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.