Friday, 27 November 2015

The Con Club on Wilbraham Road ............. a painting and a mended clock

The thing about a landmark is that it pretty much gets taken for granted, which I suppose is my excuse for not giving much attention to the Con Club on Wilbraham Road.

The former Conservative Club, 2012

It had already been there for over 80 years when I washed up in Chorlton in 1976 and given that I didn’t share its political views it was somewhere I never visited.

More recently I had occasionally wandered past watching the work being done to transform it into residential properties but hadn’t even noticed that the clock was working again.

It was Peter who alerted me to that small change in the building’s fortunes when we were talking about his painting of the place.

The club had opened in 1892 with a blaze of confidence and a profound belief that Chorlton was a place that the Conservatives would always do well in which is pretty much how the late 19th and early 20th centuries proved to be.

So while they alternated in power locally with the Liberals in the years after the Great War, Chorlton was theirs from the early 1930s till the late 1980s.

But political fortunes can wain and so it was with both the Liberals in the interwar years and the Conservatives after 1985, which in the case of the Con Club led to its sale.

The Conservative Club and Public Hall, 1908
And that in turn made me think of the Public Hall which was part of the Conservative Club.

This too was a bold stroke and offered a venue for everything from amateur dramatics to political speakers and campaigns which in some cases ran contrary to the political views of the Con Club. Victor Grayson Socialist MP for Colne Valley spoke in the hall in 1908 and was heckled by members of the public, some I suspect who had made their way up from the Club below.

A number of drama groups also performed here along with a young John Thaw.*

“The architects were Darbyshire and Smith, who very well known especially for building theatres including the Palace in Manchester) and pubs like the Marble Arch on Rochdale Road.   The front entrance went into the Conservative Club and a side entrance on Manchester Road went upstairs to the Public Hall which had a stage." 

Now I wish I had known all of that when I first walked past it in 1976.

Painting; The Conservative Club  © 2012 Peter Topping


Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

Picture; the Conservative Club and Public Hall, Chorlton 1908 from the Lloyd Collection

* John Thaw, 1942 –2002 appeared in a range of television, stage and cinema roles, his most popular being television series such as Redcap, The Sweeney, Home to Roost, Inspector Morse and Kavanagh QC.

** from Lawrence Beedle,

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