About Us

UPPER THAMES CENTRE

          pic The Upper Thames Centre of the Caravan Club came into existence in February 1950, formed out of the Midland Centre. It covered Oxfordshire and Berkshire. (At the Southern Centre`s  A.G.M. that year, it was reported in “En Route” that their membership numbers were reduced to 342 from 450 owing to the formation of the U.T.C.) “En Route” was the original Caravan Club magazine. In those days, the Centres were mostly regional such as Eastern Counties, South Western, North Eastern, Midland, East Midland,  North London and Yorkshire etc. County names began to appear as caravanning grew in popularity and membership increased although Upper Thames retained its original name, due to the persistence of Secretary Bill Tombs when the Berkshire Centre was formed out of it in 1971. Two sets of files were kept, one (white cards), by the Hon. Assistant Secretary (Rallies) for Rally Book holders, and the other (pink cards), by the Hon. Secretary for the complete list of about 2000 members, some of whom probably never even used their vans, but for whom the centre received a Capitation Fee, which  in 1969 was about 2/6! Nowadays, all the data is on computer, available at the click of a tab. Every member received a centre Christmas card, showing the coming season`s programme and notice of the A.G.M., also a letter about the Annual Dinner Dance. What a postage bill! The Caravan Club subscription in 1950 was one and a half guineas but increased to two guineas in 1957. A Willerby caravan cost £299.10.0.

The distinctive, well-loved “Mucky Duck” pennant was designed by Peta Turner, daughter of Joyce and the late Ron Turner, long standing members, who always attended the A.G.M. and Dinner Dance. To save money in the 70`s, some ladies actually sewed new pennants - what dedication! We now have to fly the C.C  flag alongside the centre one.

 

 

 

 

 

The first Chairman in 1950 was Cyril Howard, and G.V.Rickards the original  Hon. Secretary but at the A.G.M. that year, Mrs F.G. Pocock became Hon. Secretary and F.W.(Pop) Thatcher the Hon. Treasurer. The rally was held at Gatehampton Farm,

Goring-on-Thames, September 22-24, with 9 caravans present! I can remember meeting Arthur Tooth who was on the committee with G.V.Rickards, P. Fletcher, R. Harris and F.G Pocock. There was a Whist Drive round the vans, with a mystery prize of a sawdust-filled pork pie; hopefully there was something else as well! The Junior members enjoyed fishing but the catches were not great (nothing has changed !!). Six rallies had been held, well attended and five members qualified for Fellowship.

(From `En Route`)

During the early years there were not as many rallies in a season as we have now, but with a steady growth in membership, the annual programmes began to fill out and rallies became larger and more enterprising, establishing special events many of which are still popular today, such as the Bonfire rally, Henley Regatta, all kinds of seasonal  events such as Harvest Festival, Halloween, Burns` Night, Annual Pig Roasts at Long Hanborough, It`s a Knockout at  Pyrton and Westcott, Holidays at home and abroad and all kinds of  Competitions for Trophies. The latter seem not so popular these days apart from Fishing, Beer and various Junior Cups but perhaps will  be revived by enthusiasts. The oldest trophy is the 1963 Roland Lewis (of Venture Caravans) Challenge Cup for caravan reversing. Open Forums were held on some rallies to give members the chance to air ideas etc. In 1969/70, the `Cygnets`(John Prior, Joe Boon & John Holliday) represented the centre in the British Road Rally, using 2 berth Cygnets borrowed from “Fairford Caravans” (a lot of my china got broken as the vans had to be `useable`!) at Mallory Park and Snetterton.Eric and Celia Roberts entered their van for `the best kept` competition at Long Wittenham in 1969, which was won by John Prior, but they were given a special award of a bottle of champagne.The late Kathleen Taylor, whose husband Edward was Centre Chairman from 1973-1975, once told me of going to her first rally in the late 50`s in the autumn at Woodeaton, with about 15 vans, rally officer Ron Turner where she won a tin of biscuits in the competition.

            Joan and Dennis Chivers (past members) began rallying in 1963 and confirmed that the programme was shorter with small attendances, but spread over the two counties and surrounding areas. Dennis served on the committee for some time.

The earliest prices to hand are :- Centre Pennant…5/-, Window Sticker..6d.,

“Hoot to Pass” Card…1/3. Sunday papers were provided out of the rally fee! Site fee for Eynsham rally 3/6 per night, rally fee 3/6 (1968). No Vat then ! You could then buy a really grand `Elsan Bristol closet` for £9.17.9 but in 1969 the price increased to £10.3.6. Toilet tents were commonly used and the “Caratrine” cost £12.5.0. `for use on roadside halts or sites`. Caravans varied in price :-in the 60s, a  fifteen foot Stirling with guttering could cost around £900; Sprite Musketeer £315; 1967 Welton £595; 1972 Lunars £455 to £595 and a 1985 Carlight £12,720.

Until 1969 the rally books were in the cheque-book style, but I have not discovered what was first used. I treasure our collection from 1967 which give all kinds of information. The free Sunday newspapers were discontinued 1967/77 and until March 1994, milk could be ordered and was delivered to vans. In the early 1970s the Rally Attendance Awards were inaugurated (counting from 1968) and to further promote attendances, a Fellowship Plaque to be awarded for attending 25 or more Upper Thames rallies in a year. The number required was reduced in 1987 to 20 U.T. rallies plus 5 other C.C. centre rallies or Nationals etc. At the 1980 A.G.M., a motion was passed reducing the number of Vice-Chairmen to only one.

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Centre Milestones Celebrations

May 23, 1969  -  500th Rally at  Shotover Park, Oxford

July 9, 1971  -  21st Anniversary at Towersey, Thame

June 20, 1975  -  25th Anniversary at Kingsey

May 1st, 1981  -  1000th Rally at Thame Showground

May 4th, 1990  -  40th Anniversary & 1500th Rally at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock

August 27, 1999  -  2000th Rally at Westcott

 

 

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June 17, 1977  -  ERII`s Silver Jubilee celebrated at the Competition Rally, Kingsey

December 30, 1999  -  Millennium Celebration at Burford

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pic            Over the years, many joint enterprises were run, including a Midland Centres Reunion Rally in May 1970 at Malvern (Worcestershire Centre) which I can remember attending: June 1972 at Coventry (East Warwickshire Centre); June 1973 at Stafford (South Staffs Centre) and one hosted by Upper Thames in May 1974 at Wheatley. Centres invited were East Warwickshire, Gloucester & Herefordshire (one centre then), Midland, North Staffordshire, Shropshire, South Staffordshire, West Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

The Thames Valley Rally series were held from 1983 between the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Upper Thames Centres, intended as Social weekends with no sporting activities. The first hosts were Buckinghamshire at Harleyford Manor, on July 22-24,1983. Upper Thames hosted the event on June 15-17, 1984 at the P.S.F. Sports & Social Club, Oxford. Wellington Country Park,Risely was the venue of the June 14-16, 1985 Berkshire Rally. On June 20-22, 1986, Buckinghamshire returned to Harleyford Manor, and Upper Thames again were the hosts on June 19-21,1987 at Kirtlington Park. Buckinghamshire hosted the last T.V.R. at Weston Turville on June 16-18, 1989.         

The Inter-Centre Fishing  Competition has been going strong since 1991 between Berkshire, Wiltshire and Upper Thames, but sadly, recently, the Junior link-up rally has foundered through lack of interest. Inaugurated in 1976, these rallies were hosted in turn by Avon, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Upper Thames and there was keen competitiveness for the trophies in Football, Netball and Volleyball. It is good to know that the friendship between these centres is to be continued with an annual Family Link-up rally with all sorts of field games.      

This year sees the 14th A.G.M. of the Northern Home Counties Region which enables seven counties to meet and exchange ideas of all caravanning matters, encouraging members to visit other centres` rallies, usually with events of special interest, fostering friendship in the Club.

The centre has always supported the Caravan Club`s National Rallies, entering team and individual competitions and quiz teams, one of which was successful at a recent Welsh National. Groups have also been to International Rallies.

Over the years, there have been many versions of a news outlet for members; the `Swansong` news sheet, produced by Tom Suttar of Didcot in the late 60`s; one page that I struggled to make on a difficult electric typewriter; and two upmarket ones; Ann Rolls` weekly news “Update” plus information for the Juniors and a Wanted/For Sale item followed by Ian Simmonds` swish version of “Update”, and now all sorts of caravan information appears on the U.T.Web Site, even `on-line`- rally booking!

Rallies give members much pleasure in many ways but they are very mindful of the needs of others; thus charities are very well supported in the Centre chosen usually by the Chairman of the day, such as a local children`s home, a cancer scanner, the John Masefield Cheshire Home, the Ormerod School, Thame Cottage Hospital, John Watson School, Sobell House Hospice, the Diabetic Centre, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Hearing Dogs for the Blind,  the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and Macmillan Cancer Support. Some years there is a special Chairman`s Charity rally, otherwise money is raised during the year with small events, raffles, auctions, book sales etc.

History is what is happens every passing minute so do make a note of anything special you come across in your caravanning and if you can supply any facts, especially really early ones, please do.

[Apologies for any mistakes and omissions(memory malfunction). Mostly personal memories and a little research. Thanks to many people for their help including:- Joyce & the late Ron Turner, the late Kathleen Taylor, Joan & Dennis Chivers, Ann & the late Danny Gutteridge, Jenny & Gerry Cox, Keith Matthews, Eric Roberts, Ann Rolls, Alison & Ian Simmonds, and John.

Jane Holliday