WEST MIDLANDS DRAUGHTS ASSOCIATION

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A Brief History of Draughts in the West Midlands of England

The earliest records of draughts-playing in the region date back to the 1850s, when Edward Lord was noted for his ability to play without sight of the board. From 1869 the game was played in the Secular Club and Institute in Birmingham.

Organised draughts reached its peak here in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when several local leagues were formed for teams in Birmingham and neighbouring Black Country towns and there was newspaper coverage of the game, notably a column every Saturday in the Birmingham Weekly Post.

Records covering the periods of the two world wars and the inter-war years are hard to find.

In January 1947 a meeting was held to consider the formation of a county association, to be called the Birmingham and District Draughts Association, “embracing South Staffordshire, East Worcestershire and the whole of Warwick County” and in 1949 the name was changed after a ballot to Warwickshire Draughts Association, since most of its members lived in Birmingham or the Warwick area.

For many years the driving force was Harold Elkington, a keen organiser, whose death in 1974, along with four other members in the same year, was a severe blow to the club. Though not short of funds, the club faded away in 1980 after secretary Alan Dobbins returned to live in his native Ireland, but was revived by Ken Lovell in 1981, when most of the previous members were brought together again. Various places in Birmingham were used as headquarters before the Austin Club in Longbridge became the established location in April 1991. The organisation underwent another name change, to the West Midlands Draughts Association, in 1991.

The first recorded Birmingham Champion was T. Gilbert, circa 1890, and an annual competition is still held for this title. A Warwickshire county championship was introduced in 1947 and has been held annually almost without a break since then. In 1975 the first league competition for individual players was formed; its name was changed from the Warwickshire League to the West Midlands League in 1982. The West Midlands Match Championship dates from 1984. County team matches have been a feature since the 1880s, but Warwickshire never won the Counties Cup run by the English Draughts Association. However, the West Midlands were finally successful in 1991.

Another club formed in the area was the Worcestershire and Staffordshire Draughts Association, founded by Fred Tatler, who was a very enthusiastic supporter of the game. The first meeting was at Stourbridge Institute in April 1970 and the venue continued to be used till 1976. During this time the county team grew in strength, but the club then gradually went into decline - chiefly because of problems in finding a suitable meeting-place - and was defunct by the end of 1981.

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