Updated: Jun 20, 2019
One of the authors of the club’s 1960s history ‘To Ashbrooke and Beyond' noted, there had been an attempt to get squash going at the club in 1930.
Nothing came of this and it was 1959 before another attempt was made. The man behind the later drive to introduce squash was Charlie Pickersgill, a member of the renowned local shipbuilding and sporting family. Such has been the contribution of the Pickersgills to sport at Ashbrooke that their deeds alone could fill a small book.
The first games of squash on the new courts appear to have been played around Christmas 1960. At first there was only a single court built. With accompanying accommodation, the cost came to £3,000, half of this being secured by means of an interest free loan with the remainder borrowed from a bank.
When the squash club was set up, a membership of about 70 was anticipated and Charlie Pickersgill was elected to serve as its first chairman. In the opening season of inter-club competition, 12 matches were won – a pleasing start.
However all was not plain sailing and the introduction of this new sport was greeted with ‘considerable scepticism’ and, reading between the lines, a little opposition. Most general club members, however, adopted a wait and see policy and the club historian of the day anticipated both ‘financial value’ and ‘material value for youngsters’ through the introduction of the sport.
Almost sixty years on and the squash section’s journey seems to have been one of ups and downs. This can be seen by following the story of the courts. At first there was but a single court. By the middle of the period there were six courts and a continuous battle to get on any of them as club membership soared to dizzy heights.
In more recent times, the number of courts fell to four as demand for their use tailed off. Some of the space formerly occupied by squash courts was allotted for a snooker room while the remainder went to host gym facilities and changing rooms.
There are a number of possible reasons for these changes. There can be little doubt that squash enjoyed huge popularity in the 1970s and 1980s almost as fitness exercise alone. Perhaps some of this was taken away by the rise of ‘fun running’ from the 80s onwards. At the same time private indoor rackets clubs and public leisure centres started to offer a real challenge with subsequent consequences for Ashbrooke’s squash membership.
However things are looking up once again. There has been a recent refurbishment of the courts thanks to a large grant obtained by the club’s general manager, numbers are up and the various league teams are enjoying real success. So in terms of squash at Ashbrooke it appears to be a case of ‘onwards and upwards’!