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Dog centre closes its doors
Charities to benefit from lost ‘dream’ dog centre

REPRESENTATIVES FROM dog clubs across the North gathered in Wakefield, West Yorkshire last week to attend the final Steering Group meeting that oversaw the wind-up of the Northern Dog Centre.

Founded in 1969 and the brainchild of Mrs. Mary Scott, the Northern Dog Centre existed to provide a central venue for canine organisations from all over the north of England to hold shows and events. Mrs. Scott sadly died in 1971, and although she had left a fund of £1,000 in the bank, the initial NDC Steering Committee folded up. Things remained in a state of void until the early 1980s when the dream of setting up a dedicated dog Centre in the north was again realised by a new committee, formed by new Secretary and Treasurer, Mr. Alf Jennings. By now, interest had accrued on the initial £1,000 bequest and enabled the new committee to forge ahead.

This committee worked hard to raise further funds and the Northern Dog Centre found a home at Birchingley Manor in Lancashire, which also hosted equestrian events. Mr. Jennings and his team secured a contract between themselves and the then owner of Birchingley Manor, entrepreneur Mick Fenton, with a paid bond of £2,500 plus £400 rent so that the centre had an official address until the year 2000.

The Northern Dog Centre was finally on its feet more than a decade after the initial idea was mooted, and for almost another ten years it proved a successful venture. Northern-based dog clubs and societies were eager to use this new dedicated, well equipped and well-staffed facility and the NDC diary was booked up well in advance.


The dream was not to last though, as the owner of Birchingley Manor ran into planning wrangles with Rochdale Council, and financial difficulties after a business deal went wrong. The receivers took over in 1993, leaving the Northern Dog Centre homeless and its investments in limbo. Alf Jennings said: "Mr. Fenton had wanted to expand his business and have all kinds of events at Birchingley, not just dog and horse shows. I think he’d wanted to start holding fairs and concerts there but the council planning department wouldn’t give him authority and allow the change of use. We had around £7,000 worth of equipment stored there, which was all taken by the receivers. I visited the venue and it was all gone." The venue, being normally used for equestrian pursuits, required certain equipment such as indoor gas heaters and floor matting to go over the earth floor to make it safe for people and dog events, which was stored for the NDC at Birchingley.

Years after the NDCs demise, in November 2006, Mr. Jennings was once again drafted in to find any remaining money and on investigating the centre’s accounts he managed to locate the NDCs remaining funds-totalling almost £20,000. He and Chairman Jack Taylor steered the meeting held on Tuesday, November 6th to decide whether to carry on or wind up the dog centre idea.

After much discussion – some of it quite heated - there was a unanimous vote to wind up the Northern Dog Centre, due to lack of enthusiasm for the organisation and the realisation that to proceed would require huge sponsorship and funding beyond the capabilities of the NDC members. So it was decided that the left over money be distributed to good canine causes. Jack Taylor, NDC Chairman since 1987 summed up: "Unfortunately there is a lot of apathy in the dog world which has killed off the idea of the NDC".

After voting on members’ nominations, equal share of the NDC pot- over £19,000, will go to Canine Partners for Independence, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, Dogs for the Disabled and Cancer Research for Dogs, in memory of Mrs. Mary Scott. Special thanks were extended to Mr. Jennings for his hard work given freely over many years in the set up and organisation of the NDC and its many events.

Retired policeman and almost octogenarian Mr. Jennings, noted for his organisation of the acclaimed Top Puppy contests commented: "It’s a sad day but a relief to finish it- it’s been going on too long now- it needed to be finally finished".