Ardwick Lads Club: A History of Altruism, Philanthropy and Forgotten Communities

7 Nov

Front of Ardwick Lads Club (1897) on Palmerston Street, Ancoats, showing scaffolding as the process of demolition begins in late November 2012 . © 2012 HistoryME.

 On the 10th September 2012 an application for prior notification of proposed demolition was submitted on behalf of Manchester City Council to Manchester Planning, for the demolition of Ardwick Lads’ Club (Ardwick Youth Centre) of 100 Palmerston Street (M12 6PE), citing that there was “no use” for the building in respect to its historic place within the community as providing a refuge and sporting provision to the young of Ancoats.

The River public house (58-60 Palmerston Street), with Ancoats Primary School in 2010. © Gene Hunt 2010.

The River public house (58-60 Palmerston Street), with Ancoats Nursery School (demolished) in the background in 2010. © Gene Hunt 2010.

All historical, architectural and any potential future use within existing and wider regeneration processes were quickly dismissed. More details on the planning application can be read here: 100472/DEM/2012/N2

Whilst permission to demolish was “not required” (Decision Letter, 8th October 2012), it begs the question, was it in the communities best interest to strip yet another community, sporting, cultural and historical asset from an area already critically lacking.

A last ditch attempt to save and spot list Ardwick Lads Club on historical and architectural grounds was dismissed by English Heritage and backed by the Secretary for Culture Media and Sport, with no attention paid to local significance or importance.

After the closure of Ancoats Nursery School (March 31, 2007) and its subsequent languishing neglect until it was demolished in 2011, the Ardwick Lads Club along with the River Inn also on Palmerston Street were the last fragments of an almost forgotten history of how Ancoats continued to rapidly develop in the 19th century.

Ancoats Nursery School on Palmerston Street, 1965. Courtesy J. Shaw.

Ancoats Nursery School (demolished) on Palmerston Street, 1965. Image courtesy J. Shaw.

With the demolition of Ardwick Lads Club, it seems certain the slowly decaying River Inn public house will follow shortly afterwards and the adjoining mid-19th century house which later became part of the pub, completing the decimation and total destruction of a once vibrant,  culturally and historically architecturally rich area, which started in the 1960s. Finally cementing the final chapter of the history of this part of Ancoats. Make up your own minds if Ardwick Lads Club should have been saved or not, hope you enjoy reading.

Extracts from the application for spot listing are detailed below:

‘Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings’, DCMS (2010), notes that the Secretary for Culture Media and Sport considers a building’s architectural and historic interest when deciding whether to list it. Under the principles of historic interest an application for spot listing was submitted for Ardwick Lads’ Club (1898, architect: W&G Higgingbottom).

Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour (25 July 1848 – 19 March 1930) © UofG.

As demonstrated below, this building illustrates important aspects of the nation’s social, economic and cultural history and has close associations with figures of national importance, including AJ Balfour, who was concurrently the UK’s Prime Minister and the President of Ardwick Lads’ Club, whilst later becoming a controversial Foreign Secretary under David Lloyd George (1916–19) and where his legacy was shaped, notably in his letter to Baron Rothschild now known as the Balfour Declaration in which he favoured the establishment of Palestine and a national home for the Jewish people. The declaration however, did state that the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities should be protected.

There is also sufficient quality of interest in the physical fabric of the building itself to justify the statutory protection afforded by listing.

Age and rarity

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Wednesday 29 November 1905. © 2012 HistoryME.

English Heritage’s Pastscape website notes that ” The Ardwick Lads’ and Mens’ Club, now the Ardwick Youth Centre, opened in 1897 and is believed to be Britain’s oldest purpose-built youth club still in use [and was until earlier in 2012]. Designed by architects W & G Higginbottom, the club, when opened, featured a large gymnasium with viewing gallery – where the 1933 All England Amateur Gymnastics Championships were held – three fives courts, a billiard room and two skittle alleys (later converted to shooting galleries). Boxing, cycling, cricket, swimming and badminton were also organised. At its peak between the two world wars, Ardwick was thee Manchester area’s largest club, with 2,000 members.”

In particular, to this day, Ardwick Lads’ Club retains immense value as a central, integral and critically important focus for the development of the Youth Movement in England continuing a tradition that started in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It is one of the earliest remaining examples of a lads’ club, and importantly, it retains its original exterior and much of its original interior – both in a predominantly sound condition. Its national significance as a facility was captured in the English Heritage published and Manchester City Council sponsored publication, “Played in Manchester” (2004) by Simon Inglis.

Aesthetic merits

Canada House (1909) on Chepstow Street . Image courtesy J. Shaw.

In 1887, the Manchester Evening News described the new building as “handsome” and “surpassed by no other [such facility] in Manchester” and containing “lofty and well lighted rooms”.  The building merited inclusion in Pevsner’s update to Pevsner’s Lancashire: Manchester and the South East (Hartwell et al, 2005, p. 384). This notes the “red brick with a little ornamental faience” as being worthy of the reader’s note.

The architects, W & G Higginbottom, are notable in Manchester for designing a number of Manchester buildings such as the Bridge Street Children’s Mission, Nos 51-53 Piccadilly, and Nos 59-61 Piccadilly (Clayton House), St Clements Church in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, and the Grade II listed Canada House (home to English Heritage’s North West office).  Like Canada House, the terracotta dressings of Ardwick Lads’ Club reflect the noted house style of this renowned firm of Manchester architects.

Manchester Central Station (1880)  in 1917. © 2012 HistoryME.

The contractors were successful and significant Robert Neill & Sons, who amongst many nationally important buildings, their work can be seen today in Manchester in a number of their constructions, including Manchester Central Convention Complex (formally Manchester Central Station and later GMEX) and the former railway goods Great Northern Railways warehouse on the corner of Deansgate and Peter Street. Two of Manchester’s largest and most prominent buildings. The lack of evidence also suggests that Ardwick Lads Club was a unique development in the history of Robert Neill & Sons, with no other building of this type built by the contractors.

Photographs evidencing the building’s architectural merit with associated commentary are included here:

Fig 1: Fine terracotta detail on front elevation. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 2: Detail of terracotta mosaic on front elevation. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 3: Detail of terracotta patterning on front elevation. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 3: Detail of terracotta patterning on front elevation. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 4: Detail of decorative patterning on front elevation. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 3: Detail of decorative patterning on front elevation. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 5: Detail of decorative patterning on front elevation. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 6: Original guttering intact and in-situ. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 7: Original drain pipes intact and in-situ. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 8: Original chimney pots in-situ. © 2012 HistoryME.

Fig 9: Detail of superior brickwork on front elevation. © 2012 HistoryME.

Selectivity

Murrays Mill on Murray Street, built in 1798.

Murrays Mill on Murray Street, built in 1798 and at the heart of Industrial Revolution.

Ardwick Lads’ Club is placed at the vanguard of the youth-club movement, as noted above, and is especially important because its building contributes towards the value within the historic townscape and landscape as a whole in Ancoats, the world’s first industrial suburb, within Manchester, the world’s first industrial city.

Too much of heritage value has already been lost in the neighbourhood, however Ancoats retains a suite of nationally and internationally important buildings, including Ardwick Lads’ Club. Buildings like Ancoats Hospital (1873), St Peter’s Church (1859) and Ardwick Lads’ Club contextualise the listed 18th and 19th century mills and warehouses that are being considered for a World Heritage Site bid by demonstrating the wider philanthropic values and social conditions of industrial Victorian England. A period and place of which that directly inspired the social commentary of Charles Dickens’ tenth novel and John Ruskin’s favourite, Hard Times (1854), which uniquely stands as the only novel Charles Dickens ever wrote that didn’t portray Victorian London.

“Untitled [notorious headmaster Mr Thomas Gradgrind apprehends Louisa and Tom, his two eldest children, at the circus]” by Harry French, 1870s. This image is in the public domain.

In Hard Times Dickens conjured a fictional cesspool, a dark, smog- choked Coketown (Ancoats) directly inspired by his visits, like so many other notable writers in the late 19th century, such as Beatrix Potter and Elizabeth Gaskell, to Ancoats, where he witnessed the monotony of everyday life, as the underclass toiled away at machines (“melancholy mad elephants”) in the seemingly endless factories and mills (“monstrous serpents of smoke“) and enduring the appalling inhumane “hell on earth” slums, while their greedy owners got fatter on profits with their enduring thirst for business :

It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of buildings full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness.

Dickens’ Hard Times, like Elizabeth Gaskell’s industrial novels Mary Barton (1848) and North and South (1855), highlighted some of the major

Ancoats Dispensary

Ancoats Dispensary

social issues that affected many of poorest people, embodied in industrialised cities like Manchester.It is greatly important that the coherence of Ancoats’ built environment and socio-economic narrative and history is not undermined by the demolition of Ardwick Lads’ Club.

Retaining lads’ clubs elsewhere is not and cannot be a substitute for retaining one in Ancoats, given the major contribution it makes in situ there to the national historic stock and in the context of world history, for which Ardwick Lads’ Club as part of the Ancoats story has played a significant role. English Heritage’s website references the work it has conducted on the economic benefits of the historic environment, specifically through tourism and regeneration schemes.

Ancoats is a major regeneration area, whose long-term sustainability and desirability would benefit from the retention of key historic buildings such as Ardwick Lads’ Club and as stated by English Hertitage: Understanding how places change, what makes them distinctive and the significance of their history is the key to regeneration. Ardwick Lads’ Club is not a derelict monument to times gone by, it is intact and as part of the Ancoats story and similarly like Castlefield, as the potential to reinforce the research done by English

St Peters Church before restoration in 1996. Courtesy J. Shaw.

St Peters Church before restoration in 1996. Courtesy J. Shaw.

Heritage. Specifically that historic places attract investment; create a sense of place with often a greater community cohesion; sustainability by re-using historic buildings to minimise the exploitation of resources; historic environment contributes to quality of life and enriches people’s understanding of the diversity and changing nature of their community.

National interest 

Ardwick Lads’ Club was founded in 1889, but the current building was opened in 1897 following a philanthropic donation by Mr Paul H. Schill of Schill, Seebohm & Co, merchants established in Manchester City Centre on Whitworth Street. This type of Victorian philanthropy is currently receiving significant attention in light of the Government’s ambitions for the ‘Big Society‘. Further, that the philanthropist in question was German-Jewish evidences a historical narrative of the long-standing success of multiculturalism in Manchester, and the Ardwick Lads’ Club building, whilst still extant, provides important evidence of the benefits of community cohesion.

Portrait of Lord Balfour, along with his famous declaration.   This article incorporates public domain material .

Portrait of Lord Balfour, along with his famous declaration. This image is public domain material .

Nationally, significant figures were associated with the Club in the early 20th Century. The most significant of these was The Right Hon. A.J. Balfour who was re-elected as Club President in November 1905 (as recorded by the Manchester Chronicle, 29/11/1905) when he was MP for Manchester East and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a post he held from July 1902 to December 1905.

Later, as Foreign Secretary, Balfour is also remembered for authoring the Balfour Declaration of 1917, supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Thomas Coglan Horsfall by Frederick Beaumontl (1861-1954). is reproduced here with the permission of The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester.

Thomas Coglan Horsfall by Samuel Frederick Beaumont (1861-1954). Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester.

Philanthropist Mr. Thomas Coglan Horsfall, founder of the pioneering Horsfall Art Museum (1877) in Ancoats now demolished, referred to later by the Warden of Toynbee Hall, J. J. Mallon as ‘a civic saint’, chaired the club and is remembered for his pioneering role as a proponent of arts in education creating one of the earliest loan schemes for schools.

Horsfall in his letters to Arts and Crafts Movement leader William Morris argued that Art should become “a teacher, an agent in the social reform and elevation of the people” and that art should not remain to be a mere luxury, solely for the rich and well educated few, but rather it should be “an instrument of the greatest possible culture among the community at large”.

Ancoats Hall, home to Coglans Pioneering Manchester Art Museum. Demolished in the 1960s.

Ancoats Hall, home to Coglan’s cultural beacon and seminal Manchester Art Museum. Demolished in the 1960s.

Horsfall was also a pioneer of town planning and a prominent figure in the official parliamentary lobby group, National Housing Reform Council founded in 1907 (later National Housing and Town Planning Council)  and campaigned for  introduction of town planning in the early 20th century, eventually included in the first Housing Act 1909, which was the birth of town planning and sought to essentially regulate house building and in the process improve public health, the influence of which changed the cities and towns within the United Kingdom forever.

Horsfall saw his community work as ‘giving effect to Ruskin’s teaching’ and indeed, Thomas Horsfall and leading English art critic of the time, John Ruskin corresponded extensively and publicly, and Ruskin gave Horsfall’s projects his approval.  Indeed, Ruskin wrote the introduction to Thomas Horsfall’s The Study Of Beauty, And Art In Large Towns: Two Papers (1883).

In a footnote, Norman Kelvin described Horsfall as, a “a Manchester philanthropist who believed that the wealthy middle class had an obligation to supervise the leisure activities of the working class”. (See Kelvin, editor, The Collected Letters of William Morris, Vol. 11., Princeton V.P., 1987, p.12).

Ardwick Lads Club embodied the very principles that Horsfall lived his life by, that those who have profited from society, are obliged to give something back to society. Principles that endured within the very fabric of Ardwick Lads Club through over a century of continued service to the young and needy of Manchester and carved out of its beautiful and elegantly understated Manchester-Victorian architecture. This was particularly seen in over 80 years that Ardwick Boxing Club had its home at Ardwick Lads Club, where many thousands of young men became better citizens and people for having been apart of the community that was Ardwick Lads Club.

Horsfall’s legacy is such, that today his work still attracts sufficient interest for him to have a inclusion in the current Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Sir Alfred Hopkinson by Bassano

Sir Alfred Hopkinson by Bassano

Similar to Horsfall, Sir Alfred Hopkinson (28 June 1851 – 11 Nov 1939) appears in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and also has eight of his portraits in the  National Portrait Gallery in London.

Sir Alfred Hopkinson was a noted  and prominent English lawyer, academic and MP who came from a notable Manchester family and served as a trustee of Ardwick Lads’ Club.

Hopkinson was Vice-Chancellor of the Victoria University of Manchester (later University of Manchester) from 1901 until 1913.

During the First World War Hopkinson served on the Committee on Alleged German Outrages along with Viscount James Bryce , SirFrederick Pollock, Sir Edward Clarke, Sir Alfred Hopkinson, Sir Kenelm E. Digby, Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, and Mr. Harold Cox.

Noted historians like Gary James and Andrew Davies have both captured the key role that Lads’ clubs, including Ardwick itself, played in the downfall of Victorian scuttling gangs (violent inner-city youth gangs) in Edwardian England. This slice of history, though particularly pertinent in Manchester, is of national interest, particularly as the Government continues to seek policy responses to the widespread rioting experienced in many English cities in 2011.

State of repair

Councillor Rosa Battle, stating the Council as "no use" of Ardwick Lads Club.  © 2012 Manchester City Council.

Councillor Rosa Battle, stating that Manchester City Council had “no use” of Ardwick Lads Club. © 2012 Manchester City Council.

Manchester City Council’s claims that the building is “dilapidated” and “of no practical purpose” (Councillor Rosa Battle, Letters, Manchester Evening News, 09/11/12) runs contrary to Simon Inglis noting in Played in Manchester: The Architectural Heritage of a City at Play (English Heritage 2004), that “even today, under the ownership of Manchester City Council, it is regular used by up to 600 people per week and, although in need of minor refurbishment, remains structurally sound and much loved by the local community.” In addition, following contact with AWOL Studios, highly successfully providers of  flexible, cost effective space for creatives, would have been very interested in looking at Ardwick Lads Club, with the intention of taking the building on. Regrettably, they didn’t even know the building existed or was available.

Refurbishment of some facilities at the Club occurred subsequent to the publishing of Played in Manchester.  Indeed, demand for the facilities would likely have grown further still when sizeable adjacent housing developments are completed in forthcoming years. Indeed it is my perception, and that of many other local residents, that the little publicised consultation period (an A4 poster on the lamp post outside Ardwick Lads Club, and the swiftness with which the Council have since acted in moving toward demolition evidence that the Council are acutely aware both of a) how unpopular the decision to demolish will be locally, and b) the substantial chance that the Secretary of State will spot list the building given its clear historical importance.

The photographs in this post demonstrate the generally good condition of the building, including the exterior walls and interior facilities. It is worth noting that the contractors, the Beech Group prior to the start of demolition, confirmed that the building was watertight and following work to repair a portion of roofing in 2010. With one of the onsite workers evening going as far to say, “there’s not a brick out of place”. Whilst reflecting on the regeneration schemes in his own area (Liverpool), “the same happened;  they demolished everything”.

Florence Institute, Liverpool prior to restoration.  © Copyright Sue Adair

Florence Institute, Liverpool prior to restoration showing extent of severe dereliction. © Copyright Sue Adair

The state of Ardwick Lads Club prior to the beginning of demolition, contrasted greatly with another lads club, the Florence Institute in Dingle, Liverpool, which was in a state of severe dilapidation and a burnt-out shell when English Heritage listed it. Recently officially re-opened  by Prince Charles following the completition of £6.4m restoration work. Without doubt the Florence Institute is like Ardwick Lads Club, a building very much worth preserving. However, beyond its age, there is little or no significant history on a national level attached to the Florence Institute. One of the main reasons English Heritage rejected listing Ardwick Lads Club. This in many of the local residents eyes confirms that like much of their own community, Ardwick Lads Club had been forgotten by English Heritage, whilst ignored by Manchester City Council.

Selectivity Value

The case for spot-listing Ardwick Lads’ Club was strong, particularly given its unique location in Ancoats – the world’s first industrial suburb and its nationally and international significant associations with Balfour and Horsfall in particularly. Legacies that have endured and echoed down the generations and helped shaped the societies and communities we live in.

However, the true importance of Ardwick Lads Club may come as the last brick is reduced to rubble, as it will be testament to how over four decades Manchester City Council has watched a rich tapestry of a unique community unravel as it failed to commit and indeed fulfil its social duties for building better, stronger, more prosperous communities. The demise and eventual demolition of this rare building, should also burden the community of Ancoats themselves, who like many of the buildings in the area have been forgotten and allowed to fall into a state of disrepair with seemingly just not enough voices evident to dent the iron curtain that increasingly surrounds the Manchester City Council.

Ardwick Lads Club seen here in a 1980 slide. Image courtesy J. Crumpton.

Ardwick Lads Club seen here in a 1980 slide. Image courtesy J. Crumpton.

Please see more detailed images of Ardwick Lads Club below.

References

Department for Culture, Media and Sport (March 2010), Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings: General principles applied by the Secretary of State when deciding whether a building is of special architectural or historic interest and should be added to the list of buildings compiled under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, London.James, Gary (2002)

Manchester: The Greatest City: The Complete History of Manchester City Football Club (2 ed.), Leicester: Polar Publishing.Thomas, Trefor, (1999)

Ancoats and the Manchester Slums in Two Late Victorian Novels. Manchesster: Manchester Region History Review.Wilkinson, Paul (1969) English Youth Movements, 1908-30, Jornal of Contemporary History, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Apr., 1969), pp. 3-23. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

If you have information, stories, memories regarding this building, we would like to hear from you.Please contact us by using the form below:

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5 Responses to “Ardwick Lads Club: A History of Altruism, Philanthropy and Forgotten Communities”

  1. Tim jackson February 3, 2017 at 8:54 pm #

    Does anyone have any knowledge of Edward Jackson and ALC in the 20s or 30s I believe he ran the club.

    Like

  2. Anonymous August 21, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    I know this is a few years since this posting but I would like to find out if there is any organisation etc going that has historical records of A.L.C ? My father was a key member in the clubs’ boxing past , 1944-48, and I have many programmes of his exploits for the club at county & national level. It would be nice to share with others. Best,, Ian Eyres.

    Like

  3. qrrhwe@gmail.com November 16, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    very good

    Liked by 1 person

  4. James Swindells August 1, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    I went to ancoats lads and ardwick lads grest times boxing judo and chesd

    Like

    • historyme August 3, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      Hi James

      Thanks for getting in touch. You don’t happen to have anymore pictures by any chance? And please feel free to add anymore information. Want to build up as complete a picture of the club as possible.

      Like

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