Orpington Folk Club

Established 1965

A Brief History of Orpington Folk Club

The Royal Oak 1965-1978
The Royal Albert 1978-1982
The White Hart 1982-2002
May 1965•1978
1978•December 1982
December 1982•September 2002
The Anglesea Arms 2002-2004
Horse & Groom, the Change of Horses
Rosecroft Social Club April 2019*March 2020
September 2002•December 2004
March 2005March 2019
April 2019•March 2020
Farnborough Social Club 15/10/2020
Horse & Groom, the Change of Horses
Farnborough Social Club
October 2020
We have chosen to keep our Logo
Occasionaly guest(s) write to us about their memories of the club
Some of these can be found Here...
Orpington Folk Club grand opening flyer Monday 17th May 1965
'The Levee Breakers'
(12 String Guitar)
(Tipple & Harmonica)
Beverley Kutner (Beverley Martyn)
Johny Joyce
Mac McGann
Michael (Henry Viii) Bartlet
'The Poachers'
Kevin McCabe
Chris Andrews
Terry Sparkes

Three local music enthusiasts launched Orpington Folk Club on the 17th May 1965, Kevin McCabe, Chris Andrews and Terry Sparkes. To advertise the club they performed in Orpington, Bromley and Sidcup High Street. With Kevin on guitar, Chris on a rare Washburn banjo and Terry dressed in a town criers outfit. They were to be pleasantly surprised on their opening night. Note from Chris, Sept 2009 : It was Ralph May who gave Kevin and I the bug to go traveling and ended up on the road for years. Did Terry ever play the fiddlle? Who is the fiddle player in the photo? Ralph McTell in conversation with John Beresford, January 2008.

The Levee Breakers Link...

Kevin McCabe, Chris Andrews and Terry Sparkes  @ Orpington Folk Club 1965

Photograph :-  Harry Pattullo.

The first evening featured a group called "The Levee Breakers"supported by the resident group "The Poachers", photograph left.  It was held at the "Royal Oak", Green Street Green.  This was to be the clubs home for more than fourteen years, until the pub was refurbished in 1979.

Orpington Folk Club Carnival  float going up Spur Road, Orpington

Above some of the club members get together and decorate a float for the Whitsuntide bank holiday Fifteens association carnival parade 31st May. They played and sang all the way up Orpington high street to Goddington Park.  For four years running the club entered a float in the Orpington carnival in late May, singing and playing well known standard folk songs like "Goodnight Irene". For their efforts they even won a prize one year.

Lorry supplied by :- Tommy Farrant
Photograph :- Kentish Times

No prizes for recognising Harry

On that first night, over two hundred people attended.  So many that the guest group performed outside for 60 or more of those who were unable get into the room. In its infancy the club regularly featured such notables as Ralph May later to become Ralph McTell (Ralph had his first ever paid gig at Orpington) John Renbourn, Davey Graham (who wrote the guitar tune "Angie"), Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick. David Bowie and his side kick Ken "Wild Man" Simons did several floor spots, Wally Whyton, Bill Clifton and many more have all played at the club.

(See our Gallery of Fame page)

On the 21st March 1979 "Fiddlers Dram" appeared at the club instead of the booked guest, Martin Carthy who was unable to attend. They recorded "Day Trip To Bangor" shortly afterwards and were on "Top Of The Pops", at number two or three. (Dingle's Records DIN304)

While at the "Royal Oak" the opportunity arose to decorate the room.  The Resident musicians, organiser and secretary painted the ceiling mat black with star clusters resembling the constellations.  Lighting was installed to improve the mood of the room and the use of a microphone and sound system to assist the guest(s).  The wall was covered in posters and record sleeves.  A part of the wall behind where the guest(s) performed was covered in the autographs of the performers.  One such autograph written by Stan Arnold said, “Stan Arnold outwitted by a cat.”  The pub cat had sat on a stool next to Stan during his performance and Stan said, to the cat "what do you think of the show so far" the cat responded by licking itself where only a cat can reach.

To advertise the club one of the residents made a billboard and placed it alongside the A21 main road, which runs adjacent to the pub. Vehicles traveling between Bromley, Sevenoaks and Orpington via Green Street Green were able to see it. He also climbed on to the roof of the clubroom and painted the words "FOLK CLUB" in large bright letters, which could be seen from the road and by low flying aircraft. The club members went out several times in the dead of night to stick posters up around Orpington and the surrounding area.  They also spent many a cold Saturday morning giving out handouts in Orpington high street.

Due to a change of ownership and renovations in 1979 the club moved.  It found a new home at the 'Royal Albert', Lower road, Orpington and changed its meeting night from Monday to Friday evenings. A group of members got together to bring chairs and tables from "The Royal Oak". traveling in convoy to the new venue with items of furniture including a stall sticking out the windows. The change of venue at this time spawned a change in organisation. Some of the mainstays of the club got together to spread the work load and each chipped in £5 to help with the cost of advertising the different night for reopening the following Friday. Such is the faith and enjoyment in the club that by 1982 a substantial following built up.  Unfortunately the change in day from Monday's to Friday's meant that Dave Plane was unable to commit to the weekly meeting at the club.

Due to alterations, on the 5th November 1982 and the need for more room, the club moved to 'The White Hart', Orpington, situated centrally in the High Street, in the upstairs function room. Finally changing from a Friday, to Thursday evenings, on Thursday 2nd December 1982.

In 1986 the club celebrated its 21st birthday, an event marked by the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the front wall of the pub, a live broadcast by Radio Kent, produced and edited by the late Simon Evans and much loved Charlie Jacobs. The club has taken part at various civic and charity functions. 1984 for "One Good Turn" it was in concert with Motley and Kent Korkers. 1989 it took part in the opening of 'Crofton Halls' formally the civic centre halls.  In 1990 the 'Scratch Band' helped to raise cash for A.R.C. Appeal for Romanian Children by performing at a garden party at Farnborough Park.  The Club's 21st and Jubilee birthday was also celebrated by the placing of a plaque on the outside wall of the pub.
Ted Handley with his Hohner on one of our bus trips
1990 was the club's 25th anniversary year.  It was celebrated by making a live recording of the then "Scratch Band", made up of resident musicians and organiser. It is available on cassette for £3.00.  As part of our own celebrations and Bromley council's Arts Festival, 'The Scratch Band' played in concert with Jake Thakray at Coney Hall, near Hayes, Kent.  In March there was a special club night sponsored by Bromley Council with ex-Steeleye Span and Albion Band member, John Kirkpatrick and his wife Sue Harris. And finally on the 25th anniversary night the 17th of May, an evening of music was arranged with as many of the original organisers and musicians that could be mustered.  Throughout 1990s the guest performers featured were chosen from those that had supported the club over many years.  The club organised a few open-top bus trips. Stopping off at the 'Norman Conquest' Rochester for lunch and several Kent village pubs on the way back. Laden with beer, musical instruments and performing to the locals at every opportunity.   In the autumn, rambles through the countryside finishing up at a pub for lunch and a song or two.  At Christmas a meal at The White Hart pub with club members, residents and organisers.

There have been many memorable moments over the years.  One highlight for the club was in September 1997 when Sydney Carter ("Lord of the dance" 1963) arrived with Jeremy Taylor our guest for the night.  Sydney was persuaded to sing.  He performed "My Last Cigarette" which he had written in hospital.  A memorable evening.

After 20 years at The White Hart, Orpington Folk Club had to move.  The White Hart changed to Spirit 'Q', a different arm of the Spirit brewery and was refurbished and turned into a sports pub.  We where able to find a venue at the 'Anglesea Arms' Kent Road, Orpington from 26th September 2002 until 16th December 2004. It was decided that evening to find some where else as the previous landlords had left and we were not made as welcome.   After much traveling around looking for a venue and false promises we have found another home at the 'Change of Horses', Farnborough Village, Orpington. Pete and Margaret our hosts enjoy our music and are happy to have us there.

On that first night 3rd March 2005, "Triality" were our guests. Unfortunately only two of the brothers could make it. Charlie and Ted Handle but not Dvae

Brian Bruce, Ted Handley, Ivan North and Steve Jennings @ The Change of Horses 2002
Elated club organisers on the first night at the 'Change of Horses', Farnborough. Brian Bruce, Ted Handley, Ivan North and Steve Jennings. 3rd March 2005.
The site link below has some interesting information about Farnborough village & village life past and present.
May 19th 2005 was the clubs 40th birthday.  Many guests, ex-resident singers/musicians and members were invited.  Ross Barlow sang a song specially written by him to mark the occasion called,'When Ralph McTell played Orpington'.   After the interval Ted Handley and Ivan North cut the cake and Terry Sparkes gave a short speech about the start of the the club in 1965.  He gleefully pointed out that "There was no one there over the age of thirty".  As from the 3rd March 2005 we now meet at the "Change of Horses", Farnborough High Street, Orpington, Kent.

During March 2007 some great news came our way, the pillars supporting the club roof, 'the restaurant' were to be removed.  Although very grateful for the use of the restaurant the pillars were a nuisance and blocked the view of guests and floor singers. We are glad to see the back of them.  The Change of Horses has to be one of the best folk venues around.

17th May 2007 the club reached its 42nd birthday.  The event was eclipsed by Colin Clark's Charity Singers Night.  To our suprise we raised a massive £211.50. 
Sadly Brian Bruce died on Tuesday 28th October 2008 after a long illness which he and his wife Elaine fought bravely.  It was his enthusiasm that helped the club survive through 2004 and 2005.  He was instrumental in helping us to find our new home at the Change of Horses and was able to book guests that we thought not possible.  His enthusiasm, energy and warm, gravelly voice will be missed by us all.   Brian Bruce Timeline...
Saturday 29th November 2009 the Scratch Band were asked to play for a charity barn dance for the Trefoil Guild.
The Trefoil Guild is an organisation of over 20,000 members - mostly made up of women and men who have been and still are connected with Guiding and Scouting.  To the left is a thank-you card from their leader Ruth Short.
Poem from :- John Cottrell about the Folk Club resident musicians and singers John Cottrell...
Mike_Stapley-Anne_Halford-Ted_Handley-Ken_Bridgeford-Steve_Jennings Organisers and residents of Orpington Folk Club April 2015

Mike Stapley - Anne Halford - Ted Handley - Ken Bridgeford - Steve Jennings

Organisers and residents at Orpington Folk Club, April 2015 before Ken & Mike's retirement.

Tuesday 26th March 2019, bad news arrives Wisdom & Michaela are leaving the Change of Horses at very short notice.  This unfortunately leaves the venue without a licensee, so has had to close for an undetermined time.  After much searching by us all, Anne was able to find us a venue at the Rosecroft Social Club, St Mary Cray, for as long as we need it.  It is hoped that we will be able to return to the Change of Horses, soon.  As of 12th March 2020 we are still at the Rosecroft, and it looks like we will be staying there.

Sadly during the 1st wave of the Corona virus, Wisdom died on the 10th April 2020. Youtube:- Wisdom

Thursday 11th April 2019, Orpington Folk Club finds new home at "the Rosecroft Social Club, St Mary Cray. Our first guest for the new venue is the wonderfull Jez Lowe.
Thursday 19th march 2020, more bad news due to the Coronavirus outbreak we have had to close the club.  It is hoped that the enforced closure won't last long but who knows?  The Coronavirus has been labelled as a Pandemic by WHO, the "World Health Organisation".  Many elderly, and people with underlying health conditions have sadly died, also some people thought to be healthy individuals.  The BAME communities "Black, Asian, and minority Ethnic" have suffered disproportionately, many working in the NHS.  It has also brought financial problems for small, and large businesses.
Thursday 15th October 2020, Orpington Folk Club finds a new home.  After being at the Rosecroft Social Club for about a year the owners of the venue have decided to call it a day and close for good. This unfortunately left us without a permanent home, yet again for 6 months, although we could not meet anyway due to the Coronavirus.  This has given us time to find another venue which we have done at the Farnborough Social Club.  So we look forward very soon to seeing all our folk music friends again.
Orpington Folk Club's Opening Night at the Farnborough Social Club 10th June 2021
10th June 2021 Orpington Folk Club's opening night after 13 months of lockdown.  The Scratch Band start the evening off.  Anne Halford, Ted Handley & Steve Jennings.

After 13 months of the dreaded Covid19 lockdown and subject to government guidelines, the OFC has been given the go-ahead to open. We are now based at The Farnborough Social Club.

Many thanks to all those who came on Thursday evening; it was good to see so many of you.

The Scratch Band started the evening off with a few old favourites before handing over to Marco Lenzi.

From left to right in the photo; Anne Halford, Ted Handley & Steve Jennings.

Those appearing below :

Marco Lenzi - Mike Stapley -Ivan North - Keith Halford - Paul Green

Graham Watts - Paul Reeve - Liam Fitzpatrick - Curtis Savage

Please let us know if I left anyone out.

Thursday 23rd February 2023, A film crew headed by Rufus Howe from LBU (Leeds Beckett University, Nothern Film School) to make a short documentry about the club, the focus being on keeping the tradition of folk alive. In April the flim arrived at our inbox with a link to Youtube.

Directed by Rufus Howe ~ Produced & Sound by Jas Ingleby ~ Cinematography & Editing by Frankie McCarthy

The film is called "Good Folk a Short Documentry" It can be seen Here

Orpington folk club is the longest continuing surviving folk club in Kent
Orpington Folk Club
Orpington Folk Music & Song