The club was named after Count Rumford who was born as Benjamin Thompson in America in 1753 and went on to become a Fellow of the Royal Society. He achieved popular acclaim for his inventive design for domestic fireplaces.
The ‘parents’ of the Rumford Club were the late Bernard C Oldham and Don G Sayers; its conception has been described by Sayers as follows (from which it seems reasonable, pace Women’s Lib., to identify Oldham as the father since he made the first move, and Sayers as the mother):-
The formation of a club was discussed by Oldham and myself at a meeting of the Heat and Power Club in November 1946, when the late Oliver Lyle was its leading light. I well remember the evening, when there was a long discussion on the question of ‘The availability of the proposed Bankside Generating Station bearing in mind the sulphur inclusions of the Middle East Crude’. At the end of the evening Oldham turned to me and said “What about a club like this for the Heating and Ventilation and Instrument Industries?”
That is how the Club was born.
After further discussion between the two parents, Oldham sent the following letter dated 20th March, 1947, to 30 men who were thought likely to be interested in the proposal:-
In order to provide more opportunities for people in air handling and related industries to meet in an informal atmosphere for friendly interchange of views and experiences, it is proposed to form a Dinner Discussion Club which would meet say, once in six weeks or so, at a central rendezvous in the City or West End.
Briefly, the programme for each meeting would: Open at 5.30pm., dinner at 6.00pm. Followed by a discussion of a very informal and convivial nature, based on questions introduced by the Chairman of the evening. The cost per head for each dinner would probably be in the neighbourhood of half a guinea, exclusive of wines. It is proposed to arrange an inaugural dinner meeting to discuss the formation of a Club as soon as arrangements can be made, and in order to enable catering arrangements to be made will you kindly signify on the form below whether you would be likely to join such a Club and attend this dinner meeting. Please fill in, detach and return the slip to the above address. Yours truly,
There is no complete record of the names of those to whom this letter was sent, but Oldham has named(Appendix I)those who attended the ‘inaugural dinner meeting’ referred to in his letter, which was held at the Waldorf Hotel on 28th April, 1947, and can be regarded as the First Meeting of the ‘Rumford Club’. This name, following the lead given in his inaugural address(Appendix II)was proposed by Hemmings at this meeting; it was unanimously approved, but final adoption was deferred until the second meeting on 2 nd June, 1947. (A proposal in 1956 to change the name to ‘The Rumford Society’ was heavily defeated). At the inaugural meeting on 28th April, which was first chaired by Oswald Stott, Oldham was invited to explain the proposed nature and objectives of the Club. This he did in a short address recorded in Appendix II which, in effect, amplifies his letter of 20 th March. The meeting then elected Bernard Oldham as the first Chairman of the Club and appointed an ad hoc Committee consisting of B.C.Oldham, W.J.Chambers (Secretary) and J.F.L.Grocott, W.Harding, E.H.Jacobs, D.G.Sayers and O.Stott.
For the second meeting, for which a further batch of invitations was sent out, the response was much greater than anticipated and, owing to food rationing, there was some difficulty in accommodating the number at St.Ermin’s Hotel. This was eased by the intervention of Mr. Paul Negretti who was then temporarily resident at the hotel. It was at this meeting that the Committee was formally elected.
Not all those present at the April meeting decided to become members of the Club. There is no printed or written record to show which of them did so, but a clue is afforded by the cash accounts for 1947 and 1948 which include details of the annual subscription(ten shillings)paid by named individuals. Those who paid have since been rated as Founder Members. By the time of the second meeting in June, a number of others had been invited or had applied for membership and these are also regarded as Founder Members (Appendix I). Oldham’s record of those at the June meeting also included the names of Jones and Cooke (no initials) but these names do not appear again in the Secretary’s record of payments and we must assume they did not join the Club.
The original conception was that at each meeting a few questions submitted by members should be discussed informally. (The questions were known only to the Chairman and Secretary and were posed anonymously). Members remain seated throughout so that any tendency to embark on a lecture is curtailed. In fact, informality has sometimes verged on the rowdy, if not chaotic, though always with the greatest good humour. (It may be said here that while the discussions have remained informal, the proceedings now are perhaps a little more staid, due probably to a desire not to embarrass any guest speaker).