Rotary Club of Chester History

We are celebrating over 100 years of Rotary in Chester.

Our Club history dates back to 14 May 1921 with an announcement in The Chester Observer. “This week we have the pleasure of welcoming a new institution in our midst it having been decided to form a Rotary Club in Chester”
Many citizens, while familiar with the name are unacquainted with the objects of a Rotary Club. Rotary is international and its motto is “Service – not Self”.

One of Rotary’s aims is friendship (known as fellowship in Rotary terms) and members sitting at random soon got to know one another quite well.

Reports of the early days of the Club are reported in the Executive minute books which were prudently deposited at the Cheshire Record office.


Early Rotary Club of Chester meetings

In 1923 the club moved to the Blossoms Hotel where the Blossoms lunch was stated to be 2/6 per head, or 2/8 including tea or coffee.

On the 40th anniversary of Rotary’s formation in Chicago (1945) the Club  arranged a Social Evening at Quaintways Restaurant (with dancing!) in February.

In 1948 the Blossoms Hotel increased the charge for lunch to 4/-.  It had remained unaltered at 2/9 for 15 years.

In May 1967 there is the first mention of a frugal lunch where members pay the normal cost for a sandwich lunch to raise money for charity. The practice has continued to this day.


Chester Half Marathon

In 1981 the President, Matt Wesley, indicated that he would like the Club to support cancer research at Clatterbridge hospital and Friends of Clatterbridge. Equipment costing £7000 was identified and the Club established a target to raise this. It was decided to pursue the idea of a sponsored run (this event later became the Chester Half Marathon

In 1984 donations were made to 32 charities totalling £14,349 (£47,000 in 2020 money).

In 2015 the Club moved from the Blossoms Hotel to the Crowne Plaza Hotel


Chester Raft Race

The mainstay fundraising project of the Club in recent times has been, the annual Chester Raft Race, was held every year since the start in the 1970s.  The race developed into the City’s premier river event, and has over the years raised many thousands of pounds for charities and good causes, both local and international

The last race organised by Rotary Chester was in 2019, future events being organised by Chester Grosvenor Round Table.



Other Fundraising

Perhaps the best efforts at fundraising was the Club’s response to the Tsunami which struck parts of South East Asia on Boxing Day, 2004. We were all horrified by the pictures of devastation caused by a huge tidal wave shown over the Christmas period. Club President, Colonel Jeremy Ropes, led the initiative to get permission and organise street collections in Chester. With help from Deva Club we collected a staggering £22,500.

The money, matched by that raised by other clubs, was used to buy 30 fishing boats and to support a trauma and emergency shock room at Base Hospital, Hambanthota in Sri Lanka



Pandemic disruption

In March 2020 meetings were suspended as a result of the pandemic.  Meetings were held on line, and some members discovered IT skills in using new technology.

Face to face meetings resumed in July 2021 with a party in the incoming President’s garden.  David Cotgreave, having been President in 1997/98, was again installed and the outgoing President (Prof Simon Burtonshaw-Gunn) had the unique honor of never having worn the chain of office at a meeting.

In July 2021 lunchtime meetings resumed at the Mill Hotel Chester, and in July 2022 we returned to the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Ukraine refugees

On 4 March 2022 Chester Rotary organised a bucket collection at the Chester Vigil for Ukraine.  In less than 1 hour, £2922 was collected in front of Chester Town Hall, and was donated to the Red Cross Ukraine Appeal.

In August 2022, we collaberated with several Wirral Clubs to deliver education equipment to Ukraine refugee children attending local schools.


Rotary Chester historic roundel

Rotary Club of Chester wooden logo

Chester Half Marathon poster

Chester Half Marathon 1984
Organised by the Rotary Club of Chester

A plaque at a Sri Lanka hospital

Chester Raft Race flyboarder

Chester Raft Race

rotary chester ukraine appeal

Rotarians collecting for the Ukraine appeal

Club History of Rotary in Chester

To commemerate our Club centenary, Rtn Brian Westcott authored a book titled “A history of the Rotary Club of Chester”.  At just under 10,000 words, the book contains many stories and images from the 100 years of our existance.

This book is available for purchase for £5 – please contact us if you would like a copy.

Rotary Chester Club History

 Past Presidents

J. Lawson Russell 1921/22
F. Coplestone 1922/23
J. T. Golder 1923/24
J. H .Dickson 1924/25
E. Dean 1925/26
H.E.D. Abbot 1926/27
T. Keith Hill 1927/28
W .E. Brown 1928/29
R .Cecil Owen 1929/30
H.E. Evans 1930/31
S.G. Dutton 1931/32
H. G. Hope 1932/33
P .H. Lawson 1933/34
W .E. Jones 1934/35
E. Noel Humphreys 1935/36
H. Waghorne 1936/37
W.W. Siddall 1937/38
N. Scarret 1938/39
T. Murray Dutton 1939/40
J. Rowse Mitchell 1940/41
W. Hughes 1941/42
Dudley Beck 1942/43
K. W. Hoyland 1943/44
G..N .Milton 1944/45
R. H. Thomas 1945/46
J. S .Hayter 1946/47
G. B. Elphick 1947/48
D. E. Evans 1948/49
W. Lewis 1949/50
J. H. Welsby 1950/51
G. Burkinshaw 1951/52
S .S .Snell 1952/53
W. Clayton 1953/54
A. M. Miln 1954/55
J. W. George 1955/56
B. J. Willis 1956/57
W. E. Shepherd 1957/58
J. D. Siddal 1958/59
M. Welsley 1959/1960
A. T . Guy 1960/61
E. Leslie Jones 1961/62
Leslie Harvey 1962/63
H. P. Hay 1963/64
J..E. Dean 1964/65
R. A. Smethurst 1965/66
S. P. Neale Dutton 1966/67
E. P .Pritchard 1967/68
W. F. Wild 1968/69
C. N. Ribbeck 1969/70
A. A. W. Davis 1970/71
G. A. Kiloh 1971/72
J. A. Davies 1972/73
C. J. Lambourne 1973/74
H. Piers Dutton 1974/75
JAS. E. Storrar 1975/76
J. R. Thompson 1976/77
Austen E. Elliot 1977/78
G. C. Thomas 1978/79
K. Riley 1979/80
R. A. Talbot 1980/81
M. E. Wesley 1981/82
J. Bradshaw 1982/83
J. R. Thompson 1983/84
E. B. Charnock 1984/85
J. R. Leaman 1985/86
J. B. Elsely 1986/87
G. W. Shepherd 1987/88
T. Farr 1988/89
R. N. Minshull 1989/90
G. Davis 1990/91
G. M. Jackson 1991/92
B. A. Thompson 1992/93
Thomas H. Carter 1993/94
Chris F. Robins 1994/95
Dennis F. G. Burton 1995/96
John Ross 1996/97
David H. Cotgreave 1997/98
Harold Shaw 1998/1999
Stuart Begbie 1999/2000
John Harsant 2000/01
John Boughton 2001/02
David Hughes 2002/03
John McLIntock 2003/04
Jeremey Ropes 2004/05
Tim Holmes 2005/06
Brian Westcott 2006/07
Derek Jackson 2007/08
Alan Cathery 2008/09
Alistair Jones 2009/10
Andrew Storrar 2010/11
Frank Brady 2011/12
Peter Russell 2012/13
Brian Price 2013/14
Chris Samuels 2014/15
Heather Oldham 2015/16
Brendan Witter 2016/17
Graham Proctor 2017/18
John McLintock 2018/19
Brian Westcott 2019/20
Simon Burtonshaw-Gunn 2020/2021
David H. Cotgreave  2021/22
Pete Fryer 2022/23
Stephen Cross 2023/24

Paul Harris Fellows

A Paul Harris Fellow is a person who has been recognised as having done something significant for others. The Rotary Foundation recognises them for the contribution of $ 1000, which will be spent on Humanitarian efforts around the world.

A club recognises them for service to the club and or the community. Individual Paul Harris Fellows recognise others for many reasons; admiration, service, love or whatever.

In ALL cases the recognition is significant and something to be proud of.

Rotarian Paul Harris

Image Source:

Who was Paul Harris?

Paul Harris was the founder and organizer of the first Rotary Club in Chicago in 1905. He was founder of the Rotary idea, and the first president of the worldwide organization, Rotary International. Paul Harris died in 1947. Upon his death, memorial gifts poured in to honor the founder of Rotary. From that time, the Rotary Foundation has been achieving the noble objective of furthering “understanding and friendly relations between peoples of different nations”


Rotary Club of  Chester
Paul Harris Fellows

Derek Swanson May 1981
Basil Thompson December 1985
Dennis Dixon-Bate November 1988
Geoffrey Morrison August 1989
Alex Bruce January 1991
John Elsely November 1992
Jim Siddal November 1992
Chris Samuels January 1998
John Ross January 1999
Eileen Harsant March 2000
Derek Jackson February 2002
Don Hughes February 2003
Austen Elliott January 2004
Jeremy Ropes June 2006
John Harsant May 2007
John McLintock February 2008
Peter Russell February 2008
Arthur Fielding February 2010
John Elsely – February 2011
Harold Shaw February 2011
Brian Westcott February 2011
Tim Holmes February 2013
Brendan Witter February 2015
Chris Robins February 2016
Denis Burton February 2016
Tim Wheeler January 2020
Heather Oldham February 2020
John Elsely – February 2020 – sapphire pin
Graham Proctor February 2022
David H. Cotgreave  July 2022
John McLintock February 2023 – sapphire pin


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