The Working Men's Club

A "Woeking Men's Reading Room" had existed within the village since about 1872 This was, as its name implies, somewhere that the working man could could visit, on payment of a weelky sunscription of 2d, to read the newspapers and magazines on offer. While this may seem bizarre to us today, it has to be remembered that newspapers were then relatively expensive in relation to the wages of the working classes. In 1882, the titles on offer included The Standard, The Daily News, The News, The Surrey Advertiser, The Illustrated London News, The Gardener and The Builder.

fb money-couttsIn 1883, F B Money Coutts decided that the working men of the village deserved something that offered them more to help with relaxation after their labours (many of the working classes were unable to read anyway) and offered a piece of land in St Mary's Road and £500 towards the cost of constructing a "Working Men's Club". On the 4th of June that year a meeting was held in the school and a 'committee' of 23 "gentlemen, ladies and working men" was formed to progress the proposal and establish the club. Anyone who has any experience of committees will immediately realise that this would be an unworkable size of group, but we do not have the very pronounced 'pecking order' that existed in Victorian times and  with the Vicar, Rev.Bowes-Watson as Chairman, Mr Money Coutts (then living at Finnart House) as Hon.Secretary and Mr Burleigh Cecil (an 'official' at the Bank of England) as Hon.Treasurer, everything progressed smoothly. Additional donations totalling £240 15s were promised by the end of June and by the end of July 1884 this had increased to around £330, making a total of £830 with the original offer from Mr Money Coutts.

The plans were drawn up by Mr Charles Luck, an architect of Kingston and the contract for the building work had been placed with Frederick Peters who lived in Oatlands Drive and is believed to have been responsible for a major percentage of the 'ordinary' houses in Oatlands. .The contract indicated a build-time of six months and that was met. By December 1884 the building was completed and consisted of a coffee room and a games room on the ground floor, plus a reading room, dormitory for four beds and a bathroom on the upper floor.. Meanwhile, Mr Money Coutts had offered to provide the adjoining caretaker's cottage at a nominal rent for fourteen years.

Foundation Stone - Working Men's ClubThe opening ceremony was performed by Lord Brabazon on Saturday the 14th of February 1885 and, as the village was predominately working class (at least numerically) was a great reason for celebration - bunting was strung throughout the village and children waved flags

Immediately after the opening ceremony,, the 40 founder members met in the reading room and elected a committee which comprised Mr Money Coutts as President, the Vicar as Vice President an "Messrs. Burleigh Cecil, Colman, Cox, Eggleton, Edney, Hurley, Lemon, Marchant, Purdie, Tough and Wells" and this new committee lost no time in producing a set of By-Laws to regulate the running of the club. The subscription was set at 10d per month with a 1/- (1s 0d) 'entrance fee'. Extra payments were set at 3d for a bath (1d extra for a towel), 2s 6d per week for a sleeping room and 1/2d per game per player for the bagatelle board. Having concluded their business for the day, they retired for a "substantial meat tea" was provided for the initial 40 members and "a very pleasant evening was spent".

During March of 1885, the members (now numbering over 75) held a somewhat animated meeting to discuss the possibility of beer being provided in the club. A considerable majority of those present were in favour of beer, but the committee subsequently decided that, whilst beer would be made available, its supply was to be limited to two pints per evening per member, with a member being permitted one pint before 6pm and not more than one pint after 6pm - if they arrived after 6pm they went home with their thirst not completely satisfied. This 'limitation' seems not to have acted as a deterrent as there were 120 members by the end of May.

At the first annual meeting on the 20th of January 1886, Mr Cecil reported that the club had a balance of 18s 6d, despite having undertaken enlarging the kitchen and providing library fittings in the reading room which had amounted to a cost of £52 11s 4½d.

The 1891 census shows William Moss and his wife Ellen as caretakers, with them are son George and daughter in law Annie - they would have been in the caretaker's cottage while the two boarders, Henry Blanchett and John Hart (both shown as "Elementary Teacher - School") would have been in the Working Men's Club itself.

1891 Census - Working Men's Club

1891 Cesus - Crown Copyright

William Moss died in early 1895 and his widow, Ellen, carried on as caretaker. Her son, George and his wife Annie were still living in the cottage at the time of the 1901 census but there were two new boarders usig the facilities of the club, James Keen, a paper-hanger, and Frank Searl, a gardener.

Ellen Moss seems to have retired from the Working Men's Club and moved away as the 1911 census shows Thomas Newcombe as caretaker. There are three boarders in the club itself (it is recorded seperately) and these are Frederick Oyler (this surname is difficult to read), Albert Holiday and Ernest Carter, all three of whom state their occupation as "Gardner (Domestic)".

The more recent history of the Working Men's Club currently eludes us and we would dearly love to locate some old photographs - if you can help us with either, please contact our research coordinator.


Francis Burdett Money Coutts became Lord Latymer in 1913 - hence the modern Latymer Close

Of the "Messrs." of the first committee:
Mr Colman was Jesse Colman, headmaster of the boy's school
Mr Cox was James Cox, a domestic gardener who lived in the lodge at Oatlands Mere
Mr Eggleton was William Eggleton, a gardener who lived in Anderson's Road
Mr Edney was Thomas Edney, a "smith in a builder's shop" who lived in Anderson's Road
Mr Hurley was  Dennis Hurley, father of Edwin the village postman who is featured at the top of this page
Mr Lemon was John Lemon a gardener who lived in Oatlands Drive. He was Verger at the church and his wife Elizabeth was headmistress at the Girls & Infants school
Mr Marchant was Frederick Marchant, a "cab proprietor" who lived in St Mary's Road
Mr Purdie was Ernrest Purdie, a harness maker who lived in Oatlands Drive
Mr Tough was John Tough, a gardener who lived in Anderson's Road
Mr Wells was Thomas Wells, a domestic gardener who lived in Anderson's Road

Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO