Club History

A Short History
The Birdsgrove Fly Fishing Club


Morton Bond decided in 1865 to move his mill from Alrewas to the Derbyshire side of the River Dove at Ashbourne. He found the site of an ancient corn mill that had been converted to a cotton mill in 1784. Following a fire, the mill was left derelict and there he built a new mill and for sentimental reasons named it Alrewas Mill. It began to make tapes and webbing in 1866.

Morton Bond was a keen angler and with a few friends, he formed the Birdsgrove Fishing Club probably around 1875. The name came from the privately owned Birdsgrove Estate, which was on the Staffordshire bank of the river upstream from Hanging Bridge and adjacent to the waters of the Alrewas mill.

The 1887 rulebook lists 30 members, but there is no record of how much water the friends fished in those early days. Right from the start the Club confined itself to fly-fishing.

Incidentally, it seems from early records that the name of Hanging Bridge came from an early form of suspension bridge that spanned the River Dove and not because it was a place of execution.

In 1921, the first formal general meeting of the Birdsgrove Fishing Club was held on the 9th April at the Royal Oak Inn, Mayfield. George M Bond, Morton’s son wished to stand down from managing the Club, which he had been doing for 35 years and he suggested that a small committee be elected. This was achieved and subsequently, the first AGM was held on 20th May of the same year. The subscription was revised to 15 guineas with an entrance fee of a similar amount; the membership was reduced from 30 to 20 members.

In those days, most of the meetings and social activities took place at the Royal Oak and for many years there was a clubhouse in the front garden. It was a circular green corrugated iron affair called unsurprisingly, The Round House.

Whilst there is no recorded minute, the name seemed to change to the Birdsgrove Fly Fishing Club around the time of the Second World War.

In 1952, Dr Tommy Eccles, who was at the time the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer, purchased the Bye Flats land upstream of Hanging Bridge, and together with its fishing rights, gifted them to the Club.

In 1962, the Club purchased the fishing rights at Buckholme Farm, upstream of Alrewas Weir.

Sunday fishing had originally been prohibited on all of the Club’s waters and it was 1991 before it was universally accepted that members could fish on a Sunday.

The Club was presented in 1993 with the opportunity to purchase the Snelston Fishing. The negotiation and the introduction of a Member’s loan stock scheme was masterminded by the then Honorary Secretary Mr J Denys Johnson. The scheme provided the Club with funding to purchase the fishing, which has continued to help with the subsequent acquisition of fishing rights. Denys Johnson served the Club as its Honorary Secretary and Chairman between 1982 and 2001 , succeeding President Brigadier Mike Harris upon his death in 2006, a position he held until he died in 2016. The current President is Mr Desmond Anley and the Chair Mr Robert M N Harris.

In 2010, the Club was presented with an opportunity to purchase the Birdsgrove House fishing. This acquisition together with the ownership of the Snelston fishing guaranteed the Club a solid foundation of fishing for future generations to enjoy.

In total, the Birdsgrove Fly Fishing Club now own and lease approximately 6 miles of mainly double bank fishing from the old railway bridge supports at the bottom of the Temple water up to the boundary with Okeover Estate.  There are a few small stretches of river in-between, over which the Club does not have rights.