Brewers call time on Barrow working men's club

The Kill One function room
Image caption The Kill One is understood to be the oldest working men's club in Barrow

Working men's clubs have been part of the fabric of industrial life of so many northern towns for generations.

But with another Cumbria club, The Kill One in Duke Street, Barrow in Furness, pulling its last pints on Saturday, the numbers of clubs are dwindling.

Five of the town's long-standing clubs have also called time including, most recently, the Conservative Club on Abbey Road.

Ken Brown, the Cumbria secretary for the Working Men's Club and Institute Union (CIU), said: "Ten years ago there were more than 50 clubs affiliated to the CIU Cumbria, now we have 33."

Nationally, their numbers have dropped from around 4,000 in the 70s to around 2,000 now.

Second home

The Labour Club in Cavendish Street is one of the town's surviving clubs.

Regular patron John Sale said the Labour Club was firmly part of his life.

"It's just my home. I came here first when I was 12 or 13 - I've lost my mum and dad, they've gone but they fetched me into here and I started playing snooker.

"It's been an important part of my life - all the people that I've met, all the people that have died - we all grew up together.

"But the beer costs a lot more money than it used to."

First established in 1905, The Kill One is understood to be the oldest in Barrow, but one entry on its Facebook page is testament to changing times.

"I am very sad to let everyone know the Kill One will be shutting its doors for the last time Saturday 5th January a big thank you to everyone that has supported the club it will be a sad day, well wishes from all the staff & committee - Jill Dixon, Joanne Jacques, Alison Park, Nikki Roberts, Dawn Denby, Dez Rogers (bar staff) xxx".

Sheila Hitcham, club secretary, said: "With around £200,000 of debt, the receiver is now dealing with everything.

"Sales are down and everything else has gone up - electric, gas, water, wages and the club is not viable any more to run at a loss."


Stewardess at the Labour Club, Kaye Bower, said it was hard to compete with other establishments.

Image caption A lifetime membership for a social institution

"It's the difference in the VAT, the cost of all the different licences - where it was just once every 10 years, you now have to pay for a licence every year, council tax, everything's gone up.

"They don't come out seven days a week anymore.

"I've been here 11 years and I don't have any seven-nights-a-week men, whereas when I started, I had half a dozen."

The working men's clubs face competition from supermarkets and chain pubs.

But Ms Bower said there was still a demand for what the club still has to offer.

"We're not one that caters for the younger crowd - we're mainly for the older crowd - they need somewhere to go, where they feel safe with like-minded people - and this is their place to go."

As well as the Labour Club, the beer taps still pour at four clubs in Barrow, including one at Greengate Street which still has its men-only bar.

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