Jocelyn Devas, a Univ graduate, started a ‘Club for working lads’ in a room over a coffee tavern in Stewarts Road, Battersea in 1884. The initial purpose was educational, but as this function was increasingly met by the London County Council’s evening classes, sporting activities began to take precedence, and a club for girls, sharing the same building, was started in 1960.  Today Devas is run from its own purpose-built four-storey building on Stormont Road, Battersea, London, providing a variety of activities for young people up to the age of 25. In addition to several social areas, a computer suite, table tennis hall and an art room, the upper levels provide a large gym with weights room, and several meeting and rehearsal rooms. Other facilities include a dance studio, a recording studio, a silk-screen workshop and an enclosed Basketball court on the roof.


Devas and Univ

In the later 19th century many Old Members of Oxbridge Colleges and major public schools, concerned at the living conditions of the poor, especially in the East End of London, set up missions or children’s clubs there to try to offer some practical help. Such clubs also offered Old Members a chance to maintain school and College friendships. They proved important: it was his stint working for the Haileybury Boys’ Club which inspired a Univ man called Clement Attlee to engage on a political career which culminated in his being appointed Prime Minister; his support for the less advantaged sections of society was enshrined in the Welfare State which he introduced

The Devas Club differed from many of these organisations in that it was never officially linked with Univ, and after Jocelyn Devas’s premature death in a climbing accident in 1886, it was his father and friends who gave the new club the necessary financial support. On the other hand, from its very earliest years, members of Univ have taken a great interest in Devas: when new premises were built for it in 1889, they were formally opened by George Bradley, the current Dean of Westminster, who had been Master of Univ in Devas’s time, and a succession of Old Members of the College have supported Devas financially or served on its Committee of Management. The annual Devas-Univ football match is still held yearly in Oxford, with the Devas Trustees AGM.

For further information on Devas visit their website here.
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