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.
The 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)
In 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
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.
The 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
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
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.
The 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's 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.
The 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.
Of 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
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
One 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
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
Thereafter 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
(Pictured: Marciano and Cockell exchange a handshake at the
pre-fight weigh in)
The 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.