In April 1976, Celia Fowler (better known now as Celia Whybrow), Paul Chinnery and Ian Whiteside, who all played in the Braintree League, talked about forming a table tennis club in Rayne.

An approach to the Rector established that a room could be available in the Old School-Room on Friday evenings, and so the problem of premises was solved. The youth club who met in the adjacent room had a rickety table and this is what was used for the first matches in the Braintree summer league. As well as the three players above, the late Roy Franklin played for that summer season.

It was clear though that a better table was needed if the Club was to play seriously during the winter. It was thought that the Crittall Witham club might have a table for sale and after a call to the late John Archer, a very well built table was obtained. It was heavy but a roof rack on each of two cars proved sufficient for transport purposes. Whilst structurally sound, the table needed to be repainted. All efforts to locate suitable green paint failed and so whilst the Club had a table which was as good as any in the League, the colour was unique being a very distinctive shade of light green. For all that, it played well enough and once the visiting team got over the shock of the colour, it proved quite acceptable.

By putting an article in the village magazine, three more players came forward – Chris Harrigan, Clive Hutton and Paul Durrell – to make up a second team, and in September 1976, the Club started playing in the main League competition.

The Old School-Room was an interesting venue. It was certainly the oldest in the League, and in the backroom, probably the coldest as well. The front room did at least have an old coke stove, a fairly noxious contraption but it did keep the temperature above freezing.

After three years in the Old School-room, the number wanting to play meant a search for alternative accommodation, and this was found in the old village hall. The building, a low wooden structure, was due for demolition once the extension to the main village hall was completed, but it was agreed to leave it standing on the basis that the Table Tennis Club and the Scout Group used and maintained it. The Club had the hall three nights a week and the Scouts twice, with weekends also being available for table tennis. It meant the Club could easily expand to six teams and provided Sundays were acceptable as a home night, eight teams could be entered and by 1982, that was the level achieved.

The old village hall had some of the characteristics of the Old School-Room. It could be very cold in winter – it was not unusual to have several days when the water was frozen and Chris Harrigan was often called to repair the almost inevitable leaks. On the plus side, the room was an ideal size, with plenty of space, good lighting and an excellent floor. The trusty table continued to be used, still light green and still playing well.

The years in the old village hall were a successful period. It was the time when playing strength was close to its peak – eight teams – and also at a high standard when Terry Pleasance and John Leith were in the same team. A glance at the League handbook confirms this view with the A team winning League and Cup and the names of Rayne players against a number of individual titles.

In 1986, a second extension to the Village Hall was mooted, a single storey to house a doctor’s surgery being the planned use. The Club’s request that this be made a two storey extension with the upstairs room suitable for table tennis was granted, provided the Club could raise the money to pay the additional costs. The Sports Council came up trumps and the grant plus what the Club was able to raise was sufficient to meet the costs. Construction was dogged by a number of problems and was not completed until October 1989. One of the conditions of the grant was that the Club had use of the room for a period of twenty nine years from when work was completed, so anyone still playing in the year 2019 will need to make some new arrangements with the Village Hall Committee!

It turned out to be just in time, for the old village hall had reached the end of its life and was in poor condition, the roof leaking, the outer doors rotting and the general appearance left much to be desired. In addition, the Scouts had been able to fund new premises and so the whole cost of maintaining the old building would have fallen on the Club.

The new premises, which are available seven days a week, enabled the Club to maintain eight teams in the Braintree League and also to enter a team in the neighbouring Sudbury League. The room was not quite finished for the start of the season with the result that our first home match in Sudbury League had to be played at Liberal.

The move, and a small cash bonus, enabled the Club to dispose of the light green table and to purchase a bran new one, of conventional colour.

Not everyone, even in the Club, finds the new premises suits their game. What is not in doubt though is that the continuous availability of the room, the need not to move the table before and after every game, and the generally good  playing conditions has made Rayne the envy of all other clubs in the area.

There is though still a connection with the first premises for one piece of equipment had remained from those early days in the Old School-Room, and that is the lighting set. Constructed by Cundell Couragated (where two of our players worked), the lights have been used in all three premises which the Club has occupied.

In 1999, the format of the Sudbury League changed and the Club decided to switch to Colchester for its ‘second’ competition. One team has been entered each year, with modest success. However, in 2011, the number of players who wanted to play in Braintree League matches was such that we could no longer devote one night a week to Colchester League matches; consequently for 2011/12 we did not enter the Colcheter League where we had enjoyed playing.

The start of the 21st century has been successful for Rayne, with the A team winning League and Cup titles, albeit in a competition which does not have the high standards of the 1980’s. Players have also won individual titles, including the Essex Closed Men’s Singles and the Braintree League Men’s Singles.

The first decade and a half of the new century has seen the Club continue to thrive, with a strength that has varied between  eight and nine teams.

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