The History of YORK RI Squash Club
York Railway Institute was originally the sports & social club of British Rail and it’s successors. For many years now, it has opened it’s doors to non-railway staff.
When squash was first invented at Harrow School in 1830, it wasn’t until 1937 that squash reached York when the Railway Institute built the first squash courts with the building of 3 courts opposite the gymnasium, they were originally glass roofed, the original glazing bars can still be seen.
In the Second World War years they became a training and fitness facility for army service men and women, then after the war the courts were used again just for games between individual club members.
In 1954 the club started playing matches against other clubs but went into decline in the mid 1960s due to the lack of a committee to organise matches.
In 1972 about 30 players who were new to the game, elected a committee and a ladder system was introduced, Ken Snelling became the Chairman and Graham Wenman the Secretary. Of the original 30 players only 2 are still playing at the club.
Membership soared, teams were formed and entered into both Yorkshire League Division 4A in 1974 and the inauguration of the York & District league. The Club Championship began in 1973, the Ladies Championship in 1979. Court booking was by telephone to the Institute office from 10.00 am for bookings for the following day, to gain extra income and sort out the tiresome court booking method, other systems were tried, coin operated light machines and booking forms, the 10p stamp was introduced. In 1975 Courts 1, 2 & 3 were re-roofed, the viewing area created and the staging built, the rear viewing areas were small with court 3 only having enough room for a marker to perch on the window ledge. The long lintels to span the new viewing windows were cast in the British Rail Concrete Yard in Leeman Road,( now the over flow car park for the Railway Museum ) With membership still rising more courts were needed and a development fund was started, the booking fee was raised to 50p with the extra 40p going into the fund, from this Courts 4 & 5 were built in 1977.
Later Court 5 was altered with the front wall being rebuilt outwards to incorporate the glass back and the seating area. By 1980 the membership exceeded 1,000 which was above the squash rackets association recommendations for 5 courts so a waiting list was imposed.
In 1983 on Courts 4 & 5 the electric fan heating was superseded by the overhead gas heating installed by having the gas pipe extended from the Railway Institute Band room next door.
The courts were used annually for the British Rail Eastern Region Championships, but these came to an end with the splitting up of British Rail.
The Club has helped for over 75 years in the fitness and achievements of many.
Trevor Elliott August 2013
I learnt to day that Shaun became the Chairman of our squash club in the decade I was born. Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the effort involved in that sort of longterm commitment to a club. Equipment changes, coaching style changes, juniors becoming seniors club becoming champions then moving on and through it all bringing knowledge of the past whilst driving to the future has been our Chairmans and his passion in our club.
Through the last 27 years of Shaun’s tireless efforts, we’ve had troubles, leaking roofs, rotting plaster, broken floor boards, doors, steps, ankles and through it Shaun has always been cheery and welcoming to new players and novices trying the sport, willing to listen to your thoughts and respectful of your opinions no matter how off kilter they might be.
I remember the first time I was introduced to Shaun, I knew coach Rod Erridge from the Monday night squash coaching session and after offering to help with anything at the club Rod introduced me as a chap who was taking on the upcoming Vets competition.
In his slow thoughtful way Shaun gave me the once over, shook me by the hand and said
“Are those non-marking soles?”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. Remember the photo from last year, we did have fun! I asked you who you thought the person was in the poster? Quick as a cheetah you let me know exactly who it was “Ian, it’s me!”
Shaun, thank you for the support you’ve given me whilst I’ve been involved at the club. You can retire with peace of mind as Trevor has slotted in to the role with aplomb and the future looks quite bright.