For the first time in history, a woman has been appointed as chairman of The County Club in Guildford. Jane Derbyshire, who has been a member of the historic club on Guildford High Street for almost 25 years, takes the mantle from Richard Middlehurst.
“I moved to Guildford over 30 years ago with my husband and we have brought up our four children here,” comments Jane. “I have been fortunate to meet so many interesting people from all across the country through The County Club. It’s been such an enriching experience and I am proud to have been appointed as the first female chairman.”
Considered one of Guildford’s best kept secrets, The County Club was formed in 1882 as a gentleman’s club with 120 male members. By the end of the Second World War, there were 106 lady members, although they had restricted privileges; they could not use the library or front staircase and had to enter via the tradesman’s entrance.
It wasn’t until 1999, not long after Jane joined the club and was invited to stand for the board, that both ladies and gentlemen were given equal rights.
“There was a refurbishment around that time but I remember the demarcation before that – the separate ladies’ and men’s bar,” explains Jane. “It’s been a gradual process but a very successful integration – the club has come a long way since the early days and has moved with the times.”
Today, with a growing membership of over 350 men and women, the club’s ethos remains very much the same as it did when it was founded almost 140 years ago – as a comfortable town centre space where professionals of all ages can meet.
As The County Club prepares to re-open to members for outside lunches from April 12th, Jane hopes to encourage a younger audience to make the most of the benefits membership of the club offers.
“I think there’s a real gap in the market for a place in Guildford where young professionals can get together,” she says. “The County Club is a fantastic oasis in the town centre. I hope more people look to take advantage of the many opportunities it can bring, as so many others have for well over a century.”