History of The Tatton Club



Tatton Street has seen many changes in the last century. Near The Lord Eldon was a Smithy and then two or three old houses, one probably a farm whose old barn served as an abattoir for local butchers until seven or eight years ago when it was all replaced by offices and a car park.

On the opposite side the oldest building on the street, now home to THE TATTON CLUB dates back to 1829. The two long, round headed windows centred in the grey pebble-dash front of the building, might give a clue to the careful observer about its origins for it was originally an independent Baptist Chapel. Many years later during club improvements part of the baptismal font was found under the floor boards.

Bagshaw's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cheshire of 1850 described it as “a neat fabric, which has accommodated 300 worshippers. It was built chiefly at the expense of Mr Joseph Jackson who has been pastor of the congregation since it was opened.” Joseph Jackson owned the house on King Street, now offices, with a long garden backing on to Tatton Street part of which he annexed for the building of the Baptist Chapel. This had a small congregation of about twenty but a large Sunday School of a hundred or more. The street was known at different times as Higher Street, Chapel Street or Stable Street. There were still stables there in the first decade of the twentieth century where Mr Alfred Edwards, who had a draper's shop at the corner of Minshull Street, stabled his racehorse which was exercised on Knutsford Heath.

Joseph Jackson was a successful grocer and draper who owned the black and white timber- framed shop in King Street which is now occupied by the Chinese Restaurant and Mark Wilkinson Furniture shop though some older Knutsfordians will remember it as Allsops' grocers and Caldwells' flower shop. In Victorian days it employed a large staff many of whom lived on the premises.

Tatton Street School

In 1854 the Tatton Street building ceased to be used as a chapel and Joseph Jackson signed a seven year lease for the building to be used as the Parochial Girls' School and it was also used for lectures, concerts and popular readings.

In 1874 the school log book recorded:
June 26
Children dismissed for the mid-summer holiday, they also assisted in removing a few things to the new school formerly belonging to Lady Egerton's Private School.
This was a charity school, near the Tatton Park gates, dating back to about 1818, “. . . supported by the praiseworthy benevolence of Mrs Egerton of Tatton. Here 80 day scholars have the benefit of gratuitous instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic; six orphan girls are also received and maintained. . . in a way calculated to make them good servants” (Hanshall's Cheshire c 1820).

The parochial school log book recorded on several occasions that girls were admitted from Lady Egerton's school which must have been declining or was perhaps without a satisfactory mistress.
The school continued near the park gates until the Egerton Schools were built on Church Hill in 1893. The building then became a convalescent home for the Egerton's Manchester tenants.

Tatton Street Club

The old chapel -cum- school building now began a new life as the Knutsford Club , run by a Limited Company, popular amongst professional men and the leading tradesmen. William Nicholls was active in its formation; he was a successful butcher who led the May Day procession for many years as Marshall on his white horse. William Steel may have been the main financial backer as his will of 1910 assigned rent and profits to Eliza Clowes who later agreed to the sale of the property in 1921. Kelly's 1874 directory lists William Smith of 1, Freehold Terrace, as manager and Alfred Cutter of Tatton Street as Honorary Secretary.

The manager, jointly with his wife, was Trumpet Major William Smith, a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade. He was noted for reciting his own poem on the subject of the Charge of the Light brigade, which in Knutsford must have rivalled Tennyson's version. He had a fine singing voice and was a talented mimic - while a famous trial of the Tichfield claimant was in progress he portrayed the learned judge, the defendants and the weary jury to great acclaim. He seemed ideal for running a social club but his addiction to laudanum, taken in cough mixture, made him depressed especially when he 'went on the spree' as old soldiers called their drinking bouts. This led him to overdose on laudanum in November 1879. At his inquest Albert Wright was called and gave his occupation as ' billiard marker' at the club. The verdict was that his death was caused by laudanum taken whilst in an unsound state of mind.

The club had a news room providing papers and magazines and where cards, draughts and dominoes were played but its main attraction was billiards and pool.

Pool involved more players than billiards and an old style score board, still at the club, shows it was played there.

Pool

‘Billiards: its Theory and Practice’ by Captain Crawley, published in 1876 gives the rules for pool - 24 of them - and adds : “

These are the principal rules . . though others might have been given . . .
Two or more players, up to twelve, could take part though six or seven was considered the best game. An attraction of pool was that there was a small stake placed on each ball and to the pool. Each player was allocated a colour ball and a target colour so that yellow played on to red, blue on to yellow, brown on to blue etc. If the target colour was potted then the next nearest ball could be played.

Each player had three and could win more so the marker or referee must have had a difficult task with so many players and rules to observe. The last player with his ball on the table scooped the pool.”

Breakaway Club

The club struck a difficult patch around 1895 when a break away group formed their own club using the room above the old Post Office in King Street. It was called The Cranford Club and Richard Harding Watt paid for a bas relief bust of Mrs. Gaskell to be set in the wall, which he later moved to The Gaskell Memorial Tower. Exactly what role he played in The Cranford Club is not known though we do know he owned the building. The cause of the split is not known: perhaps the keener sportsmen wanted the more spacious rooms and it seems to have been more professional men who set up the Cranford Club - doctors and solicitors while the tradesmen continued at Tatton Street.

In its early years The Cranford Club attracted a membership of nearly 100. The steward ,Windle, must have played some part in this success for the numbers fell after he left in 1905 and he was later replaced by the steward from the Tatton Street club. It seems likely that there was bad feeling between the two clubs.

Leicester Caldecutt, one of the town's solicitors and a keen billiards player, became Secretary at about this time and five years later also took over the Secretaryship of the Golf Club, founded in 1891 which suffered socially from not having a club house. Caldecutt came up with the solution to both problems - dwindling numbers at the Cranford Club and lack of a Golf Club house: why not combine the two?. It was only a short walk from the golf course in Tatton Park to the Cranford club at the end of King Street. However it did not happen. Earl Egerton died in 1909 and the convalescent home near the park gates closed down. Dr Fennell who had been physician to the home discussed the future use of the building with Lord Egerton and realising that no plans had been made put forward the idea that it could become a Club House. Dr Fennell was a keen billiards player at The Cranford Club and wished it to continue. When Lord Egerton agreed to a lease on the house for club purposes a meeting was called at The Royal George with both clubs agreeing to amalgamate: neither could afford to run the club separately.

It is not clear whether the Tatton Street club attended this meeting and agreed to join this new club or whether it was left without enough members to make it viable. The Parish Church Men's Institute now took over the building. The men's club which had been meeting in a small room at the infants' school on Silk Mill Street for about twenty years saw an opportunity to acquire better premises by moving into the Tatton Street building.

Knutsford Parish Church Men's Institute in Tatton Street

The Institute offered a variety of social events including a Christmas Billiards Cup for 32 players in December 1910 with two prizes donated by Rev. L. Higson and Dr. Smith. There was also a draughts competition won by H. Buckley.

In February 1911 about 60 members and friends attended a Smoking Concert - there might have been more if skating had not been a rival attraction! Organist G. W. Bebbington put together the programme of music, recitations, duets and gramophone selections . Coffee was served in the interval.

In May 1913 The Knutsford Guardian announced the opening ofKnutsford Parish Church Men's Institute new recreation club on the Mere Heath Road ground previously belonging to Knutsford Cricket Club who had transferred their thirty year lease from Lord Egerton.

More staff were needed so Mr and Mrs Fred Buckley were appointed stewards moving their family into the adjoining cottage; son, Fred, born 1906, remembers these days:
“Every Sunday our parents would 'spring clean' the club. Father stoked up the coke stove, damper fully out, to create as much hot water as possible for the club bath so that those members who had entered their names on the bath list put on the notice board the previous Friday could have their weekly bath.”
“Father maintained the sports field for cricket, hockey,tennis and bowls . . A mountainous contraption pulled by a very old pony, which I used to lead, cut the outfield and hockey pitches, the pony wore leather bootees during these operations. There was no water laid on so my sister Joyce and I had the job, after school on Fridays, of supplying water for the cricketers' teas and other culinary purposes. The water was contained in a 'dandy' which had iron wheels and swung about when pushed. . . spilling half the contents before we made it to the club house”.

The annual report of the Parish Church for 1914-15 shows that there was a deficit on the Church Men's Institute of over £79 and that only £36 was paid out in wages to the Buckleys .The 1914-18 war saw a drop in club membership causing a financial problem, which saw Fred's parents resign when they were asked to provide their own cleaning materials.

A roll of Honour Board still at the club records:

‘Knutsford Parish Church Men's Institute 1914
Members of the Institute serving with the colours‘
(About 65 names)

Knutsford Recreation Club

A deed signed in November 1921 records the sale of the property to James Jackson for £800; this included the two houses on King Street as well as the Tatton Street property.

Exactly when it ceased to be The Men's Institute is uncertain as it was still listed in Kelly's directory of 1923 but some time before 1928 it became the Knutsford Recreation Club with William Wildgoose as Hon. Secretary.

James Jackson, plumber and decorator, was the son of Edwin and Sarah Anne Jackson. Sarah, born Sarah Anne Pollitt, at The Lord Eldon, had been the first official May Queen in 1864 and after her marriage moved two doors away to run a small pub called The Feathers until it was closed down in 1910.

Edwin Jackson does not seem to have been related to the Joseph Jackson who built the Chapel; nor did the Jacksons seem to have had any interest in the club, seeing it only as investment property. James sold the Club together with the two houses on King Street, to his wife, Mary Eleanor Jackson, for £800 in 1934. Lord Maurice Egerton bought the property from her in October 1947 (check Guardian) for £2,600.

The Tatton Club

In 1954 Lord Egerton sold the Club for £800 to Frank Osmond, George Briggs and Reginald Ballantyne as Trustees who renamed it The Tatton Club. Frank Osmond, known to many Knutsfordians as Major Osmond, lent £600 to back this purchase. He was a leading light in the town, active as a Freemason and sportsman at the Mereheath Lane Club, and had served with the Cheshire Yeomanry.

The first task of the newly formed club, with Major Osmond as President and Reg Ballantyne as Secretary, was to have a new bronze name plaque made to replace the old wooden board and a new front door was ordered at the committee's expense

The Committee met monthly to manage the club and the bar, to arrange games and collect savings. They also set out the aim of the Club to promote good fellowship and recreation and drew up rules. Members were formally proposed and seconded with out-of-town members paying a reduced subscription. The book in which visitors could be signed in by members dates back to 1926 with the very first entry being signed by Frank Osmond.

The club attracted socially minded men with varied interests including dominoes, card games, chess, and draughts. A programme of handicap snooker competitions was arranged at Easter, Christmas and sometimes Whitsun, with first prize of a bottle of whiskey and of gin; sweepstakes were run to raise money for the building fund.

Soon repairs needed doing and the outside walls were covered in two coats of sand-cement with the old central doorway filled in. The council helped with an improvement grant for repairs to the steward's cottage.

The steward living next to the club should have been an advantage but all was not straight forward. A check on the bar takings revealed falling profits but when the steward was asked by the committee to help them in their investigations he resigned, then had to be evicted by a court order.

Finding a new steward required several advertisements, with one applicant withdrawing when he found that he was to be allowed only one night off per week. The new steward started well but two years later bar profits were again falling and with the cost of coal and coke rising, it was decided that the Steward had lost interest in his duties and he was given notice.

The committee learnt to be more cautious and instituted a monthly analysis of the bar takings and ordered the coke for the club themselves allowing them to increase the new Steward's pay to include cost of coal and electricity for the cottage. The new Steward and his wife gave such satisfaction that when they left in 1966 members subscribed to a leaving present.

On several occasions the club hosted social evenings for the Town Council and also The Cheshire Yeomanry. Ladies were not often invited but when a new bar was officially opened in July 1958 a cocktail party was held. On May Day evening in 1959 members were allowed to bring wives because the town's inns were so crowded and this continued for some years. President's Night in November was a Ladies Cocktail party and merited a bar extension and bonus to the Stewards.

In 1960 the Committee was invited to contribute to the fund for celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Elizabeth Gaskell and to attend the Civic Service, but agreed to leave both matters to individual members.

Finances and Funding

Funding was always a matter of concern to the Committee. Major Osmond's loan was gradually paid off by amounts of £50 or £100 up to the end of 1968.

At the end of 1962 the club was faced with a choice when Mr Brooks, who had bought most of the Egerton estate, offered them £2,000 for their premises, with an option of moving the club to the Infant School on Silk Mill Street but this was rejected. They considered ideas to increase income by raising subscriptions or having a membership drive or installing a gaming machine. They went for the latter option but it was a mixed blessing, as members complained that it did not pay out enough. The committee noted that it could be set for medium, liberal or extra liberal and they had it at liberal. A change of machine kept members happy for a time. One member, who did not attend often, hit the jackpot several times, much to the disgust of others

Keeping the bar and drinkers happy was important and various breweries were used at different times. Draught beer could go off if not kept cool so Ind Coope were consulted but refrigeration in 1960 was too expensive so a cooling unit sufficed.

Budget changes in drink tax were a nuisance and the gaming machine was ousted when a betting tax was imposed. Prices were kept a little lower than pubs. At one time there was a problem with a few members turning up just as pubs closed so they could extend their drinking time - not popular with the Steward, and this was soon discouraged.

Another take over bid was made for the Club around 1971 when Greensquare Development wanted to make a new street through from Tatton Street to King Street for shops such as MacFisheries and Marks and Spencers. They offered to rehouse the Club in the Conservative Club until the work was completed then they would have a new club on the top floor as part of the development, with a Steward's flat and private lift for members. It never happened.

In 1983 a solution to the problem of funding was an interest free loan agreement with Bass North West Ltd in return for buying all their bar supplies from the company

Presidents Board

1945-1948 F Osmond
1946-1947 H Nott
1949 A J Hart
1950-1951 G L Andrew
1952 G Briggs
1953 S J Shaw
1954-1969 F Osmond
1970-1974 S J Shaw
1975-1977 J T Dennis
1978-1979 F Bamford
1980-1981 M Wilson
1982-1984 J de Ruyter
1985-1986 R Benson
1986-1988 J R Boase
1989-1990 D Thomson
1991-1993 A Conkleton
1994-1996 J Peet
1997-1998 D K Roden
1999-2000 E Jones
2001-2003 C. Burrell
2004-2005 R. Clarke
2006- A.J. McAra