The West of England Bridge Club was founded in 1984 by Jane Preddy, an international player. Other expert players involved in the setting-up and running of the club included David Carlisle, Marc Smith, Andrew Thompson and John Gair. The club was based in St Paul’s Road, Clifton in a four-storey house with playing and teaching facilities on two floors and a bar in the basement.
The bar was a crucial part of the early ethos of the club, which was for it to be a club for bridge players rather than just a bridge club. Rubber bridge was played to a high standard, sometimes for money, in the afternoons and early evenings, with a host of colourful characters, often given nicknames. Teaching bridge was an important part of the club and Jane was a fine teacher. An early star pupil was Andrew Robson, now one of the world’s best players but then an undergraduate at Bristol University. Occasional events included a popular annual 24-hour bridge marathon. This was the first club locally to introduce computer scoring.
Club History 2: the Polish Church
When Jane Preddy sold the Clifton premises and moved away, the club moved briefly to the YMCA building on Colston Street and then in 1989 to its home for 20 years, the Polish Church on Arley Hill/Cheltenham Road. The church, being Catholic, had a bar, and bridge was played up to five nights a week under the gaze of Pope John Paul II from a large portrait. The club thrived, but demand for the main duplicate session on Monday nights often meant that latecomers had to be seated in the ‘back room’ surrounded by cardboard boxes and prayer books. Friday night saw a regular league of teams, and teams are still played on Fridays when possible.
In 2009 the club had to leave the Polish Church, and after much searching moved into the present premises, which are leased from the Golden Hill Sports Club for three evenings a week. The additional weekly session of coaching for Improvers started on Thursday afternoons in April 2015.
The club celebrated its 30th anniversary in the summer of 2014 with a special evening and a commemorative magazine, a copy of which can be downloaded here (24pp, 1.6 MB pdf). Its long tradition of a popular Christmas party continues, together with other themed events during the year.