Leamington pensioner went from blowing up bridges to founding a bridge club

Peter Castelow
Peter Castelow

Bridge players in Leamington have celebrated the birthday of one of their club’s founder members who taught many of them how to play the game.

Peter Castelow of Beauchamp Hill, turned 99 last Friday and marked the occasion the best way he knows how - by playing at Leamington Spa Bridge Club.

Mr Castelow was one of the first members of the club, which was formed more than 60 years ago at the former Leamington Tennis and Crochet Club - now Leamington Lawn Tennis and Squash Club - in Guy’s Cliffe Avenue.

He plays bridge on most days of the week except on Tuesdays when he plays a word a spelling game called Banana at Age Concern in Leamington.

Mr Castelow said: “My mother and father played regularly when I was young and lived in Leeds and when I was old enough to understand it they taught me, my brother and my sister and we’d play as a family.

“It keeps your mind active and I still learn things through the experience.

“It’s certainly my number one hobby at the moment.”

Mr Castelow served with the Royal Engineers in the Second World War, driving a lorry which transported a demolition crew to various assignments.

One of their jobs was to blow up bridges to stop the Nazi advance.

Unfortunately Mr Castelow was taken prisoner in Lens and taken to a prisoner of war camp in Germany where he spent five years.

Mr Castelow said: “It was a varied experience.

“It was pretty rough at first but conditions improved when the Red Cross parcels started coming through to us.”

During his time as a prisoner, Mr Castelow learned to speak German and became an expert in reinforced concrete by reading civil engineering text books.

After the war, Mr Castelow joined construction companies Concrete Ltd and then London Brick which brought him down from Yorkshire to eventually live in Leamington.

He moved into his once-derelict town house near the Dell Park in the 1980s and lives quietly.

His wife Margaeret died in 2008 and they have a daughter and two grandchildren.

Leamington Bridge Club now has about 60 members, of whom Alan Robinson, now 70, is one of the youngest.

Mr Castelow said: “Last year and the year before that I was voted as the club’s Player of the Year.

“A friend of mine and I set up a ‘Bridge school’ at one point and I’ve always taught people to play the game.

“I taught a lot of the current members.”

Club members play at the Royal Naval Association Club in Adelaide Road every Wednesday night and on alternate Saturday evenings and at the Holy Trinity church’s Bethany Hall every Friday afternoon.

But Mr Castelow also regularly invites members to his house for games.

For more information search for Leamington Spa Bridge Club online or call the club secretary on 425048.

Other bridge clubs in Warwick district meet in Lillington and Kenilworth with the latter being the fourth largest in the country.