During 1949 and 1950 the Society acquired the River Rib fishery which in itself caused some controversy. The fishing was on a lease basis to begin with and came the Society’s way via a friend of James Proudlove, a Jack Townsend who owned a fishing tackle shop cum barbers in Bishopsgate Churchyard and was known as the demon barber of Bishopsgate. Jack Townsend was an acquaintance of Mr Trower of Trowers Solicitors who managed the Rib on behalf of its riparian owners.
The lease was on the section starting at Westmill just upstream of Stevenage road at what was known as the bomb hole down to the pool at the reformatory bend. The Rib of this era was a fast flowing chalk stream known for its Trout, Roach and Dace which often reached a pound in weight and known locally as “Rib Herrings” because of the high average size. Alas the building of Harlow and expansion of Buntingford were soon to put paid to this with abstraction on the upper reaches causing a major problem with the flow. After a short time Abbey Cross were offered the opportunity to purchase the riparian fishing rights for the Rib. East bank from Paynes Hall “the Bomb Hole” to Bengeo with the exception of two meadows upstream of the concrete road which were owned by Mr Newton. The whole of the west bank with the exception of the lease section for which the club already secured.
The cost was set at £1,000 and a loan was obtained from Midland Bank, the Branch Manager a Mr Banks became a firm friend of the Society and attended the annual dinners as a guest of the Society for many years. Some members resigned over the decision to purchase the Rib complaining there was no need to own fishing with so much freely available, others were concerned that as members they would be held responsible for the large debt and were not prepared to ‘put their houses on the line ‘.
The Land above the Ware Road at Bengeo was owned by Mr Savory of Bengeo Hall who in 1979 sold the west bank to the residents of Rib Vale could extend their gardens, while the ACAS still held the riparian rights. The residents do not have any access to the river and the society agree not fish from this bank. At the same time the society purchased about an acre land on the east bank from Mr Savory, we now enjoy both freehold as well as the riparian rights.
The Almoner (treasurer) at this time was Arthur Tulley who worked as a civil servant with the job of keeping all municipal clocks in his area fully wound up and accurate. Tulley’s good management of the Society’s finances along with the sterling efforts of George Pridmore’s day ticket selling at the soon to be acquired Toyhall Fishery ensured the loan was paid off after two years. This was also due in part to an increase to the subscriptions which became 9d (about 4 new pence) per week for seniors and 6d (2.50 new pence) for juniors, it was at this time the revolt over the juniors having a vote also erupted. The juniors retained their voting rights which was important at the time as the venue for matches and coach outings was voted on at each meeting. Membership was increased to 100 and the geographic location of members was relaxed. This resulted in one notable member from Woolwich joining - Reg Warwick attended every work party on the Rib arriving on a Motor cycle, yet he rarely fished.
George Burroughs of the Ponders End Piscatorials joined around this time and became Club Captain in the early 1950’s. Bill Meredith took on the role of Rib Fishery Officer and much work was undertaken to improve the Rib in those early years with all the small weirs being rebuilt with sandbags, these were subsequently replaced by the current concrete structures following dredging of the river by the environment agency. A fishery bridge was constructed on the lower section of the fishery just upstream of where the houses on Rib Vale are now situated. There is now a modern footbridge on the site but the original bridge was of more rustic design. Its two main beams were whole trunks from trees felled in Theobalds Park where Bill Meredith worked as a gamekeeper. These were man handled onto an open lorry, with most of the working party sitting on the open lorry for the trip to the Rib. On arrival two of the more competitive members ,Bill Meredith being one, showed great Athletic prowess by carrying the tree trunks across the meadows on their shoulders.
Flush with the success of purchasing the Rib the Society was keen to purchase more fishing but had already fallen foul of the LAA ruling which requires affiliated Societies to offer any fisheries that became available to the LAA first. At the same time another Club the Hayes and Harlington had run up against the same problem, much debate ensued and in the end a compromise was achieved. Abbey Cross were to remain affiliated and offer the LAA the next fishery available. A stretch of the Stort which wasn’t particularly fancied by the Abbey Cross, was offered to the LAA in deference to the rules, after this the Society went about its business untroubled by the LAA.
In the early 50’s the Society obtained the lease to fish Toyhall Pit at Windmill Lane, Cheshunt now the young mariners base and no longer an Abbey Cross fishery. It was known for its Tench and Perch fishing which was to lead to further controversy. Fishery bye-laws at the time prohibited fishing for Pike in any fashion before October this implied a blanket ban on any spinning or lure fishing even if your intended quarry was not Pike. James Proudlove who had done much to help the Society was seen spinning for Perch at Toyhall during the summer. As a result he was summarily expelled from the Society. For many years the society issued day tickets for the towpath bank of Toyhall this was first undertaken by George Pridmore and for a good number of years the tickets were sold by Dave Saggs, the keeper at Cheshunt Lock. Dave also sold tickets on the North Met pit and must have covered a good few miles every day in pursuit of his money. Dave quite controversially sold live baits from huge water tank kept in his garden, this being regularly re-stocked with fish caught by junior anglers in search of a little pocket money.
When Dave retired from selling tickets ,the job was undertaken by a number of different club members ,including the sinister sounding “Rochford Four“ who were actually four members who happened to work at the Rochford Nursery in Turnford. Alf Fox a stalwart of the Society and late father of Bob Fox the current fisheries officer also had a stint at selling the tickets as did Derek Clark and Don Moxey.
By 1953 the Society was looking for new head quarters, such was the size of membership, most of whom attended meetings, the Old English Gentleman was proving to be much too small. New premises were sought and the White Hart Hotel in Waltham Cross was decided on as the new headquarters. For a short time the juniors under the guidance of Mrs Gladys Brayne junior organiser met in the Red Cow public house at the bottom of Windmill Lane, Cheshunt, however they soon joined the seniors at the White Hart. Mr Whitham proprieter of the Old English Gentleman withdrew his match trophy following this change of headquarters, his weekly takings no doubt suffered.
As the decade progressed the lease on Turnford (Ashlea) Pit was acquired which at the time was twice its current size extending across the field to the railway line. It was partly backfilled with fly ash from Brimsdown Power Station and with subsequent landscaping split into two lakes by a narrow causeway. The fishery was very popular in the early years with very good Roach ,Rudd and Tench fishing but by the eighties was less popular resulting in an associate ticket being issued to prospective members on the waiting list. Ownership of the fishery was taken over by the Lea Valley Parks in the sixties, the Parks Authority becoming our landlord. Access to the fishery was not good and required a long walk from Turnford High Road, and in spite of producing some good Tench to over 8 pounds the cost of the lease could not be justified. In the early nineties the lease was reluctantly relinquished.
In May 1957 the Metropolitan Water Board drained the Racecourse Reservoir at Walthamstow prior to which the fish were removed by the L.A.A. Abbey Cross obtained a quantity of these fish to stock number 4 Pit at the Twickenham Pits Fishery. On arriving at Walthamstow to collect the fish the sight which met the members was astonishing. The netting team had a net some 30 metres wide absolutely stuffed with fish it took from 10a.m. until the evening to empty the net . Pike in excess of 30lbs, Bream over 12lbs, Perch to 3lbs and huge numbers of Roach from a pound to almost 4lbs. Abbey Cross obtained 350 Roach and 150 Perch of exceptional quality to stock the pit.
Towards the end of the fifties the lease on the Roach Pit (car park lake) at Green Lanes Nazeing was acquired from the Brazier Gravel company . At the time Green Lanes was known as Occupation Lane and the complex consisted of four pits, the two which remain, a small pit on the left as you go down the access track and much larger pit that occupied the large field beyond the car park lake towards the lea . The large pit was an LAA fishery for many years and was accessed from Kings Weir. The Roach pit as the name implies was a Roach fishery, with some very nice perch also present but no carp.
A short while after taking on the Roach Pit the Society was offered the lease on the right hand lake, this had previously been turned down as at the far end of the pit a Chicken and Pig farm were sited, later to become Chimes Garden Centre. The smell from this and unsightly green film on the lake probably caused by periodic slurry leaks did not make it an attractive location and was the cause of much debate amongst the membership. It was decided to run some test on the pit before making a decision, deadlines were set around the lake to determine what predators were present. The results don’t appear to have been recorded but nonetheless the lease was accepted and a decision was made to stock with carp the new “In Fish“ of the age. The first stocks of carp came from an estate lake in Kent, with subsequent stockings over the years from various sources. A strict rule banning the movement of these carp was introduced but it didn’t take long for carp to begin showing in the Roach Pit.
Around the time the lease at Nazeing was being acquired the fishery at Sawbridgeworth known as the Osier beds was purchased. The fishing rights to the River Stort bordering 7.50 acres of Osier beds were purchased through Arbon & Upton estate agents for £750.