‘A Pernicious Influence’
Originally known as the Mildmay Radical Club, it first opened its doors in 1888 at 36 Newington Green Road. It was not universally popular going by the views of the the vicar of nearby St Matthias church, who casitigated its ‘pernicious influence among the young’. But it brushed off such disaproval, moving in 1894 to a new clubhouse on Newington Green, near to the Unitarian chapel. Finally, in 1900 the club we know today was built – now a Grade 2 listed building.
The building was designed by member and architect, Alfred Allen. A plaque on the front wall says the foundation stone was laid on 27 October 1900.
It has a fine red brick facade with some Baroque styling and the site incorporates a former memorial hospital and theatre. Rifle ranges were added to the rear from 1907.
In 1930, the ‘Radical’ tag was dropped and it became the Mildmay Club and Institute, establishing its non-political credentials.
Archive and Oral History
We’re currently working our way through a treasure trove of old documents from the club found in our attic roofspace, including minutes of committee meetings right back to when the club was founded in 1888. We’re also interviewing many of our long-standing members to collect an oral history of the club.
Watch out for more on these exciting projects in the coming months.
The old photographs of the club provide a glimpse of earlier years. At it’s peak the club had over 3,000 members, regular music hall entertainments and a wide range of social activities.
If you have photos or other memorabilia connected with the club’s history do get in touch. We’d love to have a look as we dig deeper into our great heritage.
Frock Coats for the Doormen
These minutes from a committee meeting in 1900 set out that “the two front doormen be provided with uniform frock coats and caps in summer and Great Coats in the winter season”. The billiard room and bar room attendants only to be “provided with caps only.”
Some might say this is a tradition we should revisit altough I doubt the rate of 6d (ie 2½p) per hour would attract many to the role today.
Memories of the Great War
We also have a wonderful collection of letters written by the young men who went to fight in the Great War, with stories of life on the front lines of that terrible conflict, thanking their fellow club members for the gifts of cigarettes and chocolate. Some of the best of these are displayed in the club’s television lounge. They’re well worth a read and make you wonder how many of these young men made it back home again from the war.
The club organised a wide range of sporting activities. This photo is of the officers and club committee along with members of the cricket team. This shot was taken shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, and it’s probable that members of that team fought and died on the battlefield.
Workers of the world
This booklet, produced by the club in 1911 has a print of a mural once visible on the wall of the main hall. It’s a little hard to see in the image here, but it shows workers from all corners of the globe coming together with the fruits of their labours. You can read more about the background to this picture here. You’ll also see that the booklet contains a catalogue for the long gone club library (now the TV/pool room).
The Billiards Room
This extraordinary snooker hall (originally called the billiards room) has survived to this day with nine full-sized tables kept in immaculate condition for members to play on.
Looking deeper into our past
The history of the club is a rich and fascinating one. Local historian Andrew Whitehead has been writing some highly blogs on the club and some of the things he’s unearthed.
And here’s a CIU associate membership card from 1904, reproduced here with the kind permission of Mr David Beasley, whose grandfather became a member in that year. If you’re a member of the club, you’ll have been given a card almost identical to this.
And a bit of a mystery to solve…
This is the special 31-year membership medal Mr Beasley Snr was given in 1935, although we can’t work out what the link to the ribbon in the same box with the dates 1883-1904 might be. We think the initials on the insignia are BGRC. What might they have stood for? (The Club itself didn’t open until 1888).
Other intersting bits and bobs…
- “A place of social intercourse, rational recreation and the advancement of progress in political opinions”.
- Radicals and Newington Green
(If you see interesting articles or stories about the history of the Mildmay, please do let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org)