By John Richardson. Zine editor (at night), and marketing copywriter (by day)
Welcome to a new series for the Zine called ‘A Brief History’.
We expats are usually only here in the Netherlands for a short period, and some of us make this our home, but nonetheless we all leave a brief footprint in the sands of time.
It was my very great pleasure to meet Sue Macfarlane, Chairman of British Club of The Hague, at the Reception last week at the British Ambassador’s Residence in the Hague. Her friend, Jenny van Hengel, who wrote “Our Dutch Launching Place” last year, recently sent Sue an article on the Club – not very long – which Sue hopes we will be able to add to our magazine. Of course Sue, here it is…
The British Women’s Club was founded in 1928 when thirty women decided to form a club for British women living in The Netherlands. Before the Second World War the British Women’s Club was primarily a luncheon club, meeting at monthly luncheons held at venues such as Restaurant Royal and Hotel Twee Steden in The Hague. The library was started in 1939 in a room on the fourth floor of the Damesleesmuseum on Lange Voorhout, but this had to be closed when the German occupation began in May 1940. The committee decided to close the club for the duration of the war; in 1946 the club was revived by members of the original committee and soon had over 200 members.
From its inception the BWC raised money for good causes – the earliest beneficiaries were the two British Seamen’s Missions in Rotterdam. Since then the club has raised money for more than 110 charities, both in The Netherlands and abroad, and continues to do so to this day.
In 1951 the library and regular luncheon venue was moved to the Park Hotel on the Molenstraat, where the club met until 1960. Lunches were also held in other restaurants including the Kurhaus, Hotel des Indes and Restaurant Royal. Club activities included: excursions; talks and demonstrations; courses; children’s parties; teas; coffee mornings; charity sales; fashion shows; balls and other evening events; choir; bridge drives; play-readings; and (children’s) sports activities. Some
club activities have ‘spread their wings’ – such as the Cecilia International Choir, which started life in 1976 as the British Women’s Club Choir.
The BWC had a number of different meeting places over the years; in 1960 the club rented one room for the library above the ‘Arbeid Adelt’ shop on Noordeinde 92. However, with a membership of 699 and a limit of 25 persons in the clubroom at any one time, a move was made in 1975 to a suite of rooms above the Bruna bookshop at Passage 61, the site of the present Novotel. The club then moved to four rooms on the top floor of Sociëteit de Witte, Plein 24, its home from 1986 to 2008.
In 2006 the British Women’s Club became the British Club of The Hague and now admitted men as members. In 2008 the BCH decided to leave De Witte and, for the next three years, found a welcoming home with the American Women’s Club in Scheveningen. But, in 2011, when the AWC decided to sell their clubhouse, the BCH moved to its present meeting place – the Pastoral Centre of the English Speaking International Roman Catholic Church in Bezuidenhout.
Our Dutch Launching Place: a History of the British (Women’s) Club of the Hague from 1928, is available for €25 from the club.