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Our Club History

The History of our Club

The Rotary Club of Paignton received its charter on September 3rd 1924. Rotary as an organisation had been founded in Chicago in 1905 by Paul Harris. It rapidly expanded throughout the world during the next twenty years. The members of our club from its outset played an active role in supporting the object of Rotary, which was and remains  to encourage and foster the idea of service as a basis of worthy enterprise.

The thriving club of about 50 members met every Thursday lunchtime at Deller’s Cafe,Paignton from 1924 until 1965 when it moved to its current location at the Harbour Lights Restaurant. Its members included virtually the entire business community of Paignton serving alongside representatives from many professions. The club held very much to Paul Harris’s ‘live and help live’ ideal, becoming an active participant within the local community and serving its needs by implementing the goals of Rotary through vocational service, common fellowship and support for projects involving education, health and other social and charitable enterprise. It worked closely with the Inner Wheel and Round Table Clubs of Paignton.  

Many of our members have proudly served the community of Paignton through Rotary for many years. Our oldest current member is Dr Tommy Sutton-Coulson who is 102 years of age and celebrated 50 years as member of the club in February 2013. He is now an Honourable Member. Alongside our older members are more recent recruits who are as committed to the ideals of Rotary as those of the past. However, just as society has changed so will the Rotary Club of Paignton. Our club intends to retain all the positive aspects of its past history alongside a new dynamic and relevant drive to serve the community in the future.


Minutes of a meeting held at Deller’s Café, Torbay Road, Paignton  22nd May 1924

It having been decided
“That a Rotary Club" be formed in Paignton as a Member  Club of Rotary International in the Association for Britain and Ireland, and a Provisional Committee and Interim Officers having been appointed.

 That the Founder Members be members of the Club, viz :- H. Hunter-Joy, S. Vickers, H.Beare, H. Fielding, H.M.Drake, H.D.Higgs, J.S.Higgins,  H. Parnell, John Hanley, N.N.Couldrey, W.Welton, A.J.Cooksley.

That the following persons be also elected Members of the Club, viz :-
Ward, Aylin, Sarson,  Foxon, Griffin, Dawson, Chard,  George (Dr.) Smith,  Couldrey W.N. , C.J.Ellis, R.Foster, S. Harris.

That the Officers of the Club for the ensuing year be:-
President:   Rotarian M. Hunter-Joy
Vice-Pres;ident:  Rotarian Stansfield Vickers
Treasurer:  Rotarian A.F.Aylen
Secretary:  Rotarian H.H. Fielding

It was also resolved that the Council consist of  Rotarians H.Beare, W.N. Couldrey, H.Mackworth -and the ex.officio officers.


H. Hunter-Joy thought to be an optician

H.Beare:.Owner of Emmanuel Beare, a drapers store in Victoria Street

H. Fielding:  Proprietor of HY.H.Fielding, Chartered accountants in Vkictoria Street.

W.M.Coudreys: Senior partner in Architects Company

H.Parnell: Possibly a Greengrocer.

W.Welton: Ran Welton’s Shoe Shop

Chard: Another Greengrocer

S.J Cooksley: Cookley’s House Agents, Now Read’s Estate Agents in Hyde Road.


The club held regular meetings throughout WW2. These were usually at Deller’s Café on Torbay Road.

The first noticeable change was the meeting book. Here apologies are listed but during the war there was an additional section where Rotarians ‘On Service’ are listed. A new bank account was opened ‘Rotary Club of Paignton War Weapons Week Account’.

Time and effort were given helping fund and giving assistance to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the Paignton Hospital, the Local Boys’ Home, Keep Fit and Sports Classes in Schools (shortage of male teachers) and the HMS Torbay Fund.

They sent aid to China and to Russia. They arranged ‘Wings for Victory’ collections and support for the Exeter Air Raid Distress Fund.

The main project of the Club early in the war was the ‘Pig Food Collection and Disposal Scheme’ with a centre based at Clennon Valley. As the minutes of 1943 state “with much relief the scheme was taken over by the local council”. I am not sure if the relief was on the part of Rotarians or the pigs.

Much time was spent helping with evacuee children, such as putting on film shows and demanding better accommodation when boys were discovered sleeping three to a bed in a hostel.

There was a paper shortage so minutes were written on the back of old monthly calendar sheets and stuck into the minute book.   

There was controversy when some Rotarians felt a speaker had been too forthright. In 1943 Rotarian Kazimierz Zienkiewicz, a past president of the Rotary Club of Katowice in Poland spoke to the Club on ‘Outpost is working’. The gentleman was in exile in London and had set up an organisation called Outpost, for Rotarians in exile from Poland, Belgium, Holland, France and Czechoslovakia. It is not clear what he said to the Club but there was a motion to report him to ”the competent Authorities and  suggested that his activities be kept under observation”. This was not carried but it was agreed that the points raised by speaker were of a dangerous character and should not be openly voiced in public. In Polish rotary circles he is a hero, known as the man who saved Rotary in Poland, rotary having been banned there.

The final wartime act was to set up a ‘Welcome Home Fund’.

Members - Early  WW2

A.F. Aylin  Honorary Member         E.R.Hooper  Banking

R.Barr   Hotels                            N.Howard  Milk

H.C.Beare  Drapery                      R.T.Letcher  Law

J.A.Chard  Grocery                       R.W.Leaman  Wallpaper/Paint

H. Cove Clark  Sports Goods         T.Mitchell-Fox  Osteopathy

W.N.Couldry  Architect                 C.M.Ricks  Jeweller

B.M.Dale  Minister                       N.Rossiter*  Furniture

W.N.Davies  Accountant               P.B.Rossiter  Milling

H.Drake  Honorary Member            T.S.Sharp  Plumbing

C.W.E.Drew  Surveyor                   H.B.Spry  Men’s Clothing

C.H.Drew*  Builder                       H.H.Stones  Tobacconist

H.T.Drew  Builder                         J.Sutton  Printing

J.E.Eastley  Law                           R.C.Taylor  Gas

C.F.Ellis  Hardware                       W.A.Towill  Retired

L.E.O.Evans  Motor Insurance         J.W.Tranter  Greengrocer

W.J.Evans*  Baking                      A.C.Truett  Hairdresser

M.Fawcett  Electrics                      S.Vickers  Retired

H.H.Fielding  Accountant               J.Vickery  Photography

L.P.Foale  Butcher                        A.Waycott*  Estate Agent

R.Foster  Retired                          W.Welton  Shoes

R.J.George  Honorary                    W.Whiteley  Minister

F.L.Green  Private Schools             C.H.Wield  Hotels

L.B.Griffin  Dentist                       J.Waters  Garage Services J.F.Harris  Radio Equipment

47 members                          *On Active (War) Service

Interestingly meetings always started at 1.10 pm. This allowed shopkeepers to close their shops for lunch at 1.00 pm and walk to Dellers Cafe for the meeting.


Extract from Business Minutes

 8th October 1970  Community Service Committee Report

“It was reported that a letter had been received from Torbay County Borough calling a public meeting to meet the Council Officers, to discuss alleviation of public distress due to the strike.”

The strike referred to was a strike of council workers, mainly those involved in refuse collection and sewage disposal. It was nationwide and the Prime Minister at the time was  Edward  Heath. It appears that the sewage workers had walked out of the sewage works at Clennon Valley and ‘things’ were building up in the tanks. Volunteers from Paignton Rotary and Round Table (now sadly defunct) worked 6-8 hour shifts manning  the pumps and they kept Paignton smelling rosy. This went on for about  three weeks but it was several months before the volunteers were allowed to attend social functions again!