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working men's clubs


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Clubs which brought working men together sociably took many forms, including friendly societies for mutual insurance and gatherings in pubs or beerhouses for news and information and to enjoy shared interests and pursuits such as music and gardening. But the working men's club movement, as such, was a product of philanthropic and controlling concerns within the mid‐Victorian middle classes, anxious to reclaim the working man from the pub and its temptations to alcoholic, political, and other excesses. The prime mover in the foundation of the Workingmen's Club and Institute Union, established in 1862, was the Revd Henry Solly, a unitarian minister whose experiments in Lancaster had convinced him of the viability of this approach to social reform. But the CIU itself soon threw off most of the restrictions intended by its original patrons, and beer soon appeared as part of the clubs' attractions, followed by musical and comic entertainment. As with other cultural initiatives promoted from above, working men took what they wanted from the CIU and rejected the rest.

Subjects: British History.


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