The Dial House Club, Sheffield
The Dial House Club was once one of the most popular clubs in Sheffield, according to Club Historians sources. According to one of the founding members and former Secretary Mr. Goodison, it was a ‘shining star’ in clubland. It was a desirable place for performers to appear at and the members used to flock there for the entertainment, general social life and camaraderie on offer.
It even attracted the attention of one of post-war Germany’s most accomplished documentary film-maker, Peter Nestler! (See Links and Reviews on this site.)
The club was set up by a group of 25 men in the late 1930s, who pooled their money together and raised funds to buy the old Dial House. This once belonged to a wealthy, local family on what would have been the outskirts of the city until new estates were built during the inter-war years.
After it was opened for business and affiliated to the CIU in 1939, it quickly attracted many members. In 1946, there were 2400 members with 800 lady members.
It employed quite a few bar staff, a steward and his family, pot collectors, cleaners and had its own resident band: Alfredo and his players. A regular singer at the club was Claude Powell, with his ‘voice of velvet’. If he were around today he would win X Factor without even trying!
Other local entertainers included the tenor Tony White whilst many famous names from the Sheffield area might sometimes turn up: Tony Christie, Dave Berry, Joe Cocker and Marty Caine. A concert room was built and other extensions were made around the old Dial House building with a bowling green on the outside.
When Peter Nestler made his film in 1965, the club was thriving- this was the heyday of the clubs, as we know already. When Isabella Wiedersich visited in 2004 to make her ‘Forty Years On’ film, she learnt that the Dial House club was struggling but hoping to overcome its difficult and continue well into the future. It suddenly closed the following year due to financial difficulties. The disappointed members could do little to reopen it.
It became derelict and like many abandoned clubs, subject to vandalism and arson. When Ruth from Club Historians first visited in late 2010, the Dial House was still standing (it is a listed building) but looked in a sorry state. The other buildings were gone.
In November 2012, much of the land around the old house has been redeveloped with two blocks of flats, one of which houses the marketing suite. (At that point, no-one had moved in.) The Dial House itself is destined to become 3 houses, retaining the old character and fascade, combining it with the new. Eventually, people will make their homes on the land that used to house the popular club. Times change but there is still very much a sense of loss that this club suddenly closed for good.
Fortunately, some valuable documents were collected for posterity before the club’s demise as it was recognised that they were a valuable piece of social history just too good to throw away. They were carefully catalogued as best could be in date order, ranging from inaugural documents in the 1930's through to receipts, letters and the full spectrum of day to day running of the club, to its closing in 2005.
These are now lodged with Sheffield Archives:
The material stored is as follows - Sheffield Dial House Social Club.
Correspondence, programmes, financial records etc are arranged in the following lever arch files
A social History 1938-1979, 1980-2005
CIU Convalescence 1976-1995
Balance sheets 1979-2005
Bass (brewers) lease 1992-2000
Community Resource Committee 2004-2006
Records of goods (cigarettes and chocolates) delivered 1977-1980
The documents Accession number is - 2006/123
The details have been added to the computer catalogue and, subject to certain restrictions, the items will be made available to researchers under supervision.
We can thank Mr. Pete Williams for doing this and to alerting Club Historians of the information and where we can now find it. He has saved a good resource for us all even though the wonderful club has been lost.
What are also not lost are the memories of the club held by former members and entertainers. A group of them gathered together at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield, Sunday afternoon, November 11th, 2012 to watch a special screening of Nestler’s film, A Working Men’s Club in Sheffield. Afterwards Ruth had the pleasure of facilitating a sharing of memories and there were certainly plenty! People remembered the club fondly, some had even met their spouses there! This was the case with singer Sue and her husband.
One woman in the audience was actually in the film! Rosa Allender, was captured stroking a cat along with another woman, one of the many street scenes Nestler shot around Sheffield. Entertainers were recalled and named such as David Booth, recognized as the guitar player in the duo we first see in concert in the film. These and others, as well as other local clubs such as the Crookes Club (still open for business!), were talked about during the very lively and warm post-film discussion.
Some of the older members of the audience hadn’t stepped foot inside the cinema for years but had made the effort to come along to see this film about a club they loved and knew.
It was a fantastic get-together of Dial House and other club folk- I hope not the last. The club may be gone now but the vivid memories are still with us!
©2008/12 - Club Historians