Club History – Part 1: The Early Years

The first moves towards the formation of Parkstone Rifle & Sports Club came just ten years after the end of WW2, long enough for the hardships to become a memory, yet recent enough to make the use of firearms by civilians a desirable commodity. The Inaugural General Meeting of Parkstone Rifle & Sports Club took place in the Britannia Hotel in Poole on 15th January 1957, after several preliminary meetings the preceding year by interested parties. Initially the club was to cater for both rifle and pistol in Centre-fire, small-bore and air, for clay and skeet in shotgun, and for deep sea fishing. Membership was open only to males over the age of eighteen, with a subscription of £1.00 per annum !! The original club emblem was more related to fishing than shooting, being a green pennant with PRSC in gold letters.

By the end of the year membership had reached eighty and was still rising. By 1959 membership, well into the hundreds, was predominantly shooting orientated, with only a small fishing section. Consequently in April 1959 the Club’s name was changed to Parkstone Gun Club, and a new emblem designed by Poole College of Art was introduced.

At the same time work was commenced on building an outdoor range on the old Phillips gravel pit in Manning’s Heath Road, with facilities for ·22 rifle and ·22 and Centre-fire pistol. The air weapons section continued to use the Britannia Hotel, and the brewers named the adjacent bar the “Gun Room Bar”, and asked for air and firearms for display on the walls. However, by the mid-sixties the climate had changed and the brewers wanted us out.

Photographs from very early in the life of Parkstone Gun Club. The photograph on the left shows shooting in progress at the Club’s range in Mannings Heath Road. The land was leased from Phillips Sand & Gravel Merchants (now SITA).

The range was issued with its RSC in April 1959 there is no date for this photograph.

The picture on the right shows PGC Members at a match at the Royal Marines camp circa 1960. Photographs are from the Bournemouth Echo. You can click on the images to see a larger version.

During the early sixties the club’s rules were changed to permit female members, and it is highly likely that this decision was the major reason for the disappearance of the Parkstone and District Ladies Rifle Club. During that period full-bore rifle was a major part of the club’s activities. The Australian equivalent of the ‘Queens’ was won by a Club member, the Parkstone Target Rifle Championship was a two-day event with coverage in the NRA journal, and the club held monthly meetings. The Triathlon an event comprising small-bore rifle and pistol and full-bore rifle started in 1965 and was held every year until the handgun ban of 1997 made it impossible to continue, with just one exception due to range closure of East Holme.

In the late sixties the Manning’s Heath range had to close due to the excavation requirements of the pit owners, and despite several attempts the club never succeeded in establishing a replacement. Somewhere along the way the fishing section and shotgun section disappeared. Their passing is not recorded, but an absence of records would indicate the late sixties.

During the mid-seventies a breakaway group of Members formed the Shield Gun Club purely to run organised practical pistol events, and ultimately organised the 3rd British PPC for the UKPSA on the battle ranges of Salisbury Plain. Although not part of PGC’s history, most of the participant’s originated with Parkstone.

Escalating sports centre charges and difficulties with military ranges resulted in the club using several alternative venues during this period. During the latter years of the 1970’s although still remaining in the forefront of competitive shooting, it was felt that the club was becoming fragmented, we were using at least four different ranges to accommodate the ever growing membership and the Committee reached a decision to start searching for a means of establishing a ‘home of our own’, a phrase used by Pat Prior, one of the instigators of that decision, who used to drive around at weekends searching for likely plots of land Eventually Pat found an unused facility formerly used by Sea Scouts on the lower end of Newtown Recreation Ground, and after some discussions with the Scoutmaster we agreed to purchase the existing building and take over the lease from Poole Borough Council.

Early in 1980 we approached the Council with a view to taking over the ground lease, and that’s when negotiations became protracted. Finally, the Council decided that the Sea Scouts had never had a lease and were occupying the grounds on sufferance, we therefore had to negotiate to lease the ground from scratch. Before negotiations with the Scouts and Poole Borough Council were completed the majority of the pre-cast concrete building was stolen! CID were informed but they decided that tracing a 6 metre by 20 metre building was beyond their resources and returned to attempting to trace their lunchtime tea and biscuits. After submitting revised plans we eventually agreed terms with the Council. How the finances were raised would make another story, but this account is an attempt to illustrate the short but hectic period in which the range was constructed.

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