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A Brief History of the Bishop’s Storford Social Club

The  founder  of  Bishop’s  Stortford’s  Working  Mens  Club  was  Rev  Richard  Alliot,  Headmaster  of  the  town’s  Non-conformist  grammar  school  (now  Bishop’s Stortford  College),  which  began  after  he  convened  at  a  public  meeting  held  at  the  Corn  Exchange  on  4  December  1873.  Supported  by  two  members  from the Club and Institution Union, 90 men had joined the club by the meeting’s end. Most  Working  Mens  clubs,  even  though  they  were  teetotal,  started  in  public  houses.  It  was  soon  conceded,  even  by  the  Church,  that  a  pint  of  beer  would not  hinder  the  men’s  mental  and  moral  stimulation  for  which  the  clubs  were  intended.  Bishop’s  Stortford’s  club  wasn’t  established  in  any  of  the  town’s many public houses, but in a small private property behind the Corn Exchange that had previously been used as a wine shop. That  property  was  No  6  Market  Place,  owned  then  by  a  Mr  Heath  and  today  by  Nockolds  Solicitors.  Seeing  the  house  now,  it’s  hard  to  believe  so  many members  could  have  crammed  themselves  inside  it,  despite  the  owner  opening  up  the  old  wine  cellar  to  accommodate  them  all.  Needless  to  say,  the  club quickly outgrew the premises and moved to a much larger Georgian house in South Street. Women  and  commercial  travelers  were  welcomed  at  the  club  from  the  start,  and  a  coffee  room  was  opened  for  their  use.  Members  also  had  access  to  a large  library  and  reading  room,  academic  studies,  billiard  tables  and  ‘refreshment’.  The  club  did  in  fact  surpass  all  expectations,  so  much  so  that  even  the new  premises  was  becoming  overcrowded.  The  problem  of  finding  additional  space  for  recreational  needs  was  solved  in  1878  with  the  purchase  of  the  old Agricultural  Hall  in  Kilburn,  London.  Dismantled  and  brought  to  Stortford,  it  was  then  re-erected  on  land  behind  the  club.  During  the  next  fifty  years,  both club and hall endured much social change but their aspirations contributed a great deal of good for the benefit of the town and its’ community.In  the  1930s,  commercial  interest  in  the  freehold  of  both  the  Working  Mens  Club  and  the  Great  Hall  led  to discussions  on  its  possible  sale,  and  by  1936  purchase  of  a  new  site  for  the  club  was  firmly  on  the  agenda.  The availability  of  a  derelict  plot  of  land  next  to  Holy  Trinity  church,  costing  only  £500,  somewhat  hastened  the decision  and  an  offer  of  £8,500  for  the  freehold  of  both  club  and  hall  was  accepted  in  December  1936.  It  was  a controversial  decision  that  led  to  much  protest,  but  a  deposit  of  £50  was  paid  for  the  site  and  by  April  1937 plans  for  a  new  club,  costing  £5,500,  were  produced.  Built  within  a  year,  it  was  ceremonially  opened  by  C.  W. Randall on 23 November 1938.Membership  continued  to  increase  post  Wolrd  War  II  and  a  decision  was  eventually  made  to  expand  the premises  with  the  addition  of  a  3  bedroomed  flat,  garage  and  committee  room  being  built  at  the  rear  of  the property  during  the  1970’s.  This  allowed  for  a  bigger  cellar,  bar  and  storage  space  as  well  as  more  room  for members, a bigger library and room for a table tennis table!The  Club  continued  to  thrive  but  it  was  not  until  the  1980’s  that  women  were  afforded  associate  membership  but  were  not  allowed  access  to  the  snooker room  or  have  any  voting  rights.  Eventually,  in  1995,  women  were  allowed  to  become  full  members  (with  access  to  the  snooker  room!)  and  they  have proved to be complicit in the promotion of the Club as a welcoming and friendly place to pass the time and enjoy oneself.In  2010,  following  a  great  deal  of  discussion,  the  Club  decided  to  change  its’  name  to  the  Bishop’s  Storford Social  Club  in  an  effort  to  change  its’  genrally  perceived  image  of  a  ‘Workingmens  Club’  to  a  more  inclusive establishment.  In  addition  to  this  the  Club  underwent  a  considerable  refurbishment  program  to  further enhance  the  facilities  with  the  addition  of  a  Function  Room,  professional  kitchen,  carpets,  furniture  and fittings. Good quality food is available on a daily basis with the Sunday roast dinner proving very popular..The  Club  has  always  boasted  that  their  wide  variety  of  lagers,  real  ales,  cask  beers  and  wine  prices  are  the most  competetive  in  the  local  area  and,  despite  the  opening  of  other  establishments  offering  some  cheap drinks,  we  maintain  that  we  are  still  in  that  position.  This  has  been  enhanced  of  accreditation  status  from  the Cask  Marque  organisation  for  the  quality  of  our  real  ales.  Thanks  for  this  are  largely  due  to  the  negotiating skills of the Manager and the prudent stewardship of the Club by the Managing Committee.Live  entertainment  features  on  a  regular  basis  which  is  well  attended  and  appreciated  by  the  members.  Families  are  encouraged  to  use  the  club  and facilities  for  such  are  available.  A  well  appointed  and  sunny  patio  with  it’s  own  bottle  bar  is  very  popular  during  the  summer  and  outdoor  functions including music festivals. The spacious, modern lounge is fully air conditioned with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.There are a wide range of facilities and activities in the Club which include the following: -Live  music,  Music  Festivals,  karaoke,  juke  box,  gaming  machines,  darts,  snooker,  pool,  crib,  raffles,  prize  draws,  probably  the  biggest  Christmas  Draw  in  the area,  bingo,  poker  nights,  members  and  family  outings,  SKY  TV,  BTTV,  large  screen  projector,  6  large  screen  televisions  including  an  85”  screen  in  the function room, family fun days, spot prize nights, horse and dog raceday outings, golf days, free newspapers, library, private function room, etc.

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