The historical roots of the Old Owen’s Association can be traced as far back as 1889, when it was known as the Old Boys Association. It was the brainchild of Headmaster Easterbrook, who was its first President. It co-existed alongside the Old Owens Football Club and the Old Owens Cycling Club, both founded in 1891. Subsequently, in 1905, a Gymnasium Club and Swimming Club were formed, but in 1906 one main Association, the Old Owen’s Association, was formed. This had a Central Committee which was in charge of all the affiliated clubs.
Fund raising for the purchase of playing fields commenced in 1911, but it was not until after the First World War that an option on a Freehold site at Whetstone was acquired and the ground was finally purchased in 1923. Old Owens Sports Clubs Limited was incorporated with a nominal capital of £100 on November 29th 1923, to establish a separate legal entity as owner of the grounds. The Limited Company issued debentures in return for the financial contributions which funded the purchase of the grounds by the Limited Company. Gradually, the company redeemed the debentures, and these were handed over to the Old Owen’s Association, which became the legal owner of the Sports Ground.
Originally, the Sports Club had a wooden pavilion. This was replaced in 1957 by a handsome brick-built building, designed by two Old Owenians, Duncan Bailey and Gordon Nash, both architects. It was regarded as one of the best of its kind in London.
When the School moved to Potters Bar, the site in Whetstone was considered to be too remote, so a decision was made to sell the Freehold in order to raise the funds needed to purchase the site at Potters Bar. Again, it was an Old Boy, Brien Martin, who became involved in this process and who ensured that the Association was not faced with a crippling tax bill associated with the sale of the Whetstone site.
Possibly the most glorious era of the Old Owen’s Association was associated with the 350th Anniversary Year celebrations. Hundreds of Old Boys and Old Girls took part in the celebrations and renewed old friendships. The Annual Luncheon was attended by no fewer than 347 people, a feat unimaginable today, plus the School orchestra.
Nothing more reflects the success of an Association such as ours more than the ability to communicate with its members. For many years this was very effectively accomplished through the Association’s magazine, “The Old Owenian”. Unfortunately, this has not been published for the last 5 years, and communication with the Association’s wider membership has, as a consequence, suffered. It is to be hoped that the resumption of the “Old Owens Association Newsletter” and the establishment of its website www.oldowens.com with its lower production cost, will go some way towards compensating for the absence in recent years of the “Old Owenian” Newsletter.
The fortunes of the Old Owen’s Association have always been subject to ups and downs. The administration of the grounds, pavilion and membership are carried out on an entirely voluntary basis by current members of its Executive Committee. However, its long-term existence is dependent on current generations of Owenians joining and ensuring its success through their participation and efforts. The School Head and current President of the Association, Mrs Hannah Nemko, is keen to promote the Association among School leavers and has initiated moves to this end. It is thus expected, as for the 350th Anniversary, the 400th Anniversary ( April 2013) will see a new upsurge in the fortunes of the Association.
This article is largely based on R. A. Dare’s History of DAME ALICE OWEN’S SCHOOL (1613-1976), First published 1963, revised 1980. ©The Brewers’ Company. David Ross CBE, The Clerk, The Brewers’ Company has kindly given his clearance for this source to be quoted on the Associations website.