The Wellfield Working Men’s Club, Rochdale.
1877 – and still here!
The club, one of the oldest in the country dating back to the last quarter of the 19th century, is referred to locally and lovingly as ‘The Welly.’ It started life as the Wellfield Hall Workman’s club and has links to a local building company, the Wellfield Building Co. which leased the new premises to the members of the Wellfield Workman’s club on 10th February 1877.
It registered under the Friendly Societies Act on July 29th 1877. Current committee man and club activist Terry Potts reckons that ‘it must have had more loyal and dedicated members over the years than United has got supporters!’. It moves with the times though is very proud of its long tradition and claim to be one of the oldest in the club movement.
Terry has been working hard with the committee and concerned members to keep the club open in these difficult times, including helping out financially in 2010 when it was nearly closed down.
That was back in March 2010 when the club did close temporarily having run up debts.
Terry led the rapid fight back supported by other committee and club members. Together they managed to raise £40,000 in a matter of days! The reality was stark- get the money together or the Wellfield and 123 years of history are lost for good.
He wrote to Club Historians - ‘When Henry Solly, a Unitarian church minister, set up working men's clubs 150 years ago, they raised funds for local causes, provided informal employment networks, and offered sport and light entertainment for recreation. We know, however, that many working men's clubs - once at the heart of their communities - are in decline. Now a few pioneers including ‘The Welly’ are bucking the trend and attracting old and new members.’
Welcome to The Wonderful World of the Wellfield!
1 Prince Street, Rochdale OL16 5LL
Tel. 01706 646998
The club tries caters for all needs and tastes, young and old alike. This ranges from traditional club entertainment to accommodating all types of events and functions you will need in your journey through life.
There is a lounge, games room and concert room as well as a function room for hire. This is a progressive club that invites 16 year olds who are with a member into the club. Ladies are not strangers to the games room or on the committee!
Recently, the Wellfield has also offered a ‘home’ to at least four other clubs who are sharing the premises, holding their meetings there for example. This is because these other clubs were closed down and lost their premises but we all know that a club is more than bricks and mortar. It’s about its members who don’t disappear when the doors shut for good. They still need somewhere to go to meet up and socialize with their once fellow club members. The Wellfield has kindly and sensibly offered shelter from the storm.
This is a very helpful thing to do and is a strategy that other clubs could well take note of. It helps to keep these other clubs alive even if they no longer have their own building. It prevents them disappearing altogether as many others have. Plus it helps the Wellfield as they have additional custom but the hope is that these clubs will find their feet again, and their own place to hang their sign once again.
Those ones currently ‘sheltering the storm’ at the Wellfield are: The Royal British Legion, The Regiment of Fusiliers, The Solo Club and the Transport Club.
In Terry Potts’ opinion, clubs in general ‘should be moving back (yes back) to some of the original values of the community.
If it were possible to do this without all the modern day constraints!’
The club has a toddlers’ Sunday afternoon session, for parents of 4 to 8 year olds. ‘I would like to go further with a youth club and beyond with a young members club for 16 + eventually leading to full membership.’ Terry believes, as we do here at Club Historians, that Clubs have got to invest in the future. Might sound odd but it’s not just about looking back- the only way to honour the past is to take what is best about it and take it forward. For Terry this means attracting and recruiting the younger generation.
We wish Terry and the Committee of the Wellfield good luck in their endeavours! If you are in the Rochdale area, do pop in!
For more information about ‘The Welly’, go to their website- http://www.wellfieldwmc.com
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