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06/01/14 - Closure Of Social Club Signals End Of An Era

The pavilion at the (Mitchells & Butlers) Portland Road Sports Ground was opened by Sir William Waters Butler on Saturday 2nd August 1930. In his opening speech he described it as a great gift to his employees. Over 1500 were employed at the Cape Hill Brewery at the time with a further 3000 employed in the company’s managed houses.

The social club as we know it now was opened on Monday 1st May 1950. Robert Butler performed the opening ceremony and was made the first President of the club which had been “eagerly awaited by the members of the recreation club for many years”. Membership of the social club stood at 466 in 1951 and had increased to 524 by 1952.

Bowls and snooker were played on the opening day of the new social club (1st May 1950)

Over the years the club has been home to many sporting sections and societies including football (founded 1887), cricket (1888), bowls (1903), lawn tennis (1917), swimming (1919), boxing (1946), angling, netball and table tennis. The winter months would see competitions held for snooker, billiards, cribbage, dominoes and darts. The dramatic society had been in existence since 1932 whilst societies also existed for gardening and photography (1950). A pitch and putt golf facility was added to Portland Road in 1955, squash courts in 1973 and by the early 1990’s badminton was played on site and a gymnasium and saunas were also on offer to members.


The original pavilion and social club still stand today, surrounded by the various add-ons made over the years. By October 1950 a planning application had been made to extend the sports pavilion, further extensions were made in 1962 and 1967. The bowls pavilion was added in 1963 and a first floor billiards room in 1971.

The club boasted 1,100 company, pensioner and associate members in the early 1990’s and could even offer its own 25 seater coach for hire. The floodlit bowling green was sacrificed in the mid 1990’s for the addition of a children’s play area. It was an attempt to attract more families to the club. Social club membership would drop to 300 by 1999. The Cape Hill Brewery ceased operations on Friday 6th December 2002. Persimmon Homes would eventually purchase the site (including the sports ground) for £26,000,000 (+ £4,550,000 VAT) from Coors Brewers Limited in May 2004.

Outline planning permission was passed in 2006 for residential development. The past decade has slowly seen the ninety-acre Cape Hill Brewery disappear. The last survivors being the fire station, cenotaph, pumping station and the six acre sports ground at Portland Road. In addition the football pitches at City Road lay overgrown but are cited for future development.

In June 2013 Persimmon Homes announced that, in partnership with GVA Grimley, Warwickshire County Cricket Club intended to purchase the sports ground. Plans included demolition of the social club and restoring the cricket oval back to cricketing use for an academy that would also provide WCCC 2nd XI with a new home venue. A public consultation took place at the club on Wednesday 3rd July 2013 and the planning application was passed by Birmingham City Council on Thursday 19th September 2013.

As of Monday 6th January 2014, ‘Portland Pavilion’ as it has been known in recent years is closed. This signals the end of our current hosts tenure. Michelle and Mick have run the club for the past decade and accepted us in May 2010 following our enforced relocation from Smethwick Cricket Club. We would like to thank Michelle, Mick, their family and all the bar staff for the last three and a half years and wish them all the very best for the future.

The social club had traded for a total of 63 years and 8 months whilst the original pavilion has stood for some 83 years. The future plans include a fit for purpose cricket pavilion to provide a social space for up to 66 people, changing facilities, catering facilities, toilets, storage and an office.

The planning statement (GVA - July 2013) goes on to confirm that the pavilion building will also be available to provide essential services and social space for Broomfield Bowling Club and M&B Bowling Club. Subject to timetabling it will also be available to hold meetings, fundraising and other functions, parties, presentations and events evenings. Whilst the facility will be licensed it will not be run as a social club or public house.

J.Blakeman 06.01.14

(Figures and dates taken from: Deerstalker Magazines 1949-1961, M&B Fifty Years Of Brewing 1879-1929, A History Of Cape Hill Brewery 1878-2002, Land Registry, Birmingham City Council Planning Portal)