History of Worcester Angling Society

The Society was first established in 1838 and is believed to be the second oldest coarse angling club in the country. Although the Society is now primarily a coarse angling club, originally, salmon and trout were very much on the agenda and it appears that the Society was originally formed for conservation reasons as can be seen in the extract below taken from the preface of AN ESSAY ON ANGLING by a member of the Worcester Angling Society 1840.

Preface of AN ESSAY ON ANGLING by a member of the Worcester Angling Society 1840.

Until the 1920s, the custom was for anglers to go out on pleasure fishing excursions by horse and brake, starting with breakfast at a pub and reinforced through the day by snifters from jugs of whiskey at ten shillings a gallon. In the 1960s, some veterans recalled such events as the occasion when the horse pulling a merry group of anglers back to Worcester collapsed and died at Martley. The party made for the nearest pub, leaving an unlucky volunteer to walk back to Worcester for a replacement horse. The group is said to have left the pub at three in the morning.

With the rapid spread of motorised vehicles, fishing outings between the wars switched to charabancs and ended, rather than began, with social gatherings or dinner at local pubs. This was the period when many anglers were known as the Thursday people shopkeepers, their assistants, butchers, hairdressers and tobacconists thanks to the new found freedom of half day closing.

Anglers fishing late at Leigh Court would walk along the Great Western Railway track and flag down a passing train. Apparently, drivers were willing to stop in those days. In the 1940s, the Society broadened its horizons by accepting female members, some of whom were soon acknowledged as being highly proficient.

Preface – An Essay On Angling

In the first place, then, the origin of the Worcester Angling Society was the occasional association in friendly converse of a few lovers of the angle, who in short time became convinced that if they formed themselves into a regularly organised body, they might by their exertions excite public attention to the shamefully illegal practices carried on upon our two beautiful rivers, not only to the almost total annihilation of the amusement of the fair and genuine sportsman, but to what is of far higher importance, the serious loss entailed upon the public by the poverty of the streams in the present times as compared with their abounding supply of the choicest food in years gone by.

They hoped also to give an impetus to careful and searching inquiry into the subject, feeling assured that then once the great importance of the question was recognised, and the personal interest of all who inhabit the banks of the rivers fairly demonstrated, the spirit of the enquiry thus set on foot would not be allayed until the proper remedies for the existing evil should be applied. In these anticipations the Society has not been disappointed, for immediately on the appearance of an advertisement from the body the Local Press warmly and most ably took up the question and laid it in all its bearings before the public. The Chamber of Commerce followed, and its Directors are now engaged in collecting information relative to the employment of illegal nets and engines in the Salmon Fishery with the view of their suppression.

When this shall be accomplished the Severn and the Teme will not only be the two finest angling rivers in the kingdom, but also the prolific sources of a constant supply of the most delicious food at a moderate cost; and surely these are advantages the attainment of which will amply compensate some little trouble and expense in their prosecution. No doubt these proceedings will be reviled and strenuously opposed by those who now obtain a precarious subsistence by the exercise of their trade as fishermen.

In addition to the mischief done by the capture of the breeding fish, millions upon millions of the ova are annually destroyed by the scraping with nets of the fords and shoals where they are deposited. But these things will continue until either the strong arm of the law shall be interposed to prevent them, or the fishermen shall be convinced that their own interest lies directly in the opposite of the course they now pursue; for such is the perversity of human nature that a great prospective advantage is frequently postponed to a seeming present good, although perhaps essentially a positive evil.