A Brief History of Banbury Sub-Aqua Club

The Club was formed in 1958 by Ernie Lester (Bookmaker) and Colin Miller (Dentist), in the early days of the British Sub-Aqua Club, both of these members became Honorary Presidents of Banbury Branch.

In the early days the Branch would meet in a Public House and by 1962 meetings were held at the White Swan near the Banbury Cross and alternate weeks, as there was no indoor pool in Banbury at that time, training was undertaken throughout the winter with Oxford Branch at the Cowley Road Pool. In the summer months they used Banbury Open Air Pool.

By the mid 60’s lectures were given at the Unicorn Hotel Bloxham or the Unicorn Banbury and pool training was at Sibford School Pool for a fee of 1/- (one shilling-5p in today’s money) per person. Bloxham School also housed the Compressor which in 1969 was charged at 1/3 of a penny per 10 cubic feet (old money). Also at this time the Club’s name was changed from North Oxford to Banbury Sub-Aqua as most of the members came from outlying villages in a 25 mile radius around Banbury.

 

Shortly after Draycote Water was filled in 1970 the Club started to use it for training and an alternative inland dive site. I believe the very first New Year’s Day dive was in Draycote Water.

In 1970 the Club was using a cottage at “Wykham Mill Farm” Bloxham (where the Aston Martin Works used to be) as a club housing a compressor, meeting room and boat , for the first time the club had a firm base under one roof, but this was short lived as the owner of the farm after two years decided to turn the Club House into flats, he offered alternative accommodation on the farm but this was not suitable as the club would have had to modify the sewerage system which would have been too expensive.

Members of the branch trying out their new inflatable on Draycote Water that was built over several months by its members. 17.5 feet long and 6.5 feet wide picture in the Banbury Guardian 11th October 1979

Ginger West being made an Honorary Life Member after 25 years work in training other members she is pictured with Clive Sharples President and Dave Singleton Chairman, at the club’s Dinner Dance again picture in the Banbury Guardian 14th January 1988.

The Branch was now desperate for somewhere to go and after pleas for help to the Council and in the local newspaper, the club found themselves at Lampreys Mill (now called “The Mill”) the old building which is opposite the Spice Ball Centre, what could be better? a permanent base right next to the new swimming pool which was opening later that year, 1973. It was shortly after this time that Clive Sharples, the Chairman at the time,asked to have the name changed back to “Banbury Sub-Aqua Club”, the Branch number 74 stayed the same.

Brickwork being done for the Boat House from left to right Dave Clarke, Vic Pask and John Painter.

Jonathon Irwin and Alan Stevens ex-chairman and ex-treasurer opening the new Boat House. January 1993.

The Club stayed at The Mill for almost 20 years and would still be there today if we hadn’t been priced out, fortunately the Sports Centre were happy for us to move in at reasonable rates, which we did.

Also in the early 90’s the Council took over our old boat shed for road improvements and with the compensation we received we acquired a disused toilet block on the corner of Peoples Park and converted it into a new Boat House. In 1979, before Rigid Inflatables became the norm the club built their own 17.5 ft inflatable boat. Later the club had one of the best diving equiped RIB (Ridged Inflatable Boat) at 6.2 meters with a 3 Ltr inboard engine.