Clarion Clubhouses

Researched and written by Melvyn Hirst
Web site created by Mark Hirst

Introduction

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a number of Clarion Houses were established in rural areas. They provided refreshments, and often accommodation, for walkers, cyclists and others who wished to escape for a time from the smoky and increasingly crowded towns and cities.

Clarion Sign

The first Clarion Houses were founded by the Clarion Movement, hence their name [1]. They were followed by houses belonging to other socialist organisations such as the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and the Independent Labour Party (ILP). Many of these later houses were also known, formally or informally, as Clarion Houses.

Most, if not all, of the houses opened by the Clarion Movement belonged to Sections, or Unions of Sections, of the National Clarion Cycling Club and were therefore known as Clarion Clubhouses. Because they tended to be located well away from the membership base, and were also open to members of Clarion cycling clubs from further afield, they typically provided accommodation as well as refreshments [2]. In contrast the houses established by other socialist organisations were normally located close to the membership base and provided only refreshments.

In 1897 the first Clarion Clubhouse of the National Clarion Cycling Club was established by Manchester 'Clarionettes' at Bucklow Hill in Cheshire:

Bucklow Hill Clubhouse

Image courtesy of Manchester Archives

In 1902 the lease on the house was not renewed and the Manchester Clarionettes opened a new Clubhouse the following year near Handforth, some eight miles to the east. In 1936 the Handforth Clubhouse was replaced, in turn, by Valley House at Oversley Ford, some three miles to the south-west of Handforth.

One of the earliest Clarion Houses to be opened by another socialist organisation was Nabs Farm in Roughlee Booth in Lancashire. The farm was rented in 1903 by the Nelson ILP, and probably following the example of Bucklow Hill, and possibly Handforth, was formally named a Clarion House:

Nabs Farm

Image courtesy of the Nelson ILP Land Society

In 1912 the Nelson ILP built a successor to Nabs Farm in nearby Dimpenley Clough. This house is still open today and is the last remaining Clarion House of any denomination [3].

Some other Clarion Houses founded by the ILP and the SDF are described here. As was noted previously, not all of them were formally known as Clarion Houses. The Burnley ILP Cottage, for example, located near Roggerham in Extwistle, was traditionally called a Clarion House by cyclists and walkers but the name was not used by the Burnley ILP itself.

The purpose of this website is to present a series of montages which illustrate the residential Clarion Clubhouses founded by the Clarion Movement. All of the houses are discussed in the book Fellowship is Life: The Story of the National Clarion Cycling Club by Denis Pye [4]. The houses in Cheshire are presented first, followed by the ones in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire (Midlands area), and Essex (London area). Some of the montages are supplemented with additional illustrations.

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Cheshire Houses

1. Bucklow Hill (1897-1902)

Bucklow Hill Clarion Clubhouse
Bucklow Hill Supplement

2. Handforth (1903-1936)

Handforth Clarion Clubhouse
Handforth Supplement 1
Handforth Supplement 2
Handforth Supplement 3

3. Valley House (c.1936-c.1951)

Valley House Clarion Clubhouse

Lancashire Houses

4. Halewood or Liverpool (c.1907-1911)

Halewood or Liverpool Clarion Clubhouse
Halewood or Liverpool Supplement

5. Ribble Valley (1913-c.1950)

Ribble Valley Clarion Clubhouse
Ribble Valley Supplement I
Ribble Valley Supplement II
Ribble Valley Supplement III

6. South East Lancashire (1920-late 1920s?)

South East Lancashire Clarion Clubhouse
South East Lancashire Clarion Clubhouse

Yorkshire House

7. Menston or Chevin End (1908-2010)

Menston or Chevin End Clarion Clubhouse

Derbyshire House

8. Dore Moor (1920 - c.1967)

Dore Moor Clarion Clubhouse

Warwickshire House

9. Lyndon End or Midlands (1915-c.1934)

Lyndon End or Midlands Clarion Clubhouse
Lyndon End or Midlands Supplement 1
Lyndon End or Midlands Supplement 2
Lyndon End or Midlands Supplement 3

Essex House

10. Nazeing or London (1913-1920)

Nazeing or London Clarion Clubhouse
Nazeing or London Supplement

Circling Clarion Clubhouses

In the mid-1930s the four remaining clubhouses - Valley House, Ribble Valley, Chevin End, and Dore Moor - were linked by a circular cycling route [5]:

Clarion Cyclist Vol1 No5 November 1936

Chevin End was the last of the four houses to close. It did so in 2010. (See its montage.)

Notes

1. For a good introduction to the Clarion Movement see Martin Wright, "Robert Blatchford, The Clarion Movement, and the Crucial Years of British Socialism, 1891-1900" in Edward Carpenter and Late Victorian Radicalism, ed. Tony Brown (London: Frank Cass, 1990), pp. 74-99.

2. The Clarion House at Dore Moor in Derbyshire belonged to the broader Clarion Movement in Sheffield. In an email to the author dated 28 June 2018 Gay Frost, the former Gay Walker, remembered the sleeping arrangements for Clarion members at Dore Moor.

All the beds were collapsible and were stored during the day, together with the mattresses and army blankets, in a special room. If you were staying overnight you had to erect your bed late in the evening and put it away when you got up in the morning. The men used the tea rooms to sleep in and the ladies used the concert room to sleep in. Clean sheets were available from the stewards, the price you paid them only being the cost of sending the sheets to the laundry the following week.

The author well remembers the rough blankets at the Ribble Valley Clarion Clubhouse!

3. In 1898, prior to renting Nabs Farm, the Nelson ILP had rented a small cottage in Thorneyholme Square in Roughlee Booth. However it was not known as a Clarion House. The present Nelson ILP Clarion House in Dimpenley Clough has an excellent website which may be viewed here. For socialism as a religion see Stephen Yeo, "A New Life: The Religion of Socialism in Britain, 1883-1896", History Workshop Journal 4, no. 1 (October 1997), pp. 5-56.

4. Denis Pye, Fellowship is Life: The Story of the National Clarion Cycling Club, revised edition with an Introduction by Christopher Goode (National Clarion Cycling Club, 2014).

5. Fitzwilliam Wray ['Kuklos'], "Circling Clarion Clubhouses", The Clarion Cyclist 1, no. 5 (November 1936), p. 65. John Boardman of the Nelson ILP Land Society has recently developed a circular walking route that links together the three ILP houses of north-east Lancashire - Nelson, Colne, and Burnley. It's webpage may be viewed here. The Colne house is now a private dwelling and the Burnley one is in ruins. John did not include in the walk the former SDF Clarion House in Briercliffe, also known as Robin Houses, although the SDF and ILP in Lancashire were reputed to work closely together. See for example Martin Crick, "A Call to Arms: the Struggle for Socialist Unity in Britain, 1885-1914", in The Centennial History of the Independent Labour Party, eds. David James, Tony Jowitt, and Keith Laybourn (Halifax: Ryburn Academic, 1992), pp. 181-204.

Content researched and written by Melvyn Hirst

Web site created by Mark Hirst. Page updated: 14 November 2018