Leeds & West Yorkshire

Holbeck Working Men's Club honoured with blue plaque

Holbeck WMC Image copyright Slung Low
Image caption The club's building in south Leeds was built in 1877 and is still in use

A blue plaque marking the oldest continuously opened working men's club in the UK has been unveiled.

Holbeck Working Men's Club in south Leeds opened its current premises in 1878, although it had formed seven years earlier.

No other working men's club has been in continuous operation for so long, Leeds Civic Trust said.

The club had a new lease of life when it became home to the Slung Low theatre and community college.

Hugh Gaitskell, former leader of the Labour party and MP for Leeds South between 1945-63, would often frequent the club as did comedian Ernie Wise who was born in Leeds.

Image caption Comedian Ernie Wise and Labour MP Hugh Gaitskell both used the club, said Leeds Civic Trust

The club was formed to help to educate working men as well as holding social and community activities, the civic trust said.

Bars were introduced as a way of making money to plough back into its educational activities, it added.

Built at a cost of £1,172 the club had rooms for refreshment, billiards and a lecture hall for 300 people and opened on Easter Monday 1878.

Image copyright Leeds Civic Trust
Image caption The Leeds Civic Trust plaque records the club's history

Martin Hamilton, director of the trust said "People often complain that blue plaques are given to worthies at the top of their profession but the workers who put in the hours to give them that status are often forgotten.

"This plaque is an opportunity to correct that."

Clubs like the Holbeck were once at the heart of many communities across the UK but changing social habits, demographics and even the smoking ban are all said to have reduced the number of working men's clubs.

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