The inaugural meeting of the Association was held on the 1 April 1957 - a date selected hopefully by chance and not by design. Representatives from six clubs attended and they elected two well-known players to run the Association - Mr AG Luff, Chairman and Mr AWJ (Bill) Cleeve as Secretary.
In September 1957 eleven teams had applied for league membership. As a result, two divisions were formed. Chandlers Ford, one of the original clubs, left for some years but is now playing again. Even in the early days the teams were far-flung from Andover via Four Marks and Alresford to Chandlers Ford. In those days when car ownership was not as widespread as it is today, it was something of an adventure to travel from the warm south to the frozen north of the county!
A club affiliation was 10/6 (52½p) and to register a player cost 6d (2½p). At the 1958 AGM, Petersfield joined the league and a healthy balance of £2-6s-7d (£2.33p) was reported. After the first year, Mr Luff retired as Chairman. He donated a trophy that is still contested today, a mixed levels event.
The format for the League had been agreed as three mixed pairs each playing every other couple from the opposition. Despite many suggestions about changing the format, it is still used in the League today. In the early days, the sports hall sited in the Guildhall, Winchester was regarded as HQ with the Luff Cup being played there. This facility came to an end in the 1960's when a fire caused considerable damage to the Guildhall. Over the next few years, a number of new clubs joined the League and in 1960, the number of divisions was increased to three.
In 1960 the Association also decided to affiliate to the Hampshire BA. 1962 saw the first inter-town match between Winchester and Southampton. Whether it was the cost of the fixture, is not recorded, but in that year the cash balance fell to 17/7½ (about 88p). A year later the League reverted to two divisions and the Luff Cup was played in the Andover Drill Hall - a venue remembered by many with mixed feelings and cold muscles. 1964 saw the introduction of handicap tournaments for both men and ladies. These were also staged in Andover.
1966 and the AGM spent considerable time discussing the question of declaring 'wood shots'. In those days it was generally felt that a good shot could only be played by using the strings on the racket. In 1967 the Association was in the front line in writing to Winchester City Council suggesting that the Lido be used for sport. The Lido had been built in the late 1930s for squash and badminton. It also had an outdoor swimming pool. For many years it was leased to a man who staged dances, bingo and professional wrestling. In 1969 these efforts were rewarded and the Lido was given back to sport. In the interim, apart from Andover, competitions had been staged at Whitchurch and RAPC Worthy Down - both excellent, but the Lido provided a permanent home and became the Association's new HQ.
The Renton Cup was introduced in 1970 - the first team competition in the district other than the League. The trophy was given by Alan Barren Renton, a master at Peter Symonds Grammar School, who, as a badminton international, had played seventeen singles for England.
1973 saw synthetic shuttles becoming more widely used in the League. The Association however, advised all clubs who proposed using 'plastics' that they should inform their opponents before the match was played that plastics would be used. The number of teams joining the League meant that in 1975 the number of divisions was increased to seven, comprising of one first and two in each of two, three and four.
In 1977 Bill Cleeve retired as Secretary after holding the post for some twenty years. For twelve of those years he had also acted as Treasurer. In recognition of his service to Winchester Badminton, the post of President was created and Bill became the first holder.
Winchester had been taking an increasing role in the affairs of the county and one of our members, Ken Milne, was for a time the County Secretary. The administration of the Association had become so great that AGMs were now being held on separate dates to the annual fixtures meetings. It was not unknown, when they were combined, to run on almost into the next day!
The League continued to grow and 1981 saw the league structure increase to eleven divisions. At this time, Bill Cleeve left the area and his place as President was taken by Mark Carter J.P. Bill was created a Life Vice President - a post he filled with dignity until his death.
1983 and the Silver Jubilee AGM. The years had seen great growth in the number of people participating in our sport. Winchester decided to enter the County League. A number of our members have, over the years, helped to organise county events. Among them, Janet Palmer, Marilyn Hunter, Hazel Marks and Paul and Libby Eden. We have felt, very much, part of the County Scene. Winchester has from the earliest days, had a well organised coaching system for the young people and at least two of our coaches, Jean Merrikin and Tony Mundy have almost half a century of coaching between them. However, there are many more besides. It is through their efforts that young people taking up the game are afforded the best opportunity to make progress. In addition, at the height of its popularity, badminton classes were being held in Further Education Centres almost every night of the week.
The Banerjee Memorial Cup, donated in memory of Pitu Banerjee who died while playing a league match, was inaugurated in 1988 to provide inter-club knock out (handicap) competition throughout the season.
Currently the League comprises of five divisions of Mixed teams, five of Mens teams (started 1991) and two of Ladies (1995). Officers, once elected in Winchester, serve long terms with no parole! Peter Pescod, served as Chairman for 21 years, Keith Gilmour did 12 years as League Secretary, then became Vice President before succeeding Mark Carter as President. Many others have given years of service and it is through them that the Association has remained strong.
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