Yalding Rifle Club has rich history of over 100 years. It began at a meeting in the Village Club on May 11th 1907, after a brief discussion Captain Reid proposed, and the Vicar seconded, `The a Rifle Club be formed in Yalding’. The committee then formed was Mr Norton Chairman, Capt. Boorman treasurer, Mr Mitchell captain, Mr F Perkins secretary, together with the Vicar, Mr Fletcher, Dr Pout, Dr Wood, Messrs. F Reeves, Wickham, F White, Le Meet, Williams, C E Blunden, C Killick, A Cheesman, G Acott and W Longley (senior and junior).
The opening shot of the new club was fired by Mrs Reid on the 27th July, with Miss White and Mrs F Reeves also showing how to find the target. The objects of the club were to encourage and teach rifle shooting as a national pastime, thereby rendering its members more fit to take their place in the defence of the country should it ever become necessary. This may well have been influenced by the British experience of the Boer war, that had ended only 5 years before.
Young men over the age of 13 were elegible to become members, for a minimum annual subscription of one shilling payable quarterly. Boys were first expected to shoot in school with air guns. Subscribers of 2s 6d or more per annum became ‘Associate Members’. Ammunition to be ½d for ten air gun shots, and 2d for ten rifle shots. Then, as now, no misconduct of any kind would be allowed, and permanent suspension was the likely result.
A Laddingford branch of this club, with 20 potential members, was opened on February 17th 1908, with Mr Mitchell as Captain firing the first shot from an air gun presented by Mr C E Fletcher.
At the start of 1909 the Yalding club was flourishing , and using a room in the boys’ school as a venue. A comment in the Parish Magazine of January 1909 said, `When the invaders in their air-ships make their threatened raid on our defenceless shores they had better take care not to descend anywhere within rifle-shot of Yalding, or they will picked off to a man’.
The club had strong support with practice meetings held every Wednesday. On Wednesday April 6th 1910 an entertainment entitled `Concert and Tableaux’ was performed at Cheveney Institute to help raise funds towards a new 25 yd rifle range that had been erected at The Elms. Mrs Reeves of Court Lodge, undertook the tableaux, ably assisted by Miss F Leigh, and supported in their delightful illustrations by the Misses Bellew, Killick, Leigh, Martin, Robbins, Rumney, Starbuck, Wheeler, White, Wickham, and Wood. The musical arrangements were in the hands of Mrs Reid, and the interval tea was organised by Miss Bertha Hards.
The profit from the evening amounted to £ 16 7s. 4d., which with 151 shares at 5s. each, realising £ 37 15s., produced the necessary funds required. The main item was a portable shed from Palmer & Co for £ 18 5s. plus timber and boarding from Messrs. Smythe at £ 12 19s., the laying on of gas at £ 7 11s., corrugated sheeting at £ 6 16s., which with a few sundries totalled £ 55. At this time the club consisted of a President, 14 Vice-Presidents, 72 ordinary members ( 21 from the Laddingford branch ), 53 ladies, and 24 boys, a total of 164 members. R Norton Esq. was President, Mr W E Longley, Captain, Mr A E Cheeseman, Vice-Captain, and Capt. S G Reid was Hon. Secretary and Treasurer. R W Mitchell Esq. and Mr F Perkins were Captain and Secretary respectively of the Laddingford branch. Other committee members were Messrs. A Cheeseman, J Cheeseman, J Coleman, H Freeman, F H Hall, A Jessop, C Killick, W E Longely, H Sedge, and R Smith, with Sergt. J Henly as Instructor and Caretaker.
As you could see from the membership a ladies section was formed, holding a competition on Thursday 25th of August 1910 at The Elms, on the outdoor range, followed by tea in the garden. Miss Newell, Mrs Reeves and Miss Sedge, all scored 44 out of a possible 50, with the six winning prizes given and presented by Mrs Norton, the ladies president. Mrs Reeves of Court Lodge was the secretary, and the match committee consisted of Mrs Hall, Mrs Lace, Mrs Langridge, Miss G Noakes, and Miss B White.
At the A.G.M. of 1913 it was reported that two members and one lady member had entered for the National Roll of Marksmen and all obtained a first-class certificate. These were E Hing, A Watson, and Miss E Alexander. Also three members shot in Queen Alexander’s Cup Competition, all of whom, W Longley, J Henley, and E Hing, qualified and scored well.
On the 17th of May a party of 26 repeated a visit made three years earlier to Milton Ranges, where shooting at 200, 300, and 500 yard targets, was on the whole good, though the strange rifles, with their difficult sighting, were to disadvantage the visitors. The trip was made in a `brand-new M and D Motor Bus’ leaving the P.O. at 12 noon and landing the party safely on their return at Capt. Reid’s gate at 9.45 pm.
In 1914 another trip was organised to the Government Ranges at Milton, near Gravesend, where the three competing captains were Messrs. T Singyard, A Cheeseman, and A Burt. The main scorers other than the captains were Messrs. J Henley, J Coleman, and A Watson. The thanks of the club were tendered to Messrs. Thomas Hards, A Coates, H W Freeman and F H Hall for prizes donated for the Shooting Competition.
In 1926 the Yalding club was one of the founder members of the Maidstone and District Rifle League, and in 1952 they won the Fremlin Cup competition of that league, at the Aylesford Paper Mills range at New Hythe.
In 1972 the club had a membership of 22 rifle and pistol shooters, and in the 71/72 season the following awards were won in the Maidstone small bore rifle and pistol league. These were R Huggett in division seven, B Sully in division eight, and in the division four pistol pairs R Huggett and D Holbrow.
After 100 years the club is flourishing and the range is also hired out to other clubs.