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Brief History of Niagara

Her Royal Highness The Princess Mary Viscount Lascelles officially opened Niagara Recreation Ground and Pavilion on Thursday 23rd August, 1928. A fitting ceremony to mark over two years hard work and effort by the City of Sheffield Police Recreation Society to acquire the land, lay out the grounds and build the Pavilion.

The City of Sheffield Police Watch Committee purchased the land, a former Victorian tip, from the Duke of Norfolk, with a supplementary Exchequer Grant of £3,700. A National Police Fund Gant of £1,000 to the Recreation Society enabled the laying out of the grounds.

The National Police Fund was set up in 1926 in appreciation of the demands placed on Police Forces during the General Strike, the aim of the fund being ‘The general welfare and benefit of members of police forces of Great Britain by the provision of recreational and other facilities calculated to promote their efficiency, for educational grants for policemen and their dependants and for the support of charities for the benefit of such persons being necessitous’. The Fund is still in existence today and makes, on application, an annual grant to the South Yorkshire Police Sports & Social Club.

In 1926 the Chief Constable of The City of Sheffield Police and President of the then Police Recreation Society was Capt. P. J. Sillitoe (later famous for his role in policing the Sheffield Gang Wars). The 673 members of the Recreation Society paid a weekly subscription of 2d (old pence) per week.

The pavilion at Niagara cost £2,530 to build. The money was borrowed from a bank byway of a long-term loan, but although full use of the grounds and pavilion were made to raise addition funds, by the early 1930’s all of the Societies subscriptions were being used to service the loan.

As the driving force behind the provision of the grounds and facilities for the welfare of his officers and their families The Chief Constable approached the Home Secretary of the day and it was agreed the loan would be settled by the Home Office and the building, in addition to the land, would pass to the ownership of the Watch Committee. To this day the grounds and buildings are owned and maintained by the Police Authority. The Sports & Social Club holding a long-term licence to share the premises.

Throughout the years good use has been made of the facilities which include, or have included, outdoor terraces, running & athletics track, large children’s play area (now police dog training centre) football, hockey, rugby & cricket pitches, bowling green, tennis courts and garden. In its day a popular addition was the indoor games room built close to the pavilion. As the sporting and recreational needs of the membership have changed so the pavilion and grounds have evolved.

Over the years Official Parades, Police Athletic Association Championships, Families Days, Sports Days, Competition Finals, Coaching Days and The Star Walk have all been staged at the ground, whilst the Pavilion has developed into a modern Conference & Leisure Centre with a licensed bar.

Niagara Falls in Sheffield

The autumn of 1980 marked the opening of the Registered Club and employment of a full time steward. Two further extensions financed by loans followed. The Official opening conducted by Mr. G.H. Moores, Chairman South Yorkshire Police Authority took place on Wednesday 8th September, 1982. Full social and banqueting facilities were now available.

1994/1995 saw a major work, creating a reception area, redesigned members bar, refurbished and upgraded Niagara Suite to provide modern audio/visual systems to create a multifunctional facility for social events and conferences, positioning the Club to meet the changing demands and expectations of the membership.

Rising customer expectations, advances in technology and a drive towards quality of service and customer satisfaction created the need to refurbish the Niagara Suite in 2003. With additional work to upgrade utility services, install air conditioning, enable disabled access, provide additional office facilities and create a slick, professional reception service being carried out in 2004.

It seems appropriate to conclude this brief journey through history with a quote from a letter written on the 22nd February, 1929, by the proud President of The City of Sheffield Police Recreation Society Capt. Percy Sillito, Chief Constable to Lieutenant – General Sir Thomas Scott, K.C.B.,C.B.,D.S.O. ‘Without any undue egotism, if there is a better equipped all-round Police Sports Ground in this Country anywhere, then I should like to see it…..’

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