Unusually for contemporary clubs, it had a publishing arm. The publishing arm was instrumental in publishing Cobden's collected speeches in 1870, under the co-editorship of John Bright, one of the club's early patrons. Because of its Free Trade connection, it mainly attracted Liberals as members, but with the fading of both the Liberals as a national force, and of Free Trade as a popular cause, the club fell into decline in the 20th century. The popularity of Temperance reform among members also made it unappealing to potential recruits with the passing years.
In 1958 the Cobden Club, by now moribund, was taken over by the classical liberal activist Oliver Smedley. Like many other clubs, it went through substantial financial difficulties in the late 1970s, and closed at the end of that decade.
It is unrelated to a modern west London private restaurant and bar of that name founded in 1996, which claimed to be a "refounded" Cobden Club, but which has no connection to the old club, and instead offers live theatre, burlesque, and music by way of "art and entertainment for the working man".
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