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Working men's club

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Hugglescote Working Men's Club, North West Leicestershire

Working men's clubs are British private social clubs first created in the 19th century in industrial areas, particularly the North of England, Midlands, Scotland, Northern Ireland and South Wales Valleys, to provide recreation and education for working class men and their families.



The first working men's club opened in 1857 in Reddish.[1] Wisbech Working Men's Club & Institute was formed in 1864 in Wisbech, Isle of Ely, and moved to its present site in 1867. It was once the most financially successful of all the clubs in England, with over 1,300 members in 1904.[2]

The Holbeck Working Men's Club.

Working men's clubs provided a framework for members to engage in a range of political, educational, or recreational activities. [3][4]

Despite the original educational ambitions, most working men's clubs are now mainly recreational. Typically, a club would have a room, often referred to (especially in Northern England) as a vault, with a bar for the sale and consumption of alcohol, snooker, pool or bar billiards tables, as well as televisions for sport entertainment; many provide food. A much larger room would be connected, often called the concert or entertainment room, with a stage and a layout of tables, stools and backrest sofas. They often provide night time entertainment, mainly at the weekends such as bingo, raffles, live music cabaret and comedy, playing popular music. They are also known for their charitable works.

Declining membership has seen many clubs close down and others struggle to remain open.[5]

Streethouse working men's club, West Yorkshire

Membership and structure


Working men's clubs are cooperatives run by their members through a committee, usually elected annually. Each club has rules that tend to be vigorously enforced. The committee will discipline members (common punishments being a warning, or a ban for a period) for violations. Despite the name, women are allowed to be members in many clubs, and virtually all clubs allow entry to women. Non-members are not allowed entry unless signed in by a member.

In the UK they are registered as co-operatives under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, normally using model rules[6] supplied by the Clubs and Institutes Union.

A dispute at Wakefield City Workingmen's Club in 1978 led to a national campaign for equal membership rights for women. Sheila Capstick, whose husband was an activist in the NUM, had been a regular snooker player at the club before a ban was instituted on women playing snooker. Her protest, A Woman's Right to Cues, developed into a nationwide campaign for equal rights: ERICCA – Equal Rights in Clubs Campaign for Action. In April 2007, after the resolution had been consistently rejected over years, the Club and Institutes Union accepted equal membership rights for women.[7]

Club and Institute Union


Most clubs affiliate to the Working Men's Club and Institute Union (commonly known as the CIU or C&IU). The CIU is affiliated to the Committee of Registered Clubs Associations. A member of one affiliated club is entitled to use the facilities of other clubs. There are 2,200 affiliated working men's clubs in the UK.[8]

The CIU has two purposes: to provide a national voice for clubs, and to provide discounted products and services for clubs.



Until 2004, clubs ran a brewery at Dunston, Tyne and Wear, which brewed ales and lagers under the Federation brand. The brewery and brands were sold to Scottish & Newcastle for £16.2 million,[9] although CIU clubs still receive discounted beer.

Impact of 2007 smoking ban


A poll by the British Institute of Innkeeping and the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations found that overall revenue was 7.3 per cent down as more men opted to drink at home, where they could also smoke.[10]

See also



  1. ^ Scapens, Alex (29 August 2007). "Club celebrates its 150 year history". men. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Miscellaneous institutions". British History Online. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  3. ^ Levy, Carl. Socialism and the Intelligentsia, 1880-1914. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987.
  4. ^ Burd, Van Akin, "Frederick James Sharp: 1880-1957." The Book Collector 44 (no 4) Winter 1995: 543-573.
  5. ^ "BBC News – Brewers call time on Barrow working men's club". BBC Online. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2013. Ken Brown, the Cumbria secretary for the Working Men's Club and Institute Union (CIU), said: 'Ten years ago there were more than fifty clubs affiliated to the CIU Cumbria, now we have 33.'
  6. ^ "CIU Home Page" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Club women win fight for equal rights at last". Yorkshire Post. Leeds, UK. 2 April 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  8. ^ "WMCIU Branch contact details". Archived from the original on 22 March 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  9. ^ "Scottish & Newcastle – Financial News". Scottish & Newcastle plc. 14 July 2004. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  10. ^ "Working men's clubs hardest hit by smoking ban". Daily Telegraph. 18 December 2007.