This is the oldest Angling Club in Somerset, it was formed around 1878 and was the result of anglers meeting in a public house and deciding to hold a match to find out who was the best angler.
The “Rose and Crown Inn” which was then situated at the corner of Market Street and Market Terrace, was closely associated with the start of the Highbridge Angling Association (H.A.A.). Later the “Cooper’s Arms” became its headquarters, in 1985 the Committee moved it to the “George Hotel”. However, in 1988 came a move to the “Highbridge Hotel” returning after two years to the “Cooper’s Arms” which is the current headquarters. Committee meetings were held about four times a year, Mr. F. Young was Secretary during 1920 and 1948 but ill health caused him to resign and he became a life member. In 1948 Fred Avery (from Mark) took over as Chairman from Len Chick who became Secretary.
Membership in the late nineteenth century, comprised, mostly, the employees of the Locomotive Works, Bacon Factory, Bland’s, timber yard and about four brickyards. The fishing rights were on the River Brue from the Locomotive Works to the New Bridge and this is where all the contests were fished. The River Brue was fished freely up river as far as “Blackbull Bridge”. The membership fee in 1900 was Adult 2/6d, (12 1/2p) junior 1/3d (7 1/2p) and the old Avon, Brue and Parrett Licence was 6d. (2 1/2p).
Fish were plentiful for most course species Pike, Carp, Roach, Perch, Tench, Dace, Gudeon, Eels, but no Bream. These were introduced after the worst pollution ever known, when millions of fish died between 1918 and 1922. At that time the cause of the pollution was not publicised, unlike today’s health and safety rules. Four contests were held each season – three Club Matches and the Annual Tradesmen Contest when all the prizes were donated by local tradesmen. All contests were on Saturday’s, fishing from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The event of the year was the Annual Supper and Concert held on Saturday evening following the Tradesmen Contest when all the prizes, both Club and Tradesmen, were presented to the winners. This was held in November at the “Coopers Arms Hotel”, price 2/6d. After the supper there was a concert, all the artists, being members of the local Minstrel Party, who also gave concerts to full houses during the winter months at the Town Hall and surrounding villages.
These past memories bring to mind some of the well-known officers of the Association – John Tyler and his sons, Archie and William, Mr Mundy, Editor and Proprietor of the old “Highbridge Echo”, Mr. Perkins, his son-in-law and Reporter Tommy Came, Auditor and Pianist, Fred Young, Secretary.
Coming to the later years one of the most coveted prizes to be won annually is the Harry Thompson shield. During the 1940’s, Mr. J.T. Lewis, then Secretary received a letter from New Zealand written by Mr. Thompson saying he would like to make and present to the Association a shield for competition. The offer was accepted and it is now one of the Associations best trophies. Mr. Thompson also informed the Secretary that he had given the Auckland Museum a Carp in a glass case, which his father had caught in the River Brue. Mr. Lewis kept in touch with Mr. Thompson for many years and sent him numerous photographs of the Brue at different spots, also views of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge, the photographs had been taken by Harold French who was Chairman of the Association. Harry Thompson’s father was a craftsman working at the Locomotive Works and Harry also apprenticed as a fitter and turner, and after working in the Midlands emigrated to New Zealand.
(Information supplied by Maurice White)