Wolstanton High Street Club
A Short History of Wolstanton HSC
by Mervyn Edwards
Wolstanton HSC is still known by the original name of the property, Chetwynd House. This house overlooked High Street, Wolstanton. Sales particulars advertising the sale of the household furniture, greenhouse plants and general effects at Chetwynd House in 1878 indicate the splendour of some of the furnishings. Glass china, china vases, oil paintings, water colour drawings, carpets and hearthrugs, genders and firearms are all mentioned, as are rare plants and ferns. Hot-houses were attached to the house and trees were planted to the front and rear.
In the 1891 Census, Arthur Shorter, earthenware manufacturer, is listed as living at Chetwynd House with his wife, six children and two servants. One of the sons was Colley Shorter, who was later head of the household himself. He was to earn fame as the Managing Director of Wilkinson’s Pottery in Middleport and later, the husband of ceramics designer Clarice Cliff.
In the 1920s, Colley Shorter decided to sell his home to a group of men who, up until then, had been meeting at premises in West View, Porthill from 1916. These premises became affiliated to the CIU in 1917, and the workingmens’ club was born. Its officers were Arthur Kind (president) and Tom Tylor (secretary), and the first steward was Jack Holmes. The members were men from the Independent Labour Party. Bill Gibson, Fred Hassall, Arthur Downing and W. A. Knowles were also among the early club pioneers. Shorter sold the property for £3,500, the members securing a loan from the brewers John Joules and Sons Ltd. In due course, the new club was opened in Chetwynd House. Afterwards, a bowling green was established to the rear. The green was opened on August 4th, 1928 by the President, Mr J. Lindop and Mr W. H. Machin.
During the club’s infancy, lecturers from the Workers’ Educational Association often game lectures at the club emphasising its links with the Labour movement. The club did not admit women members until 1945. Trading conditions were adverse for many years, but with clubs elsewhere booming, the committee decided to take a gamble and approach the brewery for the sum of £7,000 in order to make alterations. The brewery agreed.
In 1955, the local press reported on the opening of a new concert room, built at a cost of £6,000. This was opened by the Mayor of Newcastle, Miss Ethel Shaw. Among the club officials present were E. Whittingham (president), W. Etheridge (vice-president), Councillor H. Shufflebottom (secretary) and L. Whittingham (treasurer). With the building of the new extension, the club’s frontal boundary wall was removed to make way for a car park. Tuesday night dances became popular in the new room. In 1957, a further £1,000 was spent on alterations to the bar. Further alterations were made over the years, notably in 1966, when the old concert room and games room upstairs was made into living quarters for the club steward. The press reported that “A first class concert room has now been added with dressing rooms, toilets and a well-planned stage. A modern bar dominates the palatial lounge. Outside, a new entrance is taking shape”.
Through the years, the Bowls section became an essential part of club activity, with Harry Johnson, the Rileys (Bill, Deryk and Maurice), Alan Bucknall and others making their mark.
Wolstanton WMC was refurbished and officially re-opened in September, 2005, with a brand new fascia sign advertising beers from Coors.
The “Newcastle Times”
July 2nd 1954
“Nearly 30 years ago, Mr Colley Shorter, Managing Director of Wilkinson’s Pottery, Burslem, decided to sell is detached home in High Street, Wolstanton. It was purchased on behalf of a group of men who until then, had been meeting in premises in West View, Wolstanton, and turned into a Workingmens’ Club. Some of those men are still members, among them Bill Gibson, Fred Hassall, Arthur Downing, and ex-Ald. W. A. Knowles. They were among those who shortly after the club was opened, enjoyed a game of bowls on a lawn at the side of the hours; enjoyed it so much that they decided to provide, as soon as possible, a bowling green. Land was available at the rear of the Club, and a new green was opened on August 4, 1928, by the President, Mr J. Lindop, and Mr W. H. Machin…”
The “Newcastle Times”
March 11th 1955
“Club extension: The new concert room at Wolstanton Workingmens’ Club, built at a cost of about £6,000, was officially opened by the Mayor of Newcastle, Coun. Miss Ethel Shaw, a week last night. Among those present at the ceremony were Mr E Whittingham, president, who introduced the Mayor; Mr W. Etheridge, vice-president; Coun. H. Shufflebottom, secretary; and Mr L. Whittingham, treasurer. The Mayor congratulated the Club on its venture. With the building of the extension the frontal boundary wall has been removed to make way for a car park. Tuesday night dances have already become a popular feature in the new concert room”.
The “Newcastle Times”
September 18th 1963
“… The club had its origin at West View, Porthill in 1916. In 1917, it became affiliated to the CIU. Its officers were Arthur Kind (president) and Tom Tylor (secretary). The first steward was Jack Holmes. The members were men of the Independent Labour Party. They carried on their business at Porthill until they occupied the present premises, having purchased them from a Mr Shorter at the terrific price of £3,500. To do this a loan was arranged with the brewers John Joules and Sons Ltd. Members were obliged to take out a 5s. share. It was a continual battle to make ends meet but finally in 1943-4 the mortgage was retrieved – but not before the club had to sacrifice two small dwellings which belonged to the original club. The committee recorded their thanks to a further brewery, Burtonwood, for the magnificent help that they gave by supplying their requirements in wartime when beer and other commodities were really scarce. Even since the Second World War, the club has had the same uphill fight for existence. Property around the club has been demolished and trade has been adverse. From 1948 to 1955 the club was at real rock bottom but the committee which met four and sometimes five times a week were always on the lookout for salvation… With other clubs booming, the anxious committee approached a brewery and with tongue in teeth asked for £7,000. What had they to show to warrant this approach? The answer was ‘Nowt’ – only good will and determination. The brewery agreed and the present concert room was built. It has paid off but not without the same topsy turvy struggle for existence. In 1957 a further £1,000 was negotiated to facilitate alterations to the bar… The club can boast a wonderful bowls team. Their prowess on the green is legend. (The feature goes on to mention Ken Newton and Bill Riley). Members still refer to the very high standard of W.E.A. lecturers at the club. While some members would welcome their return it is doubted whether they would still be appreciated in the way that they used to be…”
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