MWA officially began in 1989, but its true beginning was a little earlier. Some years before, Mike Cripps, now a professional wood turner, had been given an old wood turning lathe and a few tools. After a few hair raising experiments, he began to discover the art of turning. Wood turning became his major hobby, and before long, Mike could be found demonstrating and selling his products at local craft fairs . He also gave talks and demonstrations to local craft based organisations. In the course of these activities he met other people who were interested in wood turning, some of whom were already well established turners. Mike organised informal meetings at Ickenham Cricket Club in Middlesex, where interested people could meet and enjoy a pint or two while discussing their hobby. From time to time, proficient turners would be invited to present short demonstrations, using Mike’s lathe which he brought into the club house from his house nearby. There was always a display of work by members of the group, which was usually the subject of good natured and constructive criticism.
At that time, the AWGB (Association of Woodturners of Great Britain) had just been formed. Mike joined it and took a significant part in its early development, so it was an easy step to suggest that the informal group meeting at the Cricket Club should consider becoming what was in those days known as a Chapter of the AWGB. There was an enthusiastic response. I cannot now remember exactly how many of us signed up, but it was probably in the order of 12 – 15 enthusiasts, most of whom already belonged to the AWGB.
The room at the Cricket Club was small, and the group was outgrowing it. Also, in the Cricket Season, it then became clear that we needed to move, we needed larger premises, so moved to Southlands Arts Centre, in West Drayton near Uxbridge. Membership rapidly increased as more people took up wood turning, and we soon outgrew the Arts Centre and moved through a succession of local schools. The last one, a community school, suffered from a high level of vandalism, and despite our equipment being padlocked into an enclosed trolley, much of it was stolen or damaged. What was left was sold off, and our insurance covered our losses. For a while, we tried to operate with a much smaller lathe that could be taken home after each session, but it was soon obvious that it was not large enough to service the needs of the demonstrators. The last straw came when the school organisers let the room adjacent to ours to an extremely loud pop group. It was time to move.
In 1999 through the efforts of Peter Garrison, one of our members, we were able to rent a room, together with a space in which we could safely store our equipment, at the Gaelic Athletics Club in West End Road, Ruislip, Middlesex, where we continued to meet until 2016. Due to refurbishment, we were required to move location for several months. Since July 2017 we have met at the Gateway House, North Harrow Car Park, Pinner Road, North Harrow.
The April 2020 club meeting had to be canceled because of the covid restrictions. At this point, Mike Bonnici and Paul Burke did a wonderful job of helping members understand how to use Zoom for the club’s meetings as well as for the committee meetings. We are very grateful to them for this as well as for running many practice sessions before each of the club’s Zoom meetings so they ran smoothly.
During the year the committee canvassed the members’ views and it was agreed that the Club Meetings should now be on the third Tuesday of the month and so would not clash with the Herts and Beds club. We joined each other for our Zoom meetings.
Throughout the covid lockdown period, thanks to the great efforts of Mike Bonnici, Paul Burke, Stuart King, and Peter Leach, we had wonderful Zoom Club Meetings on the third Tuesday of the month and Coffee Evenings on the first Thursday. They have held the Club together along with Ben Dick’s Newsletter, assisted by Mike Wood. The Committee also rang all the members twice to keep in touch during this difficult time.
We were very fortunate to see many of Stuart King’s huge archive of filmed items at most of the Zoom meetings. Also many thanks to Mike Bonnici, Graham Burford, Paul Burke, Tony Champion, Giancarlo Ciuffardi, Paul Coxon, Ben Dick, Roy Gallagher, Bob High, Phil Jones, Peter Leach, Brian Tidmarsh, David Wilks, and Mike Wood as well as Paul Nesbitt from SAW and Tim Pettigrew from Herts and Beds for their interesting and varied contributions to these Zoom meetings.
Paul Burke kept the members informed about the various Zoom meetings that were available. He also reminded members of coffee and club meetings, which he is still doing.
Mary Morgan kept in touch with the 2020 demonstrators and changed the date for all the demos for 2021 in the hope of being back at the Gateway Centre soon. We had a Master Class in Box making by Jason Breach in the Seminar in October 2021. With covid precautions in place, the first Demonstration was by Greg Moreton in January 2022 after Peter Leach, the new Demonstrator Organiser, had re-organised the list again.
A Poolewood 1000 lathe was purchased, which after modification continued to give good service, followed at intervals by a basic video camera outfit using two large screen TVs and a borrowed video camera. A wireless microphone system was also purchased. The weight and bulk of the TVs raised serious safety considerations, and so as soon as funds permitted, they were replaced by an excellent video camera and digital projector in 2006.
Our increasing membership needed a better view of demonstrations, so in 2010, Tony Champion (chair) improved our system with new lighting, a second projector and screen, and a better overhead camera. This a purchase much appreciated by the members. In 2016 the Poolewood was replaced with an Axminster AT1624VS. This has been placed on a set of wheels to ease movement for use. All our demonstrators have commented on the quality of this lathe.
In 2022 Paul Burke ( Treasurer ) with help from Josh Pinto brought collecting money for Exhibition Sales and Membership Fees into the 21st century with a Sum Up card reading machine.
In October 2023 Josh Pinto modernised the AV system with two large TVs, and two remote cameras which dont need overhead lightning on the gantry.
During the early days, the annual Middlesex County Show was a successful annual event. MWA had a large stand at the show where members’ work was displayed and sold. Live demonstrations were mounted throughout the Show. MWA won the Best Stand in Show Cup so often that in the end it was awarded permanently. Sadly, the Middlesex Show was financially not viable and was closed. MWA exhibits regularly at the Love Food Events at Great Missenden , at the Cow Byre Gallery in Ruislip until 2016, Uxbridge Library from 2016 and other shows from time to time. Since 2010 we have been part of the Hillingdon Arts Week and exhibit yearly. We are easily recognisable due to our Green Polo shirts that depict our logo, giving us identity as a group since 2009.
Since 2013, we have been invited and attended several events including the Tudor Rose Woodturners two-day Woodworks event at Daventry to display our work and have taken part in the inter-club competitions. The pieces made by a group of members have included a model Traction Engine, a full-sized Spinning Wheel and a Child’s Rocking Chair. We were invited to the 25th anniversary of the Surrey Association of Woodturners to their Open Day, and we have been back on a yearly basis.
It is worth noting that MWA has been closely associated with AWGB from its earliest days. Founder member Mac Kemp was in the early years an able Chairman of AWGB, and Mike Dennis, another founder member of MWA, served in many essential capacities greatly contributing to the success of AWGB and its renowned Seminars. Adrian Needham, a more recent member of MWA was initially an AWGB Regional Representative and subsequently AWGB Treasurer. He was actively involved in mounting of the biannual Seminars from 2007 to 2012 and was instrumental in formulating the AWGB plans to change its legal status from an unincorporated association to become a charitable company. He was also MWA Secretary from 2000 to 2004 and our Chairman from 2005 to 2009. Sandra, Adrian’s wife, was AWGB Membership Secretary and worked on Seminar Registration from 2010 to 2012.
The Club has provided Regional Representatives from 2004 to 2008, and Mike Collas was the AWGB Secretary from 2008 to 2012 as well as MWA Secretary from 2005 to 2009. For several years MWA manned and demonstrated on the AWGB stand at the Woodworking Exhibitions at Alexandra Palace. Frank Clarke, one of the organisers of the MWA team at Alexandra Palace, also helped to found the Cheam Woodturners Association in October 1999.
In 1998 the AWGB published a book called Wonders in Wood ( in the library ) showing 101 pieces selected from their exhibition to celebrate the first 10 years of the AWGB. It included pieces by 10 people who were then current or past members including Cliff Coleman, Mac Kemp, David Moore, Eddie Morgan, Stuart Mortimer, Ralph Pooley, Gary Rance, Alan Spargo, Elizabeth Van Trierum, and George White.
Club members have helped the AWGB initiative to interest young people in the craft by helping at events with the Scouts and Girl Guides and continue to strive towards encouraging new younger members.
In February 2023 we had a very successful visit by the local Fourth Headstone Cub Scout Group and are hoping for future collaborations with young people.
Christina Bishop built the first website in 2004 attached to Adrian Needham’s website and in 2007, Christina and Adrian’s work increased as more information was needed to be transferred to the MWA’s website. In 2010 Peter Phelps took over as the Webmaster. Peter has included nearly all of the Club’s newsletters on the site. In 2016 Vanessa Sanderson took the role of Webmaster and later by Tony Champion until 2023, when Josh Pinto took over and revamped it.
The newsletters were launched by Mike Dennis. He wrote the first 11, and Lynn Dolder wrote the following 5. Since May 1996 Alan Spargo has been writing for the club. He has recently completed the 154 issues. Originally these were printed for members to pick up at the club meetings. Since 2016 they are now emailed to members in colour. There were black and white printed copies until November 2017 and colour afterward for those who do not use email. The editor from 2019 was Ben Dick and from November 2021 is Josh Pinto, who has modernised the layout.
Throughout its history, MWA has enjoyed the membership of several professional woodturners including Stuart Mortimer – spiral turning, Dennis Keeling – segmented turning, Dave Reeks, and Robert Bishop who have shared their knowledge and expertise, supporting members to produce quality pieces. Currently, we have Stuart King as our President from 2004, Gary Rance, Phil Jones, Mike Wood, Eddie Morgan, Brian Wooldridge, and Ben Dick, who all contribute to supporting our members and sharing their approaches to the craft.
In 2003 the Committee accepted Gordon Cookson’s idea to start a Library and run it on a monthly basis. It is now thought to be one of the largest woodturning club libraries in the country.
We supported the Middlesex based Shooting Star Children’s Hospice for about 10 years until 2015 when they amalgamated with the larger Chase charity based in Surrey. The total raised was £7,612 from the 2 1/2% levy on all our exhibition sales together with sales of our demonstration pieces and donated equipment and donations from members and the public.
The Middlesex link was restored to our charitable fundraising by our support of St Luke’s Hospice ( Harrow and Brent branch ). Gateway House (our present HQ) is our current Charity.
In 2007 the Ken Graddage memorial trophy was made by Stuart King for the Best Turned piece at the club’s annual one day Seminar. The Seminars had stopped in 1994 but were started again in 2000 and continued in village halls first at Holmer Green and subsequently at Great Kingshill – villages to the north of High Wycombe and from 2017 at our Gateway House meeting place in North Harrow. These all day events give us a chance to attract and learn from professional demonstrators, who live too far away for a midweek evening demo.
In 2008 we instigated the Turner of the Year Shield, which is awarded to the member with the highest total for ten entries in the monthly competition. In 2019 this shield was renamed The Alan Spargo Shield in honour of one of our founder members who passed away in 2019.
Congratulations to the following winners :
THE ALAN SPARGO SHIELD
|Gian Carlo Ciuffardi
|Gian Carlo Ciuffardi
|Not awarded – covid
|Peter Leach & Peter Russell
The MWA is very appreciative of the efforts of many members over the years, many of whom have been mentioned in this History, as well as these particular people :
LIFE MEMBERS for their long and significant contribution to the Club :
Mike Cripps, Mac Kemp, Mike Dennis, Elizabeth Van Trierum, Don Kirby, Don Murray, David Moore, Alan and Pat Spargo, Stuart King, Ralph Pooley, Cliff Coleman, Mary and Eddie Morgan, Mike Mansfield, Derek Pollecutt and Tony Champion.
Mike Cripps, Mac Kemp, Mike Dennis 1997 – 2000, Alan Spargo 2001-2005, Adrian Needham 2005-2009, Tony Champion 2009 -2019, Gordon Cookson 2019 –
Alan Spargo 2011, Gordon Cookson updated 2017 and 2023, Tony Champion updated 2020
Treasurer & Membership Secretary
Webmaster & Newsletter Editor