COVID NOTE: Like many clubs we had to close but we hope to open again in September 2020.
Southend-on-Sea not only has the longest pleasure pier in the World it also has one of the longest serving NSRA and NRA affiliated clubs in the country.
On the 21st of June 1900 the then Mayor of Southend-on-Sea, Councillor F.F.Ramuz called a public meeting with the view of forming a local rifle club. Approval was given and records show that some seventy of the dignitaries and gentlemen present showed their intention of joining.
The minutes of the meeting end with the following paragraph “On the motion of Col.Newitt, seconded by W.G.R.Dawson, a vote of thanks was accorded to the Mayor and the hearty singing of the National Anthem brought the meeting to a close.”
The first general meeting of the club was held a week later and in November of that year, by which time the club boasted a membership of 160, an inaugural shoot was held on the club’s new range in part of a working sand pit at Southchurch Beach. Apart from their own .22in range the Club held weekly shoots on the full bore military range on the nearby Shoebury Garrison.
This state of affairs continued for some eight years when in early 1909 there was an amalgamation between the Southend-on-Sea Rifle Club and another local club, The Borough of Southend-on-Sea Minature Rifle Club. The result being ‘The Borough of Southend-on-Sea Rifle Club’.
Residential development in the area soon swamped the range however and in November 1912 Major General Lord Cheylesmore GBE KCMG KCVO opened ‘The New Ranges’ at Prittlewell where distances of 20, 25, 50 & 100 yards were available. Incidentally – how many shooters know of Lord Cheylesmore’s memorial in the Victoria Embankment Gardens ‘Grenadier Guards, B.1848 D.1925, Soldier, Administrator, Philanthropist and Steadfast Friend’ he must have been quite an influence in shooting circles in those days.
From this time until the 1950’s the history is a bit hazy although engravings on club trophies show that activities were more or less continuous excepting the war years. Membership had peaked at 300 in 1914 just prior to the First World War. However, during this time ‘The New Ranges’ were again overtaken by development and the club had to rely – as it still does today – on miniature indoor ranges at local territorial premises etc.
Also in 1960 after objections from the local council over the use of the Borough coat of arms and increasing interest in pistol shooting the club title was changed to ‘The Southend-on-Sea Rifle and Pistol Club’. Various ups and downs continued until the present day when the current committee still aspire to obtain the club’s own range in this heavily populated area for the use of its members.
Over the last hundred and twenty years the club has been associated with several notable characters, some household names in shooting circles, some less well known outside the area but staunch shooting men nevertheless. One of the latter was W.C.F.Cook, who was a local gunsmith and virtually a founder member who appears in records and on trophies throughout the years. He was secretary for many years and was President when he died after more than 72 years of dedication to the club. (To the writer’s surprise he found during his research for this article that W.C.F.Cook was the gunsmith he used to go to for air weapon repairs in his youth over 45 years ago!).
In the sixties the club went through a very sticky patch due to internal wranglings as many clubs do but it still survives today due almost entirely to one man, Len Corbett. Sadly Len died in the latter half of 1990. He was the Club President when he died but had been Chairman for many years and his tireless energy and natural talent for organising, delegating and cajoling members into doing their bit pulled the club through this period into it’s current stable state. Who knows, but for Len’s efforts one of our star members, Brent, might never have found his way into shooting. In a few short years he has moved from tyro to The British Pistol Squad and was English Standard Pistol Champion in 1989.
Club trophies dating back to the turn of the century bear the names of their donors and of course, they bear the names of the winners over the years, in one case from 1904 to the 1990s with only breaks for the two World Wars.
A name that appears pretty frequently in the 50’s and 60’s is Andrew St.G.Tucker. He monopolised the rifle trophies for a few years and as we now know went on to be a Queen’s Prize winner at Bisley and brought home gold from the 1989 Commonwealth Games. He did his bit for the club also and was both secretary and treasurer in his time.
The process continues, youngsters these days tend to come into shooting via air weapons and it was no coincidence that the committee launched an air weapons section in the 1990s which now flourishes in a local church hall, and over the years has been our busiest section.
Air weapons is a good grounding in respect for gun handling and safety and if anyone can put up a reasonable score with an air gun then all other disciplines are a piece of cake!
The Club has met the many challenges that all Shooting Clubs have faced due to the changes in the Firearms Legislation. The biggest being the loss of the right to hold a pistol. At the time the Club had a strong Pistol section that shot on an indoor Range in Hullbridge. The Club decided to move from pistols to the Gallery Rifle and although some members gave up shooting most continued in to the new discipline. The only pistols now used are these that are muzzle loaded or are adapted to meet the long barrelled pistol or revolver criteria.
Over the years the Club moved ranges several times and had a period when members went to Dartford to shoot at the out-door range (Stone Lodge) that was within sight of the Queen’s Bridge. Alas, time moved on and that Range closed down as has many over the years.
Now in 2020 the Club is smaller and uses three ranges covering Air weapons, small bore target shooting and Gallery Rifle and Pistol. Full bore shooting still continues at the National Shooting Centre, Bisley. The Club has a licence that entitles qualified members to use many of the military ranges in the MOD Eastern Region.
Finally, as a club we welcome applicants who wish to learn how to shoot safely and participate in competitive shooting.