1 and kept to this.


There were two.

  1. A sports regatta. Mud sports including football, racing and just wallowing.
    Boat races (dinghy with one, with two), swimming races, greasy pole over the creek with pillow fights on the pole.
  2. Serious sailing regatta with invitation to a Federation member club.
    We were fortunate here because for any experience in this organisation we were much indebted to Freddie West of Dell Quay Sailing Club who would come over and supervise and all went smoothly thanks to his help. These regattas were always a great success.


It was always in the harbour to Thorney, Bosham and north to Emsworth.

Social Events

At the Clubhouse, we had no bar or properly organised kitchen; but the lady members were never to be found wanting in providing whatever was necessary.

I hope this resumé will provide most of the information you are looking for, and if there is anything further please let me know.

Dr Brenan
17th September 1957."

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