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The Growth Of The B.E.C.

The third part of a series in which the membership figures for the B.E.C. over the years are examined to see if any conclusions can be drawn from them, and if it will be possible to see why the club has had periods of prosperity and periods - like the one in this article of relative decline.

PART THREE – BAD PATCH……(1951 to 1957)

Our last article left the club with its membership way up above the predicted value.  The impetus, it is true, was beginning to slow up, but there appeared to be nothing to worry about.

This month's graph is, however, a sorry-looking object.  In contrast with the expansion shown in last month's article, the club actually - and steadily - DECREASED in size from 1951 to 1957.  At the start of this bad patch, the club had 131 members, which put it at 12 above the predicted level, while at the end of the bad patch, it had sunk to 117 - or 27 members short of those predicted.

Now, it is important to realise that the figures can show why this happened in terms of how many people joined the club, and how quickly or slowly they dropped away again.  What the figures cannot do is to tell us WHY. That is something we have to make our own intelligent guesses about.  During the expansions of 1946 and of 1948/9, it was not difficult to see the cause.  The decline of the club from 1951 to 1957 is much more difficult to pinpoint to any cause.

The figures show that we cannot blame the decline on the effect of the 1948 batch (which was disappearing rapidly) because this effect was near enough balanced by the 1946 group (which was hanging on despite everything) and these two effects cancel each other out.  Equally, the decline cannot be blamed on the lack of new members (who were arriving in average quantity throughout the period of decline).  The decrease in membership was simply due to the fact that greater than average losses occurred in nearly every batch.  In other words, members suddenly began to leave the club earlier than one might expect, and this did not depend on how long they had been members.  For some reason, the club had stopped keeping its members happy - old and young alike.

In 1953, the club discovered a major Mendip cave right on its own doorstep AND negotiated an access agreement which, in those days, virtually meant that any caver 'who wanted to explore Cuthbert’s regularly had to be a member of B.E.C.  One might reasonably expect that this would have given membership a boost, but IT HAD NOT THE SLIGHTEST EFFECT.  Indeed, the year following the discovery of Cuthbert’s was the worst of the whole period.

What happened in 1951, which suddenly caused members to be dissatisfied with the club?  Why did this even more dramatically stop happening in 1957? External events nave been looked at, but nothing appears to fit these dates.  At the end of this series, a theory will be advanced to explain all this, but in the mean time, readers may like to speculate - in the B.B. if they wish - on what factor or factors could have caused the bad patch, which ended so suddenly in 1957.