Eton Manor Boys’ Club
We have our roots in East London. We started life as The Manor Charitable Trust, which was set up to fund the Eton Manor Boys’ Club (EMBC), a sports and social club founded in Hackney Wick in the early years of the 20th century. EMBC was established, managed and paid for by a philanthropically-minded group of Old Etonians: Arthur Villiers, Gerald Wellesley, Alfred Wagg and Sir Edward Cadogan.
Please use the links below to read more information about the founding of the Eton Manor Boys’ Club
- Michelle Johansen’s lecture “The Early Years of the Eton Manor Boys’ Clubs“
- The list of donors who contributed to the building of the clubhouse in Riseholme Street
- ChinWag Magazine, June 1913 (the Club’s monthly magazine)
- Extracts from ChinWag Magazine during World War 1
The Eton Manor Boys’ Club (EMBC) officially closed in 1967 but many members are still in contact with one another today. All acknowledge the profound impact EMBC had on their lives. The rules stated that boys had to join between the ages of 14 and 16 years old. However, once admitted as members, the commitment might last a lifetime: an affiliated Eton Manor ‘Old Boys’ club catered for the over-eighteens. For a nominal weekly subscription, boys and ‘Old Boys’ had free access to everything the EMBC had to offer both in the purpose-built clubhouse in Riseholme Street, Hackney and on the clubs’ own sports ground, the Wilderness (a vast, sporting nirvana developed on 30 acres of waste ground in Leyton in the 1920s). By an amazing coincidence, the Wilderness sports ground, which contributed much to the sporting heritage of East London, now forms part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park used for the 2012 Olympics. Under the legacy plans the area will provide sports facilities for the local community for many years to come.
On the fringes of London’s notoriously deprived East End, EMBC members were able to try out all kinds of sports and leisure activities. In comfortable surroundings, they enjoyed boxing, amateur dramatics, debating, drawing, first-aid, squash, tennis, football, cricket, rugby, billiards, table-tennis, photography, badminton, athletics and rifle-shooting.
The EMBC Trustees used their wealth and connections to good effect: they brought top sportsmen over to East London to help out or hold exhibitions at the Club (Sir Alf Ramsey and Douglas Jardine assisted with the football and cricket teams respectively). Above we see World Chess Champion Capablanca at the clubhouse in 1928 playing simultaneous games of chess against the boys.
Membership of EMBC gave boys from ordinary backgrounds the chance to enjoy a wide variety of sports and games in a safe, spacious and congenial environment. Because of the first rate facilities and the excellent instructors, Eton Manor had gained a reputation as an elite boys’ sporting club by the mid-20th century. However, the club was not primarily about sporting excellence – teamwork, character, helping others and making the most of yourself were most important. Some members were helped out with advice to assist them in their careers and others were given introductions for jobs in the City (both Arthur Villiers and Alfred Wagg were bankers) or encouraged to apply to university. A few members were offered interest-free loans to start businesses or supplied with low-rent accommodation to enable them to save money to buy their own homes. But most important of all, members were provided with an Eton Manor ‘family’: the friendships they struck up as boys during happy evenings at the clubhouse, at the Club Summer Camp or over sunny weekend afternoons on the Wilderness often lasted for a lifetime.
You can hear some of the Eton Manor Boys’ Club songs and see a small selection of the archive photos on the ‘Up The Manor!’ video clip on our YouTube channel.
Nowhere is the camaraderie more evident than in the pages of the monthly Chin-Wag newsletters. As well as describing the activities going on at the Club, the letters back from members during the First and Second World Wars, and from all corners of the Empire from 1913 through to 1967, make for fascinating reading.
We deposited all our archive materials relating to the Eton Manor Boys’ Club at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. These materials have been added to by many generous deposits from Eton Manor Old Boys and are publicly accessible to everyone during the opening hours of the Bishopsgate Library. Please see their website for more information or tel. 020 7392 9270. The Chin-Wag newsletters are available online and can be downloaded from their website.