Thursday, 3 May 2012

So it's farewell to the Conservative Club on Wilbraham Road

I wonder just what the full story is behind the sale of the old Conservative Club.  It was opened in 1892, just nine years after the Conservative Association of Chorlton met at the Lloyds Hotel and took the decision to ask the Egerton estate for some land to build a club.*

During a large part of the 20th century Chorlton returned Tory MPs and councillors. From 1918 to ‘23 and again from 1931 to ‘87 we had a Tory MP.

But from the mid 1980s this dominance seemed less secure, and in the May of 1986 the first Labour councillor was elected in Chorlton and a year later Keith Bradley became the first Labour MP for the Withington Constituency.

So the sale of the building marks perhaps the final chapter in the Conservative presence in south Manchester.  And on this election day I have to record that no Tory literature has been delivered and I have yet to be see one of their canvassers.  Come to think of it the Lib Dem presence has also been low key and our only contact with a political party has been from Labour.

Now I have mixed feelings about the sale of the old Con Club.  Setting aside my own political views and reflecting just on the building it marks the passing of a place that has been a venue for many cultural activities since it opened.  Almost from 1892 it was known as the Public Hall and in its time has had a skittle alley, rifle range and bike park and at least one amateur dramatic group performed there.

Not that I have ever crossed its doors and I have to confess I don’t think any of my friends have either, and more recently other venues seem to be more popular for hosting events.  All of which raises the question of what will be the future of the place?

It is a big building and could I suppose be converted into flats. There are plenty of big properties around Chorlton which have gone this way, and just this month the old school house on the green has undergone its transformation into four houses.

But I guess it is more likely that it will if sold be demolished and replaced by that sort of development which went up on the car park by the Lloyds.
And so with it will go a landmark and a bit of history, not perhaps one that I am entirely comfortable with but still a bit of history.

So I shall close with this photograph of the building which dates from I think sometime in the 1920s.  There are plenty of pictures of the place in the collection, and all could have a claim on being shown.  There is the earliest, which may date to 1895, a few hand painted postcards and some from the 1950s.

But this one has a story and the clue is there on the notice board.  Amongst the announcements for a mass meeting with the MP is an advert for an event with Thomas Scalan who was an Irish barrister, nationalist politician and  the MP for North Sligo from 1909 to 1918 before returning to the Bar in the 1920s.  He was also the barrister who represented the Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union at the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

I would love to know why he was here, but so far there are no press references to him appearing in Chorlton.  Of course he may have been speaking on his role in the Titanic inquiry or on his view on alternative voting systems but that lies in the realm of speculation.  So I won’t go there.

Either way if the sale goes ahead and the developers take over it will mark one more step in the passing of conservatism here in Chorlton.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the Lloyd collection

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