Conservative & Unionist Club
57 - 59 Princess Road, WN4 9DA, Ashton
Part of Group:
At Risk: No
Opened 1906 by Lord Gerard, who also laid the first stone 1905.
Prominent building, now within a residential street and well maintained.
“On our way to school we had to pass the Conservative Club, and every day of the week, going to and from school, we had running battles with the lads from that area, who reckoned they were a cut above us.”
[From “Battered Cherub: The Autobiography of Joe Gormley” (Hamish Hamilton, 1982)]
In his book “The Lancashire and Cheshire Miners” (Frank Graham, 1972), Raymond Challinor attributes the persistence of support for the Conservative Party in 19th and early 20th century working-class districts to two main factors: a) Tory exploitation of working class opposition to Irish immigration; and b) gratitude for a series of measures introduced by Tory governments which, beginning with the 1802 Factory Act, had improved workplace conditions, often against the wishes of the Liberal Party-supporting employers. Added to these factors, no doubt, was a sense that voting Conservative confirmed one's social superiority.
The Blackburn Standard of 13 September 1837 reported that “an Operative Conservative Association in the improving little town of Ashton-in-Mackerfield has been established... The members held a meeting on Monday week at The King's Arms Inn, which was well attended, and very encouraging prospects of success were held out. It was proposed to open a news room, and several new members were enrolled....”. In 1910 the Ashton in Makerfield Conservative Miners' Association was formed and registered at the Conservative & Unionist Club, Princess Road (Registrar of Friendly Society Reports, National Archives ref. FS7). Doubtless this was a reaction to the decision by the Lancashire & Cheshire Miners' Federation in 1909 to affiliate to the Labour Party; the first of the big county miners' unions to do so. Neither organisation made a lasting impact, but the Conservatives were evidently satisfied that they commanded sufficient local support to justify replacing their Bolton Road club -opened in 1886- with new premises.
A report in The Wigan Examiner on the laying of the foundation stone by Lord Gerard on 30 December 1905 described the facilities intended to be provided to members:
“Billiard Room 35ft by 28ft, with two billiard tables and seating all round; Reading Room 15ft 6in by 12ft; Bar 14ft by 9ft, with small cellar in connection thereto; also necessary lavatories and conveniences for club members. The entrance hall is approached by a flight of steps from the public road. The assembly room 36ft by 28ft by 13ft 6in high, on the first floor, is approached by a separate public entrance from the roadway, as well as by a staircase from the main hall. A committee room 18ft by 15ft 3in, is placed over the reading room, and in connection with these rooms there is also a storeroom, 10ft 6in by 9ft 3in and lavatory etc. The caretaker's premises consist of a private kitchen 14ft 6in by 14ft, with scullery and pantry, all on the ground floor, and bathroom and two bedrooms on the first floor. The rooms of the caretaker will be so arranged as to be entirely private, and yet command supervision of the club premises. Back entrances will also be provided so that members will have convenient access to the bowling greens, which are to be laid out on land immediately behind the club premises. The elevations are to be faced with Humcoat's best-pressed bricks, with moulded stone dressings, with roof covered with Welsh slates. The bay windows to billiard room and reading room will have tiled roofs, and the front fence walls will have ornamental iron palisades. The building is being erected by Mr Peter Pennington, builder, of Ashton in Makerfield, from designs by Messrs Heaton, Ralph and Heaton, architects, of Ashton in Makerfield and Wigan.”
The building had been completed and was in use by 30 June 1906, but it was not formally opened until Lord Gerard was again available to perform the ceremony on 20 August.
The Ashton in Makerfield Conservative & Unionist Club continued until 1 June 1992 when it was wound up by petition of one of its creditors, HM Customs & Excise (London Gazette, 23 June 1992). The building has since been divided into flats. A small development of houses and bungalows, known as Kimberley Place, was built on the former bowling green and adjacent land following a grant of planning permission to Rowland Homes Ltd in 1996.
The Makerfield Rambler