West of England Cocker Club

Club History 1947-2013

"The First Fifty Years Are The Worst .."

The immediate post-war years brought an increase in the number of breed societies & soon most areas of the country were served by regional, and in some cases very local, clubs (many long since forgotten) but there was still a gap between the Midland Cocker Club and the old South Western Cocker Club which was based mainly in the Exeter region. There had been a Bristol Cocker Club before the war but this had been short-lived. A number of enthusiasts got together to form the West of England Cocker Spaniel Club & the original application for registration was made by the Acting Secretary, Mr Bright of Gloucester. At the first committee meeting he indicated he was unable to continue in the post & Mr Bowen (Saddlebow) was appointed in his place. The meeting was chaired by Major Shakspeare (Waldiff) & Lt Col Downes-Powell(O'Matherne) as President & Mr Snow-Smith as Treasurer. A full list of founder members no longer exists but also included Mr J Braddon (of Ide), Capt & Mrs Carr (Kingsend) & Mr H Wright (Winamore).

By the second meeting, arrangements were well in hand for the Club's first members' show of 20 classes which was held at Hereford. A list of judges had been proposed & voted on & comprised Lt Col. Downes-Powell, Maj. Shakspeare, Mr W S Hunt, Mr A W Collins, Mrs K J Gold & Mrs J de Casembroot. Unfortunately the name of the successful candidate is not minuted! Obviously the show was a success for arrangements were soon being made for the second show in 1948 with the same classification plus a brace class. Dr E Rickards was invited to judge.

The early enthusiasm did not meet with quite the success it deserved and at the 1949 AGM members were told that the show had made a loss of early £5 and the accounts for the year showed a deficit of £9.15.0. This was solved at the meeting by the Chairman organising a collection which raised 10gns! At the same meeting, Mr Braddon became Chairman and a new recruit to the committee was a very young Jeanne Tarling (now Lamb), a serving member of the present day committee.

Over the next few years, the Club continued quietly on much the same lines building up to 3 shows a year (all confined to members) with venues in Cheltenham, Gloucester, Hereford, Evesham & Tewkesbury. The classification was modified & reduced & generally provided 10-15 classes. These shows tended to just break even or run at a slight loss & club funds were helped by ladies of the committee who organised dances at the Mercers Hall, Cheltenham. It seems that venues & show dates were much easier to arrange at that time & both could be booked at just a few months notice. There were a few problems however - in 1951 the Secretary was instructed to enquire if any local caterer could provide teas. "If not, as the show was likely to be over 4.30pm it was decided no provision for teas should be made" How well would that be received today?

The fifties & early sixties saw a few changes in the officers. Mr Braddon was followed by Mr Wright as Chairman & Mr Bowen retired in 1955 to be succeeded by Viscountess Valentia (Yelsenna) with Mrs Evans as Treasurer. Lt Col Downes-Powell died in 1957 & Mrs Marjorie Cameron became President, a post she was to hold with great charm & generosity for many years.

At this time the Club was still running three members shows a year and, although the overall entries were fairly respectable, the tendency to enter 2 or 3 dogs each in 4 or 5 classes meant the number of dogs actually present was small & the number of exhibitors smaller still. If the Cocker Spaniel Club shows of this time held at Ascot are affectionately remembered as "Garden Parties", the W of England shows will be remembered with equal affection as "Tea Parties" - all very low-key and relaxed with nothing taken more seriously than just enjoying the afternoon. Lady Valentia was usually able to cajole one of the leading judges to accept the show & would then drum up an entry with "You ARE coming aren't you? I've got Mr ...... to judge. He only does Ch shows but I persuaded him" Family commitments forced the Secretary to relinquish the post in 1959 & Mr Wright retired the same year so Mr & Mrs Evans became Treasurer & Secretary respectively (the first of the husband & wife teams that have proved so successful for the Club)with Lady Valentia as Chairman. At this AGM the Club must have made history by passing the proposition that the membership subscription be REDUCED from 10/6 to 7/6! The Evans' continued in office until 1962 when business pressures brought their resignation.

They were succeeded by Tom & Emily Heavisides who brought with them their years of experience of running the Tyne & Wear and the Northern Counties Cocker Clubs before moving South. They remained in office until 1978 and it was during this time that the affairs of the Club took the upward turn which has continued to this day. The Club became more outward looking - Open Shows gradually superseded the Members' events and entries & membership together with the resulting funds all increased.

The selection of judges also became more adventurous. Experienced Ch Show judges who were "new" to the area were still engaged but younger ones were also encouraged. Many of our now established judges received their first breed club invitation from the West of England. The shows moved South a little too - first to Nailsworth and then to the Bristol/Yate area. This coincided with the demise of the old South Western Club and the membership expanded as Somerset & Dorset exhibitors began to think of the W of England as their "home" club. Recent events have moved the Club back to the Gloucester area but it has been good to see that the loyal Southern membership has moved with it.

The highlight of this period was the granting by the Kennel Club of Championship status in 1975. Unfortunately the Club was only allowed to run 3 excellent Ch Shows before the number of available CCs was reduced. The Championship Show was reinstated for 1981 when the Club used, for the first time, the Sports Centre at Yate which has become so well-known & popular. Entries for the show have grown year by year and it has become an essential part of the breed's calendar. Championship status continued annually until 1995 when the Club became subject to a rota system which passeth all understanding. The Anniversary Show was of course a Championship event.

Changes in officers are inevitable over the years and the Secretary/Treasurer posts have been held in recent times by Keith Price & Sandra Gregory (Glasfryn), Tony & Jan Crocker (Scorebland), Derek & Coral Shapland (Deracor), Mel Sharples (Kanietter), Adam Murray (Worlewood), Sandra Gregory (Glasfryn) & Denise Fox (Castanea). Current Secretary is Adam Murray who has taken on the role again on the retirement of Sandra Gregory in 2013. Lady Valentia was succeeded as Chairman by John Cahill (Yardew), then Kay Holmes (who gave many years of sterling work to the Club), then Keith Price followed by Ken McFarlane until his retirement in 2013. Currently the office is held by Andrew Jones (Shenmore). On Mrs Cameron's death, Tom Heavisides became President - he was succeeded by Kay Holmes until her death in 1998, then Peggy Grayson and currently the position is held by Derek Shapland. Maybe the major strength of the Club has been the ability to have the right person in the right post at the right time.

One of the Club's most popular ventures was the introduction of the Newsletter. First produced by Jan Underdown and then by Janet Crocker, followed by Sally Leeding (Floroyal) who "persuaded" (shades of Lady "V"!) people to write things they wouldn't normally dream of writing and latterly Jane Simmonds (Shenmore). The newsletter baton was then passed to Wendy Grist who has sadly had to give up this role due to her other commitments and so the newsletter is no longer being produced (high publishing costs were also a factor in this decision) Nowadays perhaps the internet is considered the best way to share Club information. Besides this website run by Jane Simmonds, there is also a WECSC Facebook Group where members can be kept up to date with all the latest Club news.

© John Cahill 1997, updated 2013 by Jane Simmonds.
(This article first appeared in the June 1997 West of England Cocker Club Newsletter to commemorate the Club's Golden Jubilee Anniversary)

Bringing Things Up To Date

The Club went through a slightly unsettled period with the sad passing of our President, Mrs Kay Holmes in 1998 & the loss of our popular Open Show venue in Gloucester in the same year, followed by the resignation of several long-term Committee members. However, we are now happily established in our new Open Show "home" at Cricklade with a hardworking, enthusiastic Committee composed of a mixture of "old" & "new" faces. In March 2004, there were some changes with the retirement of our long standing Secretary & Treasurer, Derek & Coral Shapland. Mel Sharples and Denise Fox took over the helm as Secretary and Treasurer respectively and we welcomed 3 new committee members. In 2005, a few more changes took place with Adam Murray taking over as Club Secretary from Mel & two new committee members joining the team. 2007 saw the Club celebrating it's Sixtieth Anniversary with the Officers and Committee working hard to ensure West of England continues to remain both successful & the friendly Club it has always been. 2009 saw more changes when our long standing Chairman and newly elected President, Ken McFarlane, very sadly died before he was able to take up his new position. We also elected a new Secretary, Sandra Gregory, who took over the helm from Adam Murray. Sandra was no stranger to West of England having a long association with the Club (being a one time Club Treasurer). In 2010, Derek Shapland (former Club Secretary) was elected as our President, having been Acting President following Ken's passing. In 2013, Sandra retired as Secretary and handed over the baton to Tony Watson for a few years but is now back at the helm.