CARICATURE OF JOHN RUTHERFORD
On the 10th August 1865 the club was first inaugurated at a meeting held in Mr. Joshua Ingham’s - Audley Arms public house with Richard Beatty in the chair. It was proposed by Thomas Riley, seconded by Mr. James Brown, that the club should be called “The Working Men’s Reform Club” and this was carried by a majority of twelve. It was also proposed that a committee of five be established to sort out a code of club rules with Messrs Riley, Almond, Ingham, Parkinson and Ashton being elected. On August 24th 1865 the committee met at the Audley Arms and rules were voted on, totalling 16, Rule 3 stated that the subscription should be 8 pence per month and a rule 17 was adopted from Bolton Working Men’s Club. The club officially started on the 11th September 1865, meeting at the Audley Arms and in November 1866 club rooms were established at cottages number 9 and 11 on Audley Lane owned by Henry Shaw from whom they were rented after having been renovated and altered. James Simpson was appointed as House keeper to look after the rooms and keep them clean and lived on the premises rent free. The rooms were available to members till 10pm on weekdays and 11pm. on Saturdays. Mr. J Briggs was voted in as Treasurer, James Almond as secretary with J. Corry voted in as President and J.W. Halliwell as Vice President. It was also agreed to paint the club’s name over the door of the club house and that any committee member arriving late for a meeting without satisfactory reason would be fined 1d for every 10 minutes they were late. Later it was agreed to take a number of papers/periodicals for members to read including The Daily Telegraph, The Working Man, The Engineer, Manchester Examiner and Times, Morning Star, London Daily News, Blackburn Times. Punch, Liverpool Daily Post, Financial Reformer and Chambers Journals. Also proposed was the purchase of one dozed second hand books for the reading room and to build up a library from donations via discussion groups allowed in the rooms organised via the secretary. At this time it was also proposed at a meeting in Furthergate School that the club organise a first anniversary social and tea party on the Saturday before Christmas day in the school which raised £12 2s 6d. The club now with many additional members continued in the two cottages with its cultural and liberal associations until the move to Audley house. At a meeting in November 1880 it was proposed that the club move to Audley house and its grounds now that it was available to rent, to improve and enlarge the club’s facilities. Audley house at this time was owned by John Rutherford (see earlier notes). A lease dated May 1891 was drawn up between John Rutherford and a number of influential people from the district, these were presumably members of the club namely, Eli Heyworth (Cotton Manufacturer), John Taylor (Cotton Manufacturer), Benjamin Ormerod (Cotton Mill Manager). Thomas Bolton (Grocer), John Bury (Grocer), Edwin Aspin (Cotton Manufacturer) and Richard Benjamin Thompson (Cotton Mill manager), all of Blackburn and called lessees for an annual rent of £40 paid half yearly plus fire insurance with the club valued at £800. The main covenant conditions included the lessees ensuring the internal fixtures and fittings were maintained in good order
(inspected twice a year), that the club was only used as a Liberal club with a billiards room, news room and that all beers used on the premises were purchased from his Salford Brewery. The lessees were given the freedom to make alterations to the internal fabric providing they were returned to their original use when the lease expired. The club committee then decided to change the club’s name to “Audley House Reform Club”. In 1891 the club had:-
GROUND FLOOR – Entrance Hall from Audley Street, Committee Room, Meeting Room, Reading Room and Kitchen with stairs to the first floor.
FIRST FLOOR – Large L shaped Billiards Room and small Card Room.
By 1893 a Bowling Green had been established in the grounds of the house as bowls was by then a popular sport and internal heating pipes were also added to the house. In the early days the “Reform Club” movement involved local people who were progressive and non-political to set up self-help clubs for progressive working people, pre-dating the working men’s clubs. They campaigned for greater opportunities for working people including seeking universal suffrage (i.e. the vote) albeit as non-party organisations and also endeavoured to provide social and leisure facilities. The modern day Labour Party in part grew out of these organisations and the Reform Movement was one of the first examples of widespread popular community action. Audley House Club Rules include what must have been the first equal opportunities statements of any organisation in Blackburn in that the club shall be absolutely non-political/non-sectarian so that harmony and concord will prevail. Over the years the club has had many changes, the first being the changes mentioned above, then John Rutherford sold the Salford Brewery to Thwaites Brewery so Audley House was included in the sale and the freehold of the club premises passed to Thwaites who held it until recently. The club was originally for many years a “Gentlemen’s Club”, hence the original names on the lease and newspapers in the reading room used to be ironed by the steward after being read by members. In the modern era the club premises were substantially improved and extended in 1978 to provide a large function room, a concert room (first floor) and a separate snooker room with improved bar facilities as this was their main source of income. The improvements were financed by Thwaites Brewery. In the 1970’s much of the terraced housing round the club was cleared to make way for new housing and road closures led to Audley Lane and Audley Street becoming cul-de-sacs. At this time there was a possibility that Blackburn Corporation would compulsorily purchase the club and provide a new site but this didn’t happen. As a result the club began to see a gradual decline in club membership and regular attendance due to access difficulties, also due to the rapidly changing local population. In 1988 Thwaites Brewery sold the freehold of the building and site to the club, so the premises were now wholly owned, and were helped by a low cost loan from Matthew Brown Breweries. The loan was gradually paid off making the club financially stable and by 1994 the committee realised the need to start looking at how to maintain and develop the existing sports and social facilities, partly prompted by a further decline in club usage. The club approached a local counsellor Frank Gorton who expressed support for this valuable community facility and a feasibility study was established to outline many new and improved facilities and was supported by a Blackburn City Community Fund. However despite these initiatives there were no real developments and the club closed in 2002 and was bought by a private householder with the Bowling Green becoming a lawn and is still on site today within its more modern local housing area.
PHOTOGRAPH OF AUDLEY HOUSE CLUB IN MORE MODERN TIMES
As a sign of the times it is noted that there were four local clubs namely St Matthews Conservative Club, Audley Working Men’s Club, Audley House Club and St Thomas Conservative Club. Today only Audley Working Men’s Club survives in new premises in Audley Range close to Audley Mosque.