The little flat that led to a 62-year friendship

Following the ‘50 years of friendship’ article in our last edition, we have received many wonderful stories about enduring University friendships. In this edition, we hear from the Wenters Group who are preparing for their 62nd annual gathering.

Roger Christian (BSc Chemical Engineering,1961) and Mike Steward (BSc Chemical Engineering,1962) met in the autumn of 1957 in the annexe of Chancellor’s Hall, and regularly frequented the pub down the road for skittles and beer.

Within the year, an old school friend of Mike’s, John Spragg, suggested they team up and live off-campus as it provided year-round accommodation and a more independent living style than the University Halls. And so, the residency at 95 Wentworth Road in Harborne began.

The Wenters Group begins (including a dachshund!)

The Wentworth Road house was home to Roger, Mike and John and many subsequent friends for 20 years (1959 – 1979) while they studied at the University.

While the flat was only occupied by three to six residents at any one time, it became a social hub with many honorary residents passing through, including Beppo, the landlord’s pet dachshund, who was very much part of the family! A keen sporting group, between them they represented their Department and University Firsts in squash, tennis and rugby. They were also serious about their studies, with five members meeting through the Chemical Engineering course, and Mike Wake (BDS Dentistry, 1962; MBChB Medicine, 1969) and Robin Creed (BSc Chemical Engineering, 1961) winning medals for their academic achievements.

The Wenters Group believes the secret to their longevity is their rather formal establishment procedure. Originally formed as an annual ‘Dining Club’, their shared experiences in the National Service (seven ‘Wenters’ served before heading to University) made it only natural to establish a traditional committee with shared responsibilities to ensure the upkeep of the ‘Wenters’ Fellowship’.

The Wenters bachelors find love

This organisation extended to establishing a financial basis for the club – every member contributed £1 to a communal Premium Bonds fund, with any winnings to be shared equally. They were determined bachelors at the time, so marriage forfeited your claim to the pot, and the last man standing would take all. They never won a single penny!

What they lacked in financial gain, however, was more than made up for by their enduring friendships. The committed bachelors all married, one of which was a Wentworth Road marriage – Mike married Polly, a University Hospital nurse who lived in the flat downstairs.

Following the first ‘Dining Club’ in 1962 the group have met at least once a year, except for 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Since lockdown, they meet monthly on Zoom and are closer now than they have ever been.

The gatherings have grown exponentially over the years, to include partners and children - even evolving into two-day events held all over the country. The bachelor flavour has also diminished, with the group now far more likely to be found visiting a historic house or enjoying a round of golf than drinking in a pub!