A profile on the long-serving Conservative councillor and later alderman whose name adorns the big sports centre off Parker’s Piece. Turns out he was once a top sportsman in his day at county level.
Alderman Kelsey Kerridge from the Cambridge Evening News of 1972
The article below was originally written by Deryck Harvey of the Cambridge Evening News, and published on 03 July 1972. I pulled out the article from the Cambridgeshire Collection in the Cambridge Central Library and have transcribed it below.
“Kelsey Kerridge, vice-chairman of the Cambridge Sports Hall appeal fund, represented Cambridgeshire at no less than 10 sports in his day. But if there has ever been a race he has really wanted to win, it is to see the Sports Hall at Queen Ann Terrace built to schedule. The appeal has already raised £105,000 and there is another £20,000 to go.
“Alderman Kerridge, 64, of 22 Mailes Close, Barton, is a tall, impressive yet gentle man with Northcliffe features, a successful Cambridge businessman with his heart in the city, particularly its sporting interests.
“As chairman of Kerridge (Cambridge) Ltd, a building company he has steered to an international reputation, he has taken an active interest in the redevelopment of Cambridge over the years. Now an “elder statesman” of the city council with 27 years’ service, he is a co-opted member of the Commons Committee, of which he was chairman for eight years.
“The Sports Hall appeal has undoubtedly become an obsession with him, and he claims without pride: “I haven’t had a holiday for four years – not a real holiday. I went to Jersey and Guernsey last year – going somewhere where I know someone who has retired, and has got some money.
“He foresees it as an essential public service for succeeding generations, and stresses to potential benefactors that it will be “good for themselves, good for their children”. Life membership for children is offered at a covenant of £5 annually over seven years. “We are doing it deliberately so that when young people leave school, they will come into the hall.
“Ald. Kerridge, who following a major operation has suffered poor health for several years, has driven himself on relentlessly in the cause of the hall.
“My wife and I are both living on borrowed time” he admits. “We know that”. But he is resolved: “When I start anything, I want to finish it. I don’t like giving in. All I want to do is to see the first brick built there. I shall know then that it’s going to be finished. Then I can have some peace and quiet.”
“He is, however, equally determined that the hall should eventually be run at the highest efficiency.
“This is a Ministry concept to cover almost the whole of East Anglia. We are the first in the field and we don’t want to be anything but first in the field.
“We have got to make sure that the hall is properly supported in the way of coaches under the Sports Advisory Council. They have been asked to prepare their coaches.
“We reckon we shall cover the maintenance costs by the income getting 5,000 people through the hall each week. On the basis of that, I think we can say we shall be clear”
“Ald. Kerridge fought hard to land a place on the old Cambridge Borough Council as long ago as 1945. He polled more votes than the then Secretary of State for Education.
“He has served on the council ever since, although he had the mortifying experience of losing his seat in 1970 when new legislation decreed that councillors should live within the city boundaries. He was promptly elected to his honorary position [as an Alderman by fellow councillors]. He believes that the university has stultified the redevelopment of Cambridge in the past.
“If it hadn’t been for the university” he said over lunch at the Farmers’ Club, where he is a popular member, “the Lion Yard redevelopment would have been finished 12, 13, 15 years ago. They asked for deferment, and said they hadn’t had enough time to consider. The result was that it just went back to stagnation.”
“And Cambridge’s traffic problem has led to interminable frustration.
“Bring the traffic into the town, make a pedestrian centre and satisfy everybody. Before the war, the Magdalene Street buildings were really rat-ridden hovels with nothing to them except those facades. But the worst one to my mind is that Samuel Gentle proposed, and it was agreed, that we should have a second bridge over the river, at Chesterton, in 1890. Despite everything that we could do, there were always reasons for it not to be done. A Bailey bridge was suggested more than 20 years ago.”
“Cambridge’s population has also been restricted.
“It would have grown quite considerably if the city had obtained county borough status, which Alderman Hickson tried so hard to get.
“You lost your hovercraft. They wanted to be on a university threshold, so that they could use university facilities for their engineers.
“Progress has been made though in providing better sporting facilities.
“On the other hand, we have got many things through, especially Coldham’s Common and the Swimming Pool [Parkside – opened in 1963 after years of campaigning by Clara Rackham amongst others].
“The swimming pool is an enormous success, although not necessarily financially. The way it is run, parents can learn to swim in private then go off with their kids on holiday and help them in the water.”
“But now local government is to be drastically revised.
“Under the new machinery anything could happen. They could shelve everything for five years”
His fervent hope is that is that the sports hall project will not be adversely affected.
“In 1922 young Kelsey Kerridge started work in the family business, started by his grandfather in 1870, as Kerridge and Shaw. He left Cambridgeshire High School for Boys [today, Hills Road Sixth Form College] at the age of 14.
“He has seen the business grow from rough times to its present international standing, contracts that have been undertaken in Boston, Massachusetts, and in Holland. His son, Paul, is now a director, and he is building up a discretionary trust to provide for his four sisters.
“He and his wife Lilian also have a daughter, Mrs Gina Moore, of Longstowe.
“He was also a member of the Regional Joint Committee of the Eastern Federation of Building Trades Employers, as well as president of the Cambridge association.
“The question of labour troubles, wages, and so on and so forth…We were on one side of the table, the trades union on the other”
“It is cruelly ironic that a man once outstanding at so many sports should now suffer recurring ill-health.
“I used to play tennis, soccer, rugby – but I had a bit of trouble, there, with my ankle. I took to hockey, much the fastest of the lot in those days.”
“Ald. Kerridge might have become a champion high jumper, but he played all sports for the love of it – not for recognition – and he deplores the commercial element so prevalent in sport today.
“If I could find the right club, billiards and snooker would still be my favourite” he said. “I held the billiards championship of the county for two years, and played snooker for the county team”
“I once beat Fred Davis at snooker when he was world champion. I have even played billiards on Walter Lindrum’s table in Melbourne, Australia.
“In recent years, travel has fascinated the Kerridges.
“When our family grew up, we decided we would go away for two or three months every four years.”
They followed the Olympic Games, until Tokyo, when they changed their minds and went to East Africa instead.
“What are Mr Kerridge’s interests at home?
“You’d better ask my wife that question,” he said. “When am I at home?” She says. But Mrs Kerridge keeps busy too; she’s played for the county at about six different things.”
As for retirement, he says:
“The way things are going now, with the value of money the way it is, it’s becoming a problem, isn’t it? [The UK had huge economic problems – this was around the time of the three day week and electricity blackouts, and an inflation rate of nearly 10% in 1971]
“This much is certain, Kelsey Kerridge will never rest until the Cambridge Sports Hall is a reality”