The Catenian Association is an international association of Catholic laymen with some 10,000 members. Formed in Manchester in 1908 as The Chums Benevolent Association – Manchester No 1 Circle is still active – the name was changed to The Catenian Association in 1910. “Catenian” derives from the Latin word “catena”, a decorative chain, and the symbolism of this is easily apparent: As a chain is formed (united) by its individual links, so are individual members of the Association in their various Circles united by the obligations of membership based around social and charitable ideals within a shared, Catholic faith.
The genesis of East Grinstead Catenian Circle, “the 288th Circle in the Catenian Association”, owes itself to the Crawley Circle which is often referred to as its Mother Circle. Members in Crawley, the 195th Circle in the Association, formed in 1961, recognised in the early 1970s that the potential existed for the development of a new Circle in the neighbouring area of East Grinstead. To gauge interest, some informal social evenings were held in the district to which local Circle Catholic gentlemen were invited. As a consequence, sufficient enthusiasm was apparent and on 17th October 1979, a formal dinner was held at The Felbridge Hotel just prior to which the new East Grinstead Circle was inaugurated by the Association’s then Grand President, Brother Dick Last. The Felbridge Hotel was also designated as the founding venue for the Circle’s monthly meetings.
East Grinstead Circle began with an initial roll of 27 members – Brothers, their title – which included a number of members of Crawley Circle who had taken joint membership while the fledgling Circle “found its feet” under the guidance of its founder President, John Banks who was already an experienced member of the Association. Over the intervening years, through natural attrition, Circle member numbers have ebbed and flowed although the total figure maintains in the thirties – including founder Brothers some of whom are still active.
Meeting venues have also varied and, for over ten years now, East Grinstead Circle has convened its monthly meetings (and some of its other social events) at Rowfant House, a country club with a Christian ethos located a short distance beyond the town.