Captain L. J. Lawrence

This web page actually started out as a project to get our father the recognition for 2 decades he spent running the Dunmow Youth Club. The following shows a little bit of the history of the club, its members and the activities that were available. Some dates and information are not exact due to the lack of information available. If you have any information/pics you’d like to add please forward to us and we would welcome any help in identifying the people in the photographs.   Please reach out to us using our online form on the Contact Us page. 


Captain Leonard John Lawrence in uniform (approx. circa 1935)
Captain Leonard John Lawrence in uniform (approx. circa 1935)

Dad put a lot of time and effort into the club and its activities, but with the amount of members, we had approximately 200 members when I was chairman of the club committee, he obviously had help.

The area that was the playground when I was at school there, now a parking lot, we used as a volleyball court. Nothing just some physical fun.

Dad built 2 dartboard cupboards; these were in the room with stage. He introduced the game of cribbage, made the peg boards, pegs and a small covered storage area for the pegs in the base of the pegboard. Robert Hoy was always good at playing crib’.

Photo provided by Cecile (Cec) Butcher via Clive Smith

Every year a rummage sale would be held at least once sometimes twice. People would drop off various items or Dad would do pick up runs. Anything mechanical or electrical Dad would repair. He bought rolls of copper wire and made hundreds of hangars. He also made toy parrots out of 1/4″ plywood. Hand painted them. Added a lead weight in the tail, so they could rock. There were three sizes. See pictures attached, courtesy of Jenny Little (Harris) Jen’ calls hers captain, and Peter Lawrence.

Parrot supplied by Peter Lawrence
Parrot provided by Jenny Little - Jenny has nick named the parrot "Captain"

At Christmas we would go carol singing for a few nights, especially outside the Pubs. The older members would go into the Pubs to collect money in the boxes Dad had made. Most would have a quick beer while collecting. Remember that Alan.

The money from the rummage sales and carol singing was split up, most going to less fortunate in the village, some for equipment for the club. The rest went to the annual Christmas social. A meal was served followed by dancing.

1966 - Xmas Social, Youth Centre - Capt. Lawrence chaperoning - standing top right beside windows

There was a family moved into Barnston, name of Jackson. They had 2 daughter Chris and Kate, both were nice and attractive, and joined the club. Mr. Jackson was a mechanical engineer and Dad got him to give a course in mechanics. This was in the small building next to the club. Now called the Shed.

Alan Murray from Little Easton organized Sunday bike races of 25 miles. 

Trips were planned to Wicken Bonhunt, an old country estate, converted to dormitories, classrooms and a gym/dancing area in the basement.

Outside activities were also in down time, archery and tennis.

There were a few more activities, including Ballroom dancing which surprised me with all the people who attended.

Shorthand and typing, this was held on Tuesday evenings.

There was a small store at the side of the club with a house attached. The owners were named Whybrow. Mr. Whybrow complained to Dad about someone ringing his door bell every Tuesday night and running away. Dad mentioned this at one mealtime saying he couldn’t think it was one of the girls at the class, then my sister Mary burst out laughing. 

History Building constructed in 1868, called The National School, then The Church school. Used as the youth club from 1958. Brief info on Doctors Pond. 

Captain Leonard J. Lawrence was born August 16, 1908, in Hammersmith , London.  

Had his first taste of the military life when he joined the Military Boys service at the age of 15. Later enlisting in a 5 year apprenticeship with the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) (later becoming the Corps of  Royal Electrical Engineers, (REME))

Flag of The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Flag of The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (2019)
Field Hockey Team - Middle East, early 1940's
Field Hockey Team - Middle East, early 1940's. Photo provide by John Lawrence

Dad was posted to Aldershot when he came back from the middle East 1943. Then Bicester, and lived at Marsh Gibbon, In Buckinghamshire, this was where he had his accident and lost his knee in 1943. Then posted to Colchester Essex and moved to 8 Star Lane,  Great Dunmow, Essex in  1945.

Captain Lawrence playing volleyball while posted in the Mid-East, early 1940's
Captain Lawrence playing volleyball while posted in the Mid-East, early 1940's
Captain Lawrence - Middle East - early 1940's

Dad was posted to Aldershot when he came back from the middle East 1943. Then Bicester, and lived at Marsh Gibbon, In Buckinghamshire, this was where he had his accident and lost his knee in 1943. Then posted to Colchester Essex and moved to 8 Star Lane,  Great Dunmow, Essex in  1945.

Great Dunmow Coat of Arms
Great Dunmow Coat of Arms
Union Jack
Essex County Flag
Essex County Flag

There was 2 snooker and billiard tables Never did find out where Dad got those.  The full size table was in the room where Mr. Armstrong used to teach.

Dad built a raised platform on 3 sides with chairs he got from the old Dunmow cinema, basically for people to watch games or wait their turn. The smaller table was in the room where Mr. Kidd taught. Tables were placed around the table with seating, again from the Dunmow cinema.

You had to get used to the small table before you could use the full size. When I was there, the small entrance, used as a cloakroom then, Dad converted to a snack bar, with an opening to the area with the small table. We could get snacks and drinks, then sit talk and watch the game.

John Letch was an avid table tennis player, the club had 3 tables, always in use of club nights. We had 3 teams and played against other clubs in the Braintree and District Table Tennis league. John looked after the soccer club and arranged matches with other clubs. Aunt Rose was involved in the catering side when needed. Also, the food and cooking when we would go to Denbury camping. She was the chaperone for the girls on those outings. Best of luck on that Aunt Rose. Tony was like a father figure to several of the younger members. and was always available with positive advice. Bill Vane, was the curator, but was always ready to help in any other way. At the rummage sales and giving boxing lessons. A good nucleus of adults with dad at the helm a win win situation.

The-Hams, photo provided by Cecile (Cec) Butcher via Clive Smith (circa 1953/1954)

The Hams, Derived from the Dunmow Flitch Bacon factory – left to right, Back row – Philip Stevens, Norman Amoss, David Hoy.   Middle Row  – Double bass is Sam Saunders, Drums is Peter Lawrence, Washboard is John Chapman.  Front Row – Guitar is Clive Smith, Guitar (centre) is Colin Ponsford, on Banjo is Brian Barnett 

Camping at Denbury, became popular. I had seen a flyer from The E.C.C. and decided to give it a try. The first time there was only 6 of us. Clive Hay from little Easton drove us. The 2nd time there was about 18 of us. Both times just the boys. The 3rd time there was over 30, some of the girls came on that one and we had to get a coach from Dons Coaches. That was when John Letch and Aunt Rose came, they looked after the food and organized the cooking, plus the cleaning crews. A group of us would go the week

before to get the firewood. The good thing about these trips was the friendship, plus all the equipment was supplied by the E.C.C. which also put up the tents even a mess tent c/w tables and seating.  

Judo on Saturday mornings.

One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen happened in a self-defense course. The instructor was showing us hot to stop someone kicking you in the vitals. Simple to do cross the wrists, palms down, block the kick, link your fingers around the kickers leg and lift. Two of the guys who were neighbors in Dunmow, Ray (Barney) Smith and Alan Kidd, got onto the mat, not having decided who was going to do which. Ended up they both kicked each other at the same time and ended up on the mat.

As Keith Ingram told me, “the club was the envy of the county”. We had members from all the local Villages, even Braintree and Chelmsford. There were no gangs, bullies. Dad would throw out any person who didn’t act in a manner that applied to the club. 


With Many Thanks

The following are people from Dunmow who did help, and the web site wouldn’t be complete without them being included. Mr. John Letch and his wife Rose, Aunt Rose as we called her. Tony Margarves and Bill Vane.

Many thanks to all who helped. Austin Reeve, Robin Maybanks, Tom Davies (RIP Mate) Sandra Baker (nee Rivet) Jennifer Little (nee Harris), Joy Parr (nee Falkner ) in California. Margaret Joyce (nee Long). Amanda at the council offices. 

A Plaque for Dad is being designed. And Jeremy Free, who has also been very helpful, has agreed in principal, to put it up on the club notice board. 

Please pass this on to anyone you think might be interested. Any positive comments or pictures would be accepted and added to the web site.

Onwards and Upwards. Peter J Lawrence, Roger S Lawrence, John L Lawrence.