Ton-up: Celebrating the Rotary Club of Norwich centenary
- Credit: Norwich Heritage Projects
It was a time of misery and poverty for so many…. but, two years after it was formed, a club reached out to the poor children of Norwich.
In 1924 more than 700 of them, many from the Orphans’ Home in Chapelfield, were treated to a rare Christmas feast and lots of fun at St Andrew’s Hall.
After tea they settled down to no less than three hours of entertainment.
The band from the Lads Club played, paper hats came from Caley's, oranges, bananas and apples were given to the children as they left thanks to Mr Pordage and Mr Gaymer. Two well-known Norfolk names.
We described the party as one of the “City’s jolliest Christmas celebrations” and it became an annual event which hundreds of children looked forward to.
Many lived in the city slums and had lost their fathers in the First World War. These parties put a smile back on sad faces.
That is an early example of the way the Rotary Club of Norwich has reached out to the people, at home and abroad, since it was formed a century ago.
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It was at 8pm on Wednesday January 18 1922 when 15 city businessmen gathered at the Royal Hotel and formed what is now one of the oldest Rotary Clubs in the country.
Thomas Glover, manager of the then privately owned gas works, was elected the first President and it was agreed to meet on a Wednesday lunch-time at the much-loved Royal at the entrance to Prince of Wales Road.
From the start, this was a club for businessmen, but these were also gentlemen determined to do what they could to help others and they played a leading role in city life.
As the President said: “Just as the soil needed to be agitated and cultivated, so did the brains of the business and professional people.”
Members of the Jarrold family joined the ranks. The first donations to help others 100 years ago went to the Norwich Invalid Children’s Aid Association and the Lads Club and then the following year money was sent to the Japanese Earthquake Fund.
From then on, and to this day, the famous Rotary Club of Norwich has, and is, helping people across the world in so many different ways.
During October of 1925, when the Norwich Museum celebrated its centenary, the club organised a big Norwich At Home Week staging a whole host of events for the locals and visitors.
And, as part of the week the Lord Mayor and club member, Dr, George Stevens Pope, gave a ground-breaking speech on Norwich which went out on radio 2LO.
This was the second radio station to broadcast regularly in the country. It was estimated about five million listeners heard about what was going on in the city.
Membership and events grew over the years with around 90 members by the end of the 1920s.
They continued to raise money to help others and organised a number of outings including one for the blind which ended with gifts of cigarettes and tobacco for the men and tea and chocolates for the women.
Just before the start of the Second World War, the president was one of the most popular men in the city, the extraordinary Canon Charles Compton Lanchester, known and loved as CC.
CC was the vicar of St Barnabas for more than 60 years and how the people loved to see him flying around the city on his high-tech auto cycle in the 1950s with a big grin on his face.
That is why the Rotary Club has been so successful – people from all walks of life coming together, to learn from each other, and help others.
In 1971 Rotary Court, the sheltered housing complex was opened and in 1977 Rotary House for the Deaf was opened. The number of organisations and individuals receiving help, support and advice grew.
And, in 1993, the club voted to accept women members and thanks to them the good work has, and continues, to help others in many different ways.
Look out for what the Rotary Club of Norwich is doing today in our Weekend section on Saturday.
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