The Langham Working Men’s Club (CIU Affiliated)
600 Green Lanes, Harringay, London N8.
From the outside, the Langham WMC looks like a small place indeed, but appearances can often be deceiving! Once inside, you can see that the premises go a long way back from the road with one room leading into another.
This sort of sums up its history- it goes back a long way, more than a hundred years in fact- with the club first officially established in 1910 (though dates back to 1908) but not at the current site.
According to local sources available, the club began life in a house in Langham Road, not far from where the club is situated today. It later moved to an old property above a shop in Turnpike Lane then moved again to its current premises almost 80 years ago.
To begin with, the current building was a large double-fronted house but it was extended back away from the road to provide additional rooms. The use of residential premises to house clubs was very common practice in the early decades of the 20th century. Similar ones can be found all over the country. Club founders, ordinary working men (and some women it has to be said!) had limited resources and means to raise funds so they needed relatively cheap premises to use for their new clubs. Rooms above shops and then houses were often the most suitable premises for clubs such as the Langham.
In 1914, before war broke out, Kaiser Wilhelm II, according the CIU’s Club Journal, wasn’t the only one with ‘territorial ambitions.’ A ‘small but enthusiastic band of clubmen’ from the Langham Club in North London were also planning a move but just around the corner. They would go ‘from the cramped shop in Turnpike Lane that had served inadequately as a “home” to more spacious premises in a former semi-detached house in Green Lanes.’ This is where we still find the club today.
The early Langham Club had strong links to the sport of boxing. There are a couple of reasons for this. Other clubs across the country provided boxing lessons for boys as a way of trying to instill discipline and provide ‘something for lads to do’. This relates to 19th century movements to help curb the perceived ‘excesses’ of working class youth, particularly boys. Whether we agree with this sort of motivation or not, boxing proved popular in many clubs. Another reason for the Langham’s involvement with boxing was its location, being near to Harringay Arena where boxing matches were often on offer.
In the 1960s, the committee thought the original boxing ring was stored under the stage but when a search was made, only old Christmas decorations were found. Most pre-1950 records were lost in a fire but some documents survived about the Langham ABC (Amateur Boxing Club) and it appeared the club had produced some local boxing champions.
A dance floor was later laid in the new concert room. Later on a snooker room was provided upstairs where the offices are also located. The Langham was fortunate to avoid bombing during the war though a few nearby streets suffered direct hits.
The progress over the decades of the Langham Club was often featured in the pages of the Club Journal as well as local newspapers. Refurbishment of clubs was happening all over the country in the 1960s and 70s as clubs expanded and attracted ever-increasing numbers of members. The Langham was part of this trend.
Modernisation is the important keyword in CIU activity today’, ran a Club Journal headline in July 1966, which reported on the club. ‘Today, you’d have to let the imagination work overtime to see the one-time semi as ever having been a private dwelling place. It looks just what it is- a cosy, convivial Club where members can relax with a pint or do battle on the billiards table.’ There was a new bar built and a facelift for the concert room costing £6000. ‘A fleabite, perhaps, by the standards of bigger, wealthier clubs . . . but quite enough to be going with thank you very much, for the members.’
One of the oldest members using the club in 1966 was 78 year-old Fred Shubrook. He could remember the club from its Turnpike Lane days. He was a former president, ‘“But don’t ask me when it was, I just couldn’t tell you. It was hard to keep the Club going in those days. We rented this old shop and there wasn’t room for much more than a bar. There wasn’t much money or many members, just a few dozen of us. But we were proud of the Club and it was a great moment when we moved to the new premises.”’ Fred joined the Club as a founder member in 1908, a few years before it affiliated to the CIU.
Another Club Journal headline relating to the Langham raised the issue of women in clubs-
‘They are all Working Women!’
Women in working men’s clubs were all working women in one way or another, the article explained. This was emphasized by a former Lord Mayor of Haringey, Mrs. A. F. Remington at the Langham Club in 1967. As she pulled the first pint in the club’s new lounge, she told those gathered that as it was a working men’s club, she presumed husbands would take their wives along as well.
The Langham didn’t appear to have rules barring women from the club or certain parts of it unlike others that tried to keep men-only rooms, especially the games room. Women could be ‘lady members’ for a lower annual subscription fee than men but without full rights.
The club today is described by President, Bob Mead, as a ‘family club’ where everyone knows everyone else, and one that looks after its members. But it also cares for others in the community and has always been involved in charity work. They hold many fund-raising events such as for Help the Heroes charity. Apart from regular charities that it supports, the members do spontaneous collections such as when the terrible tsunami hit back in 2006.
Regular entertainment is usually arranged for Saturday and Sunday evenings with some special events on Fridays, such a quizzes. Bingo is also run and a game of snooker can be had. There are regular BBQs organised with the cooking done in the front car parking area. Members can take their chairs outside if the weather is kind to eat their burgers and other goodies.
There is a swing dance club/classes on Monday evenings and line dancing on Wednesdays.
Other facilities include the free hire of the concert room for members.
The smoking ban (July 2007) came on top of the other problems that the Langham, along with many such clubs, are now experiencing. Bob Mead, President of the clubs, saw the ban as a big blow:
‘I reckon that it took away, wintertime, probably about 15-20% of our turnover. Especially the older people, they don’t want to go outside in the rain and the snow to have a cigarette. They tend to just stay at home now where they can have a drink indoors if they want to drink and have a smoke whenever they want.’
There is a ‘smoker’s den’ outside the club.
The club welcomes new members.
For further information, telephone 0208 802 2542. Or walk in and ask for Bob Mead. He’s also a member of Harringay Online.
Author of ‘Not just Beer and Bingo! A social history of working men’s clubs.’
* Club and Institute Union - CIU