A look back at 90 years of history at Brentwood’s Bardswell Social Club

Bardswell Social Club. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Bardswell Social Club. Picture: Sylvia Kent - Credit: Sylvia Kent

Enjoy Brentwood More’s history columnist, author and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer’s Circle, Sylvia Kent looks back at Bardswell Social Club’s 90 years of history.

Times are challenging at the moment for some of our clubs and organisations in Brentwood. Over the months of lockdown, many have found ways of communicating with each other, using social distancing in the earlier months and these days, Zooming or Skype.

The Bardswell Social Club, close to Weald Road and conveniently near to Brentwood High Street, can look back more than ninety years to a time when a group of railway trade unionists wanted to create a society of their own for recreation and regular meetings. But in the early twenties there were not many halls they could afford to rent.

At first, the early stalwart members met together in a room over a butcher’s shop in Brentwood High Street. They scrimped and saved until they managed to collect enough subscriptions to build a basic structure on farmland in Weald Road. Here already stood two cottages known as Bardswell.

By June 15, 1927, the Brentwood & District TU Labour Club & Institute Limited was registered as a bona fide organisation. The club members proudly celebrated their achievement. Money was tight in those days, and the members borrowed £1,200 at 6% interest. Within twenty years the interest had been paid but the £1,200 principal was still owed.

Enlargement of the premises needed help of every kind. Willing volunteers worked hard at weekends and days off and the group’s efforts resulted in the building of the small hall, with adjoining rooms. A bowling green was added and became very popular. Members were able to play darts and snooker and of course, enjoy a drink with their friends after work. The London Co-operative Society helped and the loan redeemed with a reducing mortgage taken up for £1,000 repayable over ten years. The debt was eventually cleared in eight years.

Frank King, a well respected member for 63 years said: “Life events rise and fall and during the 1950s, the club almost folded. The allotments at the rear of the building were sold which helped to clear the club’s debts and make building reparations. Bardeswell Close was built on the land and the bowling-green was sold for apartments. This helped to keep the club solvent and in 1956 its new name became the Bardswell Social Club”.

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Ninety-three years later, this popular venue with its excellent car park and happy atmosphere was alive with visitors and members of various clubs with interests linked to music, dancing, chess, wedding receptions and the Brentwood Writers’ Circle, but then the Covid challenges changed so many aspects of everyday life. Hopefully, in due course, we hope that Bardswell Social Club building will once again be allowed to continue and flourish as it has for more than nine decades.

The Bardswell Social Club was chosen to appear in my latest book Brentwood in 50 Buildings published by Amberley Books of Stroud and signed copies can be purchased in local Waterstones and W H Smith; also through Amazon and other bookshops in Essex.