“IT IS a wonderful club - we played on one court in a church hall in Greengates, and often we would still be playing matches at midnight.”

Marion Bennett joined Eccleshill Badminton Club in 1964 aged 16 and played with them for 48 years.

“It was great fun and we used to win a lot of trophies,” says the former teacher at Fairfax Community School, now Bradford Academy “It was so nice socially. You met such lovely people from other clubs.

"When we played home games, when the club was at Hanson School, we used to go to the Horse and Farrier pub afterwards for a drink. One man used to travel from his home in Pateley Bridge to play at the club. I am thrilled that it is still going."

From those humble beginnings, the club grew, relocated twice, and is still flourishing.

Marion, 69, who lived in Bradford before retiring to East Yorkshire, is among the many people who gathered in Bradford last weekend to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

Originally formed as Eccleshill Congregational Church Badminton Club, it came about after the minister at the time the Reverend Ben Sackett, who wanted to organise some form of recreation for church members returning from the war.

The church had a gymnasium with one badminton court and, when not playing, members used to socialise in a lounge in front of a roaring fire.

In the early years, there was just one mixed team competing in the Bradford & District league, then, gradually, more were added.

Around 1957, a former Sunday school teacher Wilfred Barker joined the club. He set about trying to encourage young church members to play. His efforts paid off and in the early 1960s the club was represented by 14 junior members in the Yorkshire Junior Championships, and junior members made up the entire Bradford youth league team, which won the Yorkshire final for the city.

Due to premises becoming unavailable, the club moved a number of times, ending up in its present home at Hanson School, now Hanson Academy, having the luxury of five courts.

It built on its success, and by 1983, the club had won ten first division men’s titles.

Wilfred’s son Stuart was a member for many years and has been instrumental in organising the anniversary.

“My dad made it what it is today- he transformed the club from a basic badminton group to one of the best in the league,” he says. Stuart was a team member in the first ten men’s wins and two cup wins.

Member Mary Holland joined the club in 1982 and still plays. “I was made welcome and enjoyed both the matches and the social side. Badminton is a great way to spend winter evenings - much more fun than being sat in front of the TV.

“I've always played in both the mixed and doubles teams, with changing fortunes over the years. I've made lots of good friends at the club over the years, and kept in touch with many who have moved away, emigrated or retired.

“Playing with the next generation of younger players makes me feel less old! I've even got commemorative club shirts from our 50th and 60th celebrations, so I'm looking forward to wearing our 70th shirt.

“In recent years the club has funded training of club coaches, a really positive move which has benefitted existing members as well as attracting new players.”

Member Barrie Topham’s memories go back 37 years, when Wilfred - known as Wild - greeted him. “He welcomed my friend Ian Helliwell and myself to the club and made us feel part of it almost immediately. I took my son Jamie when he was 13 to play at the club. He now plays for the first team and is a level two qualified coach.”

Marion also recalls how inspirational Wilf was. "He was the most amazing man and was always there and always organised. He was really dedicated - the first to come and the last to leave."

The club welcomes new players and seven years ago obtained grant funding to encourage women into badminton and provide the club with five Badminton England coaches.

Says Barrie: “With most sports suffering from declining membership, the club continues to grow, but we would like to see more juniors coming through from nearby schools to keep us moving forward and to support teams in the Bradford badminton league.

In Bradford League History Eccleshill is second all-time in men’s first division titles. Only North Bradford have won more.

Club chairman Sue Carroll says: “The club is and always has been very welcoming. We encourage and support everyone to play and enjoy the game either as a leisure activity or as a team member in the league matches.

“We are proud of the history and success of our club over the last 70 years and hope it may continue well into the future. Our motto is ' give it your best shot’, so, why not come along and try it for yourself?”

The club currently has 11 teams in the Bradford league, five mens, four mixed and two ladies. Members past and present attended Saturday’s event at Goals soccer centre in King’s Road.

Stuart's daughter-in-law Lisa made cupcakes decorated with badminton racquets, and arranged them in the shape of the number 70.

Stuart, who helped to trace former members through various means including a Facebook group, said the event was “absolutely fantastic.”

“It was a wonderful turnout, and everyone said how much they had enjoyed the evening. It was a great success and lovely to see everyone.”

*For more information contact Barrie Topham 07940099286; eccleshillbc@hotmail.com; eccleshillbadmintonclub.co.uk