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 into 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, and establishing its non-political credentials.
The old photographs we have of the club provide a glimpse of the days when the Club was at its peak with 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.
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.
The snooker hall!
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.
A tribute those who didn’t make it home.
Looking deeper into our past
The history of the club is a rich and fascinating one and we’ve digging deeper into it with the help of local historian Andrew Whitehead. You can read some of his entertaining blogs on the club and some of the things he’s unearthed from his investigations:
And here’s a membership card from 1904, reproduced here with the kind permission of Mr David Beasley, whose grandfather became a member in that year.
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)