The history of  S.I.W.S.S.O  edited from:

 Chapter: 'A Summary of Sport from 1950 to 2003 by Eddie Messent'

Prior to the end Of the Second World War, the two largest employers Geo.W.King and the Educational Supply Association (ESA) played an annual football match. The trophy was a cup, the bowl of teak was made by ESA, whilst the base and lid of solid brass was made by Geo.W.King, the winner's name being engraved on the lid. This was eventually the first trophy presented to the Stevenage Inter Works Sports and Social Organisation (S.I.W.S.S.O)

In 1950, two directors of these companies Harry King and Miss Dorothy Tear contacted other companies through the Employers Group for the formation of a Sports and Social Organisation. Such an organization would help employees of the new firms locating in the New Town to settle and participate in sports and enjoy a social life in completely new surroundings. Original members included ESA, Geo.W.King, Vincent HRD, Ibco, Wickham French and the North Met Police, with the first newcomer The Bay Tree Press. The first AGM was in 1952 under its President, Harry King. His advice and support in the early days were terrific, as was also the support from management of all member clubs. The presidency of a year’s office rotated among directors of the member clubs, who invariably attended the monthly meetings.

As new companies opened, they and their employees were encouraged to join the organisation and the membership grew rapidly as did the diversity of sports including a sections for ladies. The range of activities was considerable, from conventional Sports to Indoor Rifle Shooting, Cycling and Lawn Bowls, and trophies were donated by various companies. A welcome addition was a dancing section, dances were held three or four times a year in either King's or ESA's canteens. Other than the District Council's main hall in the Town Hall in Orchard road, there were no other facilities. Competitions were held in tango, foxtrot and waltz and professional judges from London were paid five guineas (£5.50) to adjudicate!! Eventually, with the coming of the Mecca ballroom, the section folded as competition from it became too great, although a few dances were held in the Mecca ballroom.

In the 1960's children were taken fishing by motor coaches to Wyboston Lakes, Tempsford, Buckingham Lakes or St. Neots, with the considerable help of anglers from the Stevenage Angling Club. The coach, drink, food and prizes cost half a crown (12.5pence) entrance fee. An adult’s competition was held later and was extremely competitive and supported by the local press. Whilst there was a Stevenage Angling Club, S.I.W.S.S.O held adult competitions which included non-members. When Fairlands Valley Lakes was opened in 1972, with its fishing beach, angling competitions became a regular event on the calendar. Fishing was restricted to a certain area and with the advice of the Sports Council, a special area for disabled fisher folk with safety was provided. Annual fishing competitions for children and adults, which had been arranged outside Stevenage, were immediately transferred and naturally resulted in many more competitors.

Archery became a popular summer activity in the grounds of Geo.W.King, catering for both sexes, many husband and wife teams enjoyed the sport. By July 1958 membership had reached 24 clubs of which only four had their own sports fields, which were Geo.W.King, E.S.A, De-Havillands and English Electric.

In 1962 the Stevenage Swimming Pool was opened and was the only covered pool for many miles. After lengthy negotiations S.I.W.S.S.O were allocated a weekly two-hour session  from 8 pm. From the opening day it enjoyed maximum usage and quickly the Stevenage Swimming Club found a home there. Later a club for the disabled was formed with allocated pool time on Sunday mornings. A hoist was installed to raise and lower swimmers in and out of the pool. The dedication of the club helpers at the pool side was fantastic, and swimmers & helpers came from a very wide area.

Athletics was a struggling sport due to the lack of facilities, but around the mid-1950s a sports day was held on the ESA sports ground in Fairview Road, and was a happy family affair. By 1958 support was declining and while there were no local athletics club, enthusiasts joined the Icknield Harriers based at Hitchin. The general committee of S.I.W.S.S.O suggested that an investigation take place to see whether a Town Sports Day would be viable. Under the guidance of the then president Les Taylor, Director of WH Sanders (Electronics) Ltd. A public meeting was called in the Coach and Horses public house in the High Street. This was a terrific success and as a consequence Stevenage Day was born.

The events were financially self-supporting, with over 100 clubs in addition to sports clubs. Organisations from the neighbourhood centres, churches, voluntary organisations and companies, paid a small fee for the hire of tables. Some clubs and organisations gave demonstrations of their activities in the main arena. This invariable increased their membership. One year at a little cost, there was a sheep dog demonstration. This was very successful until one of the sheep decided she did not like the crowd and bolted up Ditchmore Lane. Also, a small fair for children, held in the south west corner, supplied a very welcome donation to the funds. For many years an officer of the Stevenage Police organised a ladies tug-of-war competition, inviting clubs from many parts of the country to participate, this was a very successful attraction. The Council underwrote Stevenage Day against financial loss up to £25 (£550 today). It was not permitted to charge an entrance fee and the many thousands who attended each year, well supported the exhibitors. The money raised helped clubs finance their many activities for the following year.

In later years it became very difficult to run Stevenage Day as a self-supporting organisation and eventually the Urban District Council took over the organisation and allocated finances in its annual budget. Member clubs still elected the committee and the Council supplied officers to represent its interests.   

As the town grew, new sports fields including bowling greens and pavilions were constructed. The major impact was the huge increase in the number of football clubs, especially juniors. At the time the North Herts Football League catered for their fixtures. In cricket, an evening league was formed under the guidance of S.I.W.S.S.O. Lawn Bowling received a great boost when additional rinks were laid, and many of the clubs still exist today. It’s thanks to the dedication of the various secretaries in submitting weekly reports, that their activities were well covered in the local press.

Several new recreational areas were built. The infilling of land in the Ridlins Wood area in the 1960's led to the building of an ash athletics track in 1962, which became the home of the Stevenage and North Herts Athletics Club. In October 1996 a start was made on the laying of an all-weather track and this was completed in time for the 1997 season.  The building of improved changing facilities and a stand followed in 2003.

In the 1960s the national sports body through its Eastern Region office in Bedford approached S.I.W.S.S.O. and asked if they were prepared to admit outside clubs. The organisation was made up of companies in the Stevenage Urban District area and did not admit private clubs, as it was partially financed by the companies through their individual sports clubs. The answer was therefore, 'NO'.   In 1965 there were 32 member clubs with 31 sporting sections. S.I.W.S.S.O was a very successful organisation and sporting friendships between 'old' and 'new' town families were formed, highlighted by the dances at Kings and ESA. All sections were well supported and there was keen rivalry for the numerous trophies which had been donated by the many companies.

Indoor rifle shooting was under the strict supervision of the Superintendent of Police and took place in the ESA Sports Pavilion. Ladies were not forgotten and there was stiff competition for netball and tennis trophies, although the satisfaction of taking part was the best reward. Netball has maintained its attraction through various organisation changes and still is enjoyed by many today.

In late 1964 and early 1965 the Eastern Region Sports Council instigated talks with the local authorities of new towns including Stevenage, Harlow, Welwyn Garden City, Hemel Hempstead, Crawley and Basildon, to discuss holding a joint Sports meeting. Whilst Stevenage Urban District Council was among the prime movers, they could not hold the first event because of the lack of facilities. Harlow hosted the first New Towns ‘Festival of Sport’.

The second festival was hosted by Stevenage the following year, using eight different locations for the numerous events, utilising public playing fields, school halls and fields, also private sports facilities. After every town had hosted the event, the cost to local authorities and to clubs and individuals travelling to the events (over 200 in Stevenage and they had to pay for their own travelling expenses and food) it became prohibitive and the festival was discontinued. In addition, many clubs were already competing against each other in inter-county or national events.

The Stevenage Inter-Works Sports Association had grown quickly thanks to the enthusiasm of all participants. Most sports were catered for and where possible, had their Ladies sections. Local companies were very supportive and initially allowed the use of their facilities free. It was a great help in the early days in overcoming the ‘Old’ Town - ‘New’ Town syndrome.

I resigned as founder chairman of the Inter-Works Association early in 1965, in order to help in the foundation of the Stevenage Sports Council under the auspices of the Eastern Region Sports Council. A committee was formed which included members of S.I.W.S.S.O and members of private clubs. The latter had to have a constitution and the small joining fee was eventually cancelled. The Urban District Council assisted financially, and audited accounts were submitted to them annually. The Sports Council was invited to nominate two of its members to sit on a subcommittee of the Stevenage Council's Leisure Services Committee.

In the meantime, the work of the Sports Council increased greatly. Throughout all the many competitions organised initially by the Inter-Works Association and subsequently by the Sports Council, the support given by individuals in the organisation and in stewarding was fantastic; the town can be rightly proud of those early days.

June 1972 saw the first Kermesse cycling race (Dutch Style Bike Race), organised jointly by the Stevenage Cycling Club and the Sports Council with police consent. The starting point was the junction of Argyle Way and Fairlands Way, then Gunnels Wood Road, Six Hills Way, Lytton Way and Fairlands Way. For many years it attracted a first-class field from across the United Kingdom. Finally, it was discontinued because of police objections to traffic disruption.

A considerable amount of time had been spent with a special committee of the Borough Council discussing the location and contents of the proposed Sports Hall. The Sports Council always encouraged the disabled to participate in sport and had a disabled member on its committee. To test arrangements for disabled access, it arranged for a member in a wheelchair to be wheeled or carried through all doors liable to be used by any disabled person. The centre was opened in 1975 and the usage was overwhelming, as was to be expected, & there were a few complaints, maybe the most serious was ventilation in the Sports Hall. Although the theatre had its own cooling system. The main hall hosted many prestigious sporting and commercial events, amongst which was a regular wrestling programme.

In those days there was always a major sports project under discussion. Also, in 1975 the Borough Council issued an outline scheme for an 18 hole golf course at Aston, formerly the headquarters of the Stevenage Development Corporation. In that year I was honoured to be named in the local press as the 'Father of Sport'.

A Sports Scholarship Scheme was launched in 1977 and clubs were invited to submit applications for monetary awards. The award of money to players was very difficult, as in those days amateurs still had to obey the rules of their national governing bodies, which were interpreted rigorously. No payment could be made directly to applicants for fear of jeopardizing their amateur status, but money could be paid to the parent, club or national body.

Stevenage was invited by the BBC in 1978 to participate in its popular programme 'It's  a Knockout' and eventually won the national final against Hemel Hempstead at Milton Keynes after an extra event. The team represented the UK in Arosa, Switzerland on the 9th August of that year but was unplaced. In 1979 details of a Sports Award scheme were announced, inviting nominations of a member who had contributed significantly to his or her club.

Meanwhile, the Borough Council with the support of the Sports Council, called a meeting at the Girls' Grammar School, Valley Way, to discuss the formation of a golf club. The meeting was very well supported, and an initial committee was formed to prepare a constitution. Over 200 people registered as potential members that night. I was invited to be the honorary secretary until the inaugural meeting.

Although it was recognised as having one of the finest municipal golf courses in the country, the amenities at Stevenage were poor. The changing facilities were minimal, the bar held 20 or so people, providing they all stood. Nevertheless, the spirit was strong and the keenness of members to improve their game was encouraging. The Stevenage Golf Club joined the National Association of Public Golf Courses (NAPGC) and the PGA. Thus, members could hold an official handicap. Through the NAPGC the club entered many competitions and enjoyed playing other clubs on a friendly basis. Initially players retired to a local pub for food, it was not until Greene King built a clubhouse that they were able to entertain visitors 'at home'. Membership grew regularly and at one time 803 members were registered, the highest in the country for a municipal club. The three sections of men, ladies and juniors all ran their own competitions, with many of the trophies being donated by members. Each section had its own very hard-working committee. Unfortunately, top honours escaped the club, although national finals were reached on several occasions.

Members did represent the NAPGC in many events and the club hosted several NAPGC finals, an indication that the course was considered as one of the best. The junior section, originally under the watchful eye of Stan Horwood, who was for many years club chairman, flourished and eventually was accepted by the Hertfordshire Junior League, up until then the preserve of private clubs. One junior who progressed to the top flight was Ian Poulter, who plays in worldwide competition against the best and is listed in the Order Of Merit (2001/2)

Despite the lack of clubhouse facilities, the club organised an annual Pro-Am competition in the late 1980’s. Prize money for professionals was £2,000 and the value of amateur prizes £1,200 small amounts in comparison to similar events elsewhere, but nevertheless it attracted a good entry.  As sponsorship became more difficult the event was eventually dropped. The building of a clubhouse by the brewers Greene King, was welcomed by members, who were kept informed of the plans. The club were offered and signed, an agreement With Greene King for the use of a room for the Hon. Secretary free of rent.
The men's section was eventually accepted by the Association of County Golf Clubs to participate in their league. The elitism of golf clubs was being eroded thanks to the quality of the golfers and facilities offered by municipal clubs. The golf club has always enjoyed a healthy bank account thanks to the vigilance of its treasurer, Keith Molyneux.  Eventually, in 1993 he and I resigned our positions having served the club since its inception in 1980.

After serving as chairman of the Sports Council since its formation in 1965, I retired in 1986, handing the reins over to Grahame Bowles who had been vice chairman for many years.

The success of sport in Stevenage has been due to a large extent to the dedication of the players who have obviously enjoyed their sport and to the officials, far too numerous to mention who have given so much of their time.   (Eddie T Messent 21st July 2003)

The first Stevenage Mini Olympics event was held in November 2003 and since then almost 6,000 young people have been given the chance to have a go at sports like badminton, basketball, cricket, football, golf, athletics, gymnastics, netball, lacrosse, tennis, rugby, sailing and kayaking.

In 2006, following government encouragement of, and funding opportunities for, sport in the regions, the Stevenage Sports Council was superseded by Sport Stevenage. This body brings together several organisations in the borough which represent or have an interest in sport, including Stevenage Leisure Limited. It acts as a community sports network, a key element in the delivery system for community sport and the link between Hertfordshire Sports Partnership and sport within Stevenage. It is closely aligned to the Strategy and priorities of the partnership, which whom it works closely to ensure that both bodies benefit from the joint resources in support of each other.


A message from Paul Jaques, S.I.W.S.S.O. Secretary & Treasurer 2008 - 2020.

I have been your Secretary & Treasurer since 2008.  At that AGM Greg Warman decided to step down and a suitable replacement was sought from the membership. Jim Winters (bless him) stated that as I had retired in 2007 and had sweet F.A. to do I would make an excellent replacement.  It didn’t take the room long to agree that was a good idea (milliseconds) and the rest is history.

Over the last ten years we have seen many changes and improvements to the league, and have grow from 12 teams to 20 teams playing in two divisions, with over 200 members.

Teams that have come and gone include Stevenage Police, Plankton Factors, Green Rovers (Buses), Bright Sparks (Electricity Board), Marquis of Lorne, Postels, (GPO), Jackasses, Grasshoppers, John Lewis, Esa, &  Astronuts ( Astrium/Airbus) to name just a few.  Since 1954 most of the industry teams have gone and been taken over by pub & club teams.

We now hire 3 rinks to facilitate all the league and competitions that we play.  The cost to hire a rink in 2008 was £844, the cost this season will be £1206, an increase per year of just under 3%, which is still pretty good value.

The hardest part of the job in the early days was preparing the fixtures and competitions, so I am forever grateful to Loz for joining the team and computerising that side of the job.

Loz is also the brains behind the fantastic Web Site we have which has enabled us to communicate to you all.

Enjoy your bowling and have a great season.

Paul. J


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