Tuesday, 26 May 2009

This photograph was taken exactly 100 years ago. Pictured are the members of the Re-Building Sub Committee of the grandly named Birkdale and County Liberal Club. They are standing: Messrs. SW. Chant and H. Norton (Hon. Treasurers) and W. Coward. Seated Messrs. H. G. Williamson (Hon. Secretary) Charles Brumm JP (Chairman) and A. Schofield (Architect).

A hundred years ago there were no fewer than four Liberal Clubs in Southport – a fifth the Craven Ward Liberal Club in Ash Street had closed down the previous year. The other clubs were the Southport Liberal Club at 37 Chapel Street. The High Park Liberal Club in Devonshire Road which later became the Queens Cinema and is now the Devonshire Club and the Gladstone Liberal Club was in Sussex Road. In 1912 another Liberal Club was opened at the Rotunda Buildings, Liverpool Road, Ainsdale.

At that time no intoxicating beverages were sold at any of the Liberal Clubs although the Birkdale Liberal Club’s rules permitted members to bring in alcohol but “only on special occasions and then by consent in writing of the House Committee”.

The Southport Divisional Liberal Association held a five day Bazaar in October 1907 which raised £4,000 three-quarters of which was allocated to the various Liberal Clubs, which suggests that they were not simply social meeting places but also housed much political activity. The Annual Report of the Club for 1909 referred to ‘Political addresses under the auspices of the Debating Society being delivered in the Lecture Rooms’.

The original premises of the Birkdale Liberal Club were situated in Alma Road. More commodious premises were acquired in Eastbourne Road where the Southport Guardian Reported “The Club became a political and social centre of importance in the district”. By 1894 the need for more central premises resulted in premises being acquired at 33 Liverpool Road. The grant of £1,200 from the Southport Divisional Liberal Association enabled the premises to be enlarged and renovated. The Club’s Annual Report for 1909 stated “The members are to be congratulated upon the present appearance of the building, both externally and internally; comfort and convenience have been conspicuously attained in the remodelling of the premises. This has been signally manifested by the large accession of members”.

The distinguished gentleman sitting in the middle of the front row was Charles Brumm JP, known locally as “Our CB” (so as not to be confused with Campbell-Bannerman). He had been Chairman of the Club for five years and in October 1909 was presented by members of the Club with an Illuminated Address.

The balance sheets of the Birkdale Conservative Club and B irkdale Club for 1908 make interesting reading. Significantly the licensed premises of the Conservative Club revealed receipts for refreshments of £316-3-7d whereas their Liberal counterparts totalled £146-5-1d for refreshments and tobacco.
Inevitably the Birkdale Liberal Club did eventually become licensed but gradually lost its Liberal links and in September 1957 it was reported that the committee found it impossible to carry on any longer and the affairs were put in the hands of a liquidator. Subsequently the building opened as the Birkdale Labour Club

My thanks to Michael Braham who has furnished me with this information. Good to know that Birkdale Libs were more liberal than some- allowing alcohol occasionally . Many in Southport will remember when (during the Lib Lab pact I think) when the Labour club sign fell down revealing the old Liberal Club sign.

For contrast I've included a picture taken 100yrs to the day of the present day Lib Dem committee in Birkdale