Northenden Social Club - A brief look at the Club’s History
Northenden, in the early part of the century was still very much a Cheshire village. It was known for it's church which was mentioned in the Domesday Book and it's proximity to the river Mersey.
Most of the local people were engaged in the market garden industry for which the district was famous for so long. Each Easter and Whitsuntide thousands of townsfolk flocked into the village for the "wakes" and the attractions of the river. Sundays, particularly in the summer, would see the people of Didsbury, Withington and Rusholme queuing at the Didsbury terminus for the horse drawn bus which would bring them "clip clopping" down the road to the "Church Inn" disembarking for the boats and fair, and to buy flowers and vegetables.
It was in this village atmosphere that the club was born. The idea of the club was one of the good things to come out of the first world war and had it's origin in the minds of ex-servicemen in 1919 with four years of war behind them. In such a club they could meet and continue the comradeship of the trenches and the camps.
It's first premises, like those of many village clubs was a converted army hut. The hut was used by the medical officer at Heaton Park. To buy it cost 114 pounds, the club had to find another 412 pounds to pay for it's removal and erection. The furniture included a second hand snooker table at a cost of 173 pounds. The formal opening ceremony was performed by Sir George C Hamilton cousin of the then rector of Northenden, the Rev. F.C. Lowery Hamilton.
Up to 1923, membership of the club had been confined to ex-servicemen, but there was a need to extend the club's activities, and the constitution was altered to permit others to join and the name became the Northenden Comrades and Social Club.
In the same year the Northenden Comrades and Social Club limited was formed to purchase the land, erect a club, develop the grounds and shoulder a mortgage of some 2,300 pounds. The purchase of the land and erection of the club caused financial problems and in October 1925 a large bazaar was held in the Northenden stadium, now demolished, lasting for three days under the patronage of the Earl of Derby P.C. G.C.B. G.C.V.O. and had as it's object the raising of 2,000 pounds. Stalls of all sorts were manned by club members. Children’s competitions and plays arranged, side shows of many kinds were popular.
The opening of the present premises was performed on Saturday 24th April 1926 by Alderman T.R. Hewlett with a key presented to him on behalf of the club committee. Rule books were issued, setting out the policies of the club and stressing that it should always remain non-political and non-sectarian.
Money was tight and it was necessary to let off the dance room fairly frequently. The local residents association held dances on Saturday nights as did the Cyclist Touring Club and Co-operative Men's Guild. Eventually a Ways and Means Committee was formed raising money, advertising on the screen of the Forum Cinema for members, local paper, hiring of the dance room.
At this stage another change took place in the constitution when ladies were accepted for membership, rather under sufferance, and without any voting powers. The room allocated to the ladies was sparsely furnished, mainly by gifts from members, included a carpet, chairs, one or two tables, a triangular three seater and some screens which keep out the draughts when playing cards. They had no access to the bar in the billiard room and a bell was fitted to call the attention of the steward or waiter, but they soon raised complaints "nobody paid attention to it." At a later date a battery operated telephone was installed. The ladies room was taboo to male members who could only enter on a Sunday by invitation. One luxury the supply of magazines each week and for the men the Manchester Guardian.
Eventually a lean-to annexe was added to the building and this was used for meetings, tennis teas, whist drives and so on. It was very useful for the New Years eve buffet, which was provided by the lady members.
Indoor billiards was the game played for many years until a set of snooker balls was purchased as a trial and was strictly confined to No 1 table.
The Billiards room has always been strictly a male province and ladies were not allowed to set foot in it. In the early days one or two ladies did venture in and were spotted and ticked off by an official who referred to them as Bolsheviks and had to apologise very sincerely to the ladies committee of that time. One of the features of the snooker room is the scoring clocks which are quite unique and obtained by Mr T Sheridan whilst he was on civil defence duty during the war.
As the majority of members were not now associated with the forces it was agreed at an annual meeting in 1938 to change the name of the club to "NORTHENDEN SOCIAL CLUB"; a new flag was designed and purchased to suit the new title.
The coming of the second world war took 40 male members and some young lady members away in the forces, others doing their bit in the home guard. Some 1,570 square yards of the ground for air raid shelters. The shelters were used sometimes in the evening by members during the raids. Beer and spirits were in short supply it was not uncommon to see snooker players with pints of water on the ledges which they drank from force of habit.
The conditions however did not stop the coming of age celebrations, special events were run including a large concert from stage and radio. These included artists such as TOMMY TRINDER, VIOLET CARSON, DONALD PEERS, BERYL REED, ISOBEL BAILEY.
On the evening that Beryl Reid appeared her accompanist was missing and she required a pianist for part of her act a frantic search for someone to play the piano, as a last resort it was suggested that the organist and choirmaster from the local church might agree, which he did with reluctance. When the time came he laboriously pounded through the music. Poor Beryl leant over him, stroked his hair and said "swing it daddy" but he still plodded on to the amusement of the audience.
During the war the club was also used by members of the Free French and Polish Air Force personnel, some spent their last night alive in the club.
After the war many young members returned from the forces, and new and active members joined to play tennis and other amenities. The entertainments committee provided a number of events such as dances to a band or gramophone, table tennis, whist drives and gala nights.
In the late 1940's the entertainment was extended to the production of one-act and full length plays, acted and produced by members with great success and were well received.
Over the years many types of entertainment were but on, such as a darts throwing exhibition with a thrower also using six inch nails with which he could hit very small objects, particularly from a person's ear, if he could get a brave volunteer. a magic evening, a wine tasting night, cheese and wine party, a night with a hypnotist, a mannequin parade and a pleasant night with coloured slides.
With the increase in bowling it was decided to erect the memorial hut for the use of. lady members were becoming very interested in spite of the fact very few lady bowlers and only accepted on the green accompanied by their husbands. A second bowling green had been on the cards and it was finally agreed to demolish the air raid shelter, eventually No 2 green was constructed
The early sixties saw quite a few things happening. Even to having to buy a new flag pole as the old one was in poor condition and considered dangerous. The new one was 22ft in length and cost 7 shillings per foot.
A flower fund was run by Mrs Sheridan under which flowers were sent to lady members who were in hospital or unfortunately ill at home. This eventually was abused by some members who expected flowers to be sent "even if they had a cold."
During his year as president Mr Arthur Hilton kindly donated an ornamental chain to hold the president's medallion and is still in use today.
For a few years it was felt that the club should contribute more to charities and the President's charity fund was instituted under which the President of the year would nominate a charity to which any monies should be sent. It was agreed that during the week between President's Sunday and the President's dance, events would be run to raise money, with a tombola table at the dance. the object was to raise money to be sent to local deserving organisations in the early stages these included Wythenshawe Hospital, Withington Hospital, St Ann's Hospice, Broughton House also to buy equipment for deaf children. In 1969 the sum collected reached over 100 pounds for the first time. Since then however the period of time for events have extended resulting in four and five figure sums raised for charity. Another charitable move was established a seat in the flower beds in front of the cenotaph which has proved to be a boon too many people of Northenden.
Once or twice in annual reports the secretary made reference to "the wind of change" which he felt was approaching the club in ever increasing force, brought about by the growing membership and hope it would not sweep away the homely, friendly, and family atmosphere from which the club had been known and was proud of over the years. On two occasions radio presenters have described the club, over the air waves, "AS ONE OF THE FINEST CLUBS IN THE NORTH WEST" and were surprised to find that even at that stage members frequented the club although there was no "Bingo" and no "Artistes".
The club has been fortunate that it has, in the main, been well served by it's officers and staff from the start and also that the elected chairmen have been strict in their control of the committee and the club generally. Mr J Mayne held office for a number of years with the same wise guidance can be continued and the same loyalty, friendliness maintained by the members themselves, there should be little cause for concern in the future.
With over NINETY YEARS of tradition and achievement behind it, with it's own club tie, Presidents chain of office, a large membership and it's policy to remain non-sectarian and non-political, Northenden Social Club must remain unique and something with which the members should be proud to be associated.
May it continue to fulfill a valuable social asset in the life of the one-time Cheshire Village of Northenden..
TOM SHERIDAN 1986
With thanks to Mr NORMAN SMITH.
Grateful thanks from Club Historians to Graham Knagg
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