Breaks Manor Youth Club 60th birthday

By Jon Brindle

The Breaks c1958
Provided by Hatfield & District Society of Model Engineers


On 15th September 1951 Lady Cranbourne declared the Hatfield Youth Centre officially open at Breaks Manor, a large house, built in 1930, then recently purchased by the Hatfield Development Corporation. Lady Cranborne said,  “I am quite certain this centre is going to fulfill a great need in Hatfield,  and is something which has been increasingly needed as the town has grown”

The club opened with 168 members (plus a waiting list) and soon became known as ‘The Breaks’.  It has been a great success since. Its first warden was the famed Bill Salmon whose pay,  at the time,  was generously provided by the local De Havilland aircraft company.  Later his wife, Rose, helped him at the Breaks.  Indeed Bill, nicknamed ‘Skip’,  was also the warden of the earlier De Havilland Boys Club which operated on the upper floor of a large DH storehouse known as the Fiddle Bridge Hall or Club, sited near the Cat & Fiddle pub on the opposite side of the Hatfield -St.Albans branch line (now Alban Way).

In the few years following WW2 there was a variety of youth clubs set up but they became transient,  prompting Alderman CG Maynard to think it ‘wise’ that a permanent youth centre be provided.  And he said, “We must give the problem of youth very serious attention.”
It is doubtful, in 1951,  that the good Alderman was referring to the same ‘problems of youth’ that some would now associate with the current ‘problems’ in Hatfield 60 years later!  The Breaks was originally run as a twin club with boys and girls having their own separate activities,  but members did mix for certain programmes such as music and drama.

Shortly after opening, the Breaks also became the home for the Hatfield 20-35 Club and HLHS member Reg Coleman,  then aged 21, became Chairman of their Camera Club.  Then the Hatfield Society of Model Engineers arrived in 1952.   However, as Hatfield rapidly expanded in the mid 1950s – so did the Breaks.  And in1956 De Havilland kindly donated a large building that was once their old drawing office.  This was to become the clubs’ dance hall, among other uses. But the contractors employed to dismantle and re-assemble the building went bust.  In a great show of determination, club members (40 boys & girls) decided to take on the task of construction under supervision.  It took eighteen months to complete and in 1958 it was open for use.  The Radio Times magazine was moved to write an article about the club’s Herculean efforts and broadcast their story on BBC Radio South East.

During the early l960s many famous pop groups appeared in the Breaks self-built dance hall – such as Johnnie Kidd & the Pirates, The Tremelos and The Zombies.  It also provided a stage for local bands The Cortinas, Mixed Bag, Herbal Remedy and Albert Monk.

Click here ‘Rock Around the Block’ for more info. about the great music heard at the ‘Breaks’

Visit the Breaks Manor website at


This page was added on 25/08/2011.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • I joined in about 1959 for table tennis & snooker, served Pepsi’s by “skip”, a great guy, but was drawn to the Model Aircraft Club which had two rooms up in the attic. I attended most evenings & weekends building models & then flying them on the large field out back. I never came across any fights or un-pleasantness & it was considered a very safe place until I drifted away some 7 years later. It has fond memories & kept me out of mischief.

    By Terry Phillips (02/07/2020)
  • I wonder if there is anyone still around who remembers the holiday we all went on, about 1952, up to Cullercoats near Whitley Bay, Northumberland. I still have the group photo taken at the foot of some cliffs. I can remember most of the group, sadly some no longer with us. Bill Skip Salmon and Rose are there . Len and Molly and Janet and Neil, Janet and Lawrence who were items at the time, also present. Myself and Dave Dean, Trevor Howes and Roy Ridgeway are more who spring to mind. What great times we all had, all innocent fun.

    By Brian Rawling. (28/08/2018)
  • I also used to go to the Breaks on Thursday evenings for the weekly dance which was sometimes marred by the local “hard nuts” who, after being in the White Horse pub, would come to the Breaks partly drunk and be looking to start a fight. I quite often had to take them on as they would pick on the lads that I once worked with on the Hatfield Park estate but, like all of that type, once they got a taste of their own medicine, they usualy didn’t bother anyone for a while, at least. We couldn’t understand why they were not banned permanently. But apart from that, we had many many happy Thursday evenings at the Breaks.

    By Kenneth Charles Robson (11/08/2016)
  • Hello Dave. Long time no see. I was an apprentice with you at the time and we used to go to the breaks in the early 60’s. There was often trouble there.

    Do you remember when we used to go to the Stanboro’ pool in our dinner break in your old banger looking for girls?

    Cheers, John A.

    By John Allibon (18/07/2016)
  • Sid Hollier and myself played table tenis non stop for 24 hrs in 1958,this was just for fun!!! during the time that Dr.Barbara Moore was doing charity walks from John O,Groats to Lands End

    By bob barrett (21/09/2012)
  • I remember great times dancing at the Breaks. Saturday nights there I remember Brian Pool and the Tremellos, Jonny Kidd and the Pirates, The zombies and local group Octopus. Good fun days and no peer pressure like today.

    By Margaret Hill( nee Wells ) (27/06/2012)
  • I certainly remember my visits to the Breaks (whilst serving an apprenticeship at de Havilland’s. It was not unknown to see the floor clear while dancing and find a couple of lads having a scrap (fists only !). But it would soon be cleared and the dancing would happily resume !

    By David Irvine (25/01/2012)