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 Club History

Former Club chairman, Colin Parsons who retired the chairman's position in 2010 has seen the club develop since the 1930's, and as such has greater insight into the club's history than most. Colin has kindly put pen to paper to share his knowledge of the club's history for your review and enjoyment.

In 1938, a successful local football side, Hastings Schoolboys, won the County Shield. The members of the team decided that they would like to stay together and went on to form a boys club. They hired Emmanuel Church hall and formed Hastings PT and Youth Club. The club was run by a strong managing committee comprising of three members from each of Hastings Police, Round Table, Rotary and other interested parties. Among the police members was the then Chief Constable of Hastings Lieutenant Colonel Cargill. Others included Inspectors Weller and Niece, Frederick Hinkley of Rotary, Mr Wilson of Wilson, Wilson and Hancock, Mr Croft of the Havelock public house and Jack Humphries who owned a restaurant in Hastings High Street.

Hastings SeafrontThe first club leader was a Mr Richards, the organist at Blacklands Church, and in 1939 he asked one of the original members of Hastings PT & Youth Club, Ewart A. Philcox, to take over as club leader. Mr Philcox, or Mr P as he became universally known, was a local builder living close to the club in Emmanuel Road. He came from a family of boat builders in Hastings who had the distinction of building the largest ever pleasure sailing boats, the Albertine and its sister ship the Albatross which plied their trade from Hastings beach in the early years of the 20th century.

At about that time, Frederick Hinkley, one of the Rotary members and a local undertaker, offered the use of premises he owned at Archway House, 6 Whitefriars Road as a club building. The lower floor had been used as stabling for horses and a horse-drawn hearse whilst the upper floor was let out for local functions. The club took over the whole building and from that time became known as West Hill Youth Club. (West Hill in the early 1900's is pictured below left)

The West HillIn June 1949 the Club bought the freehold of the site from Fred Hinkley for the sum of £1,175.00, the property thereafter being held in trust by the National Association of Boys Clubs. The committee and therefore the trustees of the club now numbered eighteen. They were as follows: Angus Cargill (Chief Constable), Cecil Barfoot, Ernest Bartholomew, Noel Eccles, George Etheridge, Frederick Hinkley, Jack Humphries, Bernard Jukes, Rev. John Maddock (Emmanuel Church), Jack Midgeley, William Nunn, Ewart Philcox, David Phillips, William Raby, George Sheppard (Police), Bert Tookey (Police), Thomas Turner, Frank Wilson

The club, as might be expected, had a strong football team ,in fact Mr Philcox’s son was selected to represent England Schoolboys and played against Wales at Ninian Park in 1940. Strangely, he was not selected for County honours.

The club had two football teams in the Hastings Minor League and also a very successful athletics section which won the Sussex junior and senior team and individual cross country races at Withdean, Brighton on one occasion and were Sussex Junior athletics champions in 1958. They staged a county athletics meeting at the Central Cricket Ground in 1960.

EvacuationThe Club closed briefly at the beginning of the second World War (Families were torn apart as many children were evacuated as pictured right) but reopened shortly after when Mr Philcox formed a branch of the Army Cadet Force which continued until the end of World War II. Anyone familiar with the premises will know that there is a covered arch at the entrance to the property (hence the name Archway House) and this was used as an all-weather firing range for the cadets.

The club was an absolute haven for the local youth and stayed open throughout the war. Boys could always get a cup of tea and, if they could afford it, beans on toast or sausage and chips, from the canteen run by Mrs Philcox as her contribution to the war effort.

In the 1940s and 1950s the club had an excellent table tennis section which played in the Hastings Premier Division, one member playing for two entire seasons without losing a game. Both football and table tennis were revived in the 1970s, the latter with considerable success. Eventually both sports declined due to lack of qualified instructors and trainers to exploit the talent available. Although the Club was founded on its footballing ability there was a, perhaps, inevitable decline over the years until in the late 40s there was no football team. I was then playing for the Civil Service and was asked to join a newly formed team at West Hill. I did and we duly played our first game against Bexhill Athletic which we lost 35 – 0. Their goalkeeper scored twice. Not a very enterprising start.

A boxing section was started in 1948 and so began a tradition that was to see West Hill Boys Club become one of the leading boxing clubs in the United Kingdom and Europe. Since 1948 the club has produced over 200 County, Southern Counties and National champions many of whom have represented their club and country throughout Europe. One West Hill boxer has been England Team Captain when a West Hill official was England Team Manager at the same International. Two of the club’s coaches have been selected as England coaches.

Brian Robbo RobinsonThe club has produced many National Champions at Schoolboy and CYP level, two recent additions being brothers James "Sid" Smith who won his title in 2006 and younger brother Frank Smith pictured (below right) with his coach Gary White and Dave Bishop emulated brother Sid's achievement a year later in 2007. The club'sGary Frank and Dave most successful amateur to date has been Brian Robinson, pictured (above left) who incredibly won seven National Championships including the Junior ABA Championship, he also went on, to captain England Schools and further represented his country at the World Amateur Games. Brian is quick to acknowledge the role that both his coach Joey Lee and the West Hill Youth Club had in securing his success.

Most recently, 2011, Jake Towse (boxing in blue) had his dedication rewarded in Coventry when representing Brighton University at the British University Championships, by winning the “Under 63.5Kg Open Class” crown.

Jake smashing through a back handThe tournament, held over a four day period was restricted to the top 8 competitors applying to enter each category, currently attending university in Britain. The open class attracts the elite, and there were an array of national champions and internationals on display.

Jake, took a calculated gamble to move up a weight category to box at light welterweight for the first time, in order to hold his weight more comfortably for the duration of the event, also had another first to deal with, boxing over 3 X 3 minute rounds, instead of the normal 4 x 2 minute rounds.

Nothing however was to be too much of a challenge for Jake, and in his final against Richard Tyler an England Youth International representing Portsmouth University, he put in a stellar performance to take the title 35 – 26 on points, over 3 scintillating rounds, in what for many spectators was to be the best bout of the tournament.

Jake stalking his opponentOf Jake’s performance Brighton University coach Adam Haniver who is also the coach at the ABAE centre of excellence at Brighton City College said “The bout started with both boxers wanting to go toe to toe exchanging blows. It was evident that both boxers employed tight guards and so went about changing the target areas. Jake began to get in to his stride, landing some eye catching left hooks to the body then coming back up to the head.

The 2nd round maintained it's frantic pace with Jake appearing to be ahead.

The final 3 minutes meant Jake had to keep working, which is exactly what he did. His feet began to move in and out more scoring both straight shots and bent arm shots to body and head.

Jake showed both his metal and talent in an unchartered weight category which was well received by the crowd. This was technically the best bout of the competition, showing a master class in amateur boxing".

Dave Paul and JohnOne West Hill boy, Paul Huggins, who won the English Schools Championship in 1975 went on to become a successful professional. Paul, by common acclaim, was one of the most gifted boxer that West Hill has produced thus far. He was unbeaten in 15 professional fights when he fought Barry McGuigan in Belfast for the British featherweight title, which he lost unfortunately. McGuigan went on to be a very worthy World champion.

Paul was trained by club coach Dave Harris, who is ingrained in the club's history for saving the club from closure in late 1960's, when like so many others clubs the Hastings West Hill fell on hard times.

In his own words Dave describes events:The Class of 1968

In November 1968 John Gray (Friend and fellow coach) and I attended a committee meeting where we were hit by a hammer blow announcement. We were told that the club would have to close as there was no money available to keep the doors open. We were shocked but determined to save the club we loved, but how was the burning question. Fate leant a hand as soon after the meeting I read an article in the 'Boxing News' detailing that an American had broken the World boxing endurance record and had boxed for 160 rounds consecutively.

Still being very fit and only 23 years old, I had the idea to try and break the World boxing endurance record, or at the very least keep going for 60-70 sponsored rounds as not only would the monies raised save the club from immediate closure but would give us the time and money to stage our own shows and raise further funds. The rest as they say is history as I was able to break the record and the club was saved!

Dave later became the club chairman between 1982 and 1987

Don meets The RockThereafter the club has continued to raise funds by staging boxing shows. Over the years we have been fortunate to have honoured guests from the boxing world attend, two that stand out are Don Cockell who was British heavyweight champion in the 1950’s.

Don fought the great Rocky Marciano for the World Heavyweight title on May 17th 1955. I don’t think anyone expected Don to beat Marciano, in fact Marciano was to later retire undefeated. Don Was KO’d in the 9th after putting up a gallant and resilient display.

(Pictured: Marciano and Cockell exchange a handshake at the pre-fight weigh in)

The Tonypandy KidThe other was Tommy Farr, British and Empire heavyweight champion. We held a dinner show at the old Warrior Hotel and Tommy presented the trophies. He was politely interested in the bouts but really sat up and took notice when Paul Huggins boxed. Tommy send that Paul was the best young prospect he’d seen for a while and as stated above Paul later went on fight for the British Featherweight championship - Tommy could obviously spot talent.

Tommy (pictured left), known as "The Tonypandy Kid" was famous for his epic battle with Joe Louis in New York in August 1937 when he went the full 15 rounds. I asked him what he remembered most about that fight and he told me that it was the state of his face, the following morning, he likened his new look to ‘a dug-up road’.

Throughout the years West Hill Club has maintained a reputation for sportsmanship, discipline and, above all, comradeship. We see such attributes as being vital in preparing young people for today’s World.