Historic Buildings and Sites -The Anstice Working Men’s Institute

An old postcard (we think from before the First World War) showing the Anstice Memorial Working Men’s Institute and, on the right, the old post office and print shop formerly run by John Randall.

Click the photo to enlarge it.

The Anstice Memorial Working Men’s Institute (now known as “The Anstice Club”) stands in what is now Anstice Square (formerly the eastern end of Park Avenue). Several years after its opening in 1870 the building was badly damaged by fire, and had to be virtually rebuilt before its eventual re-opening in 1875. The construction costs were paid by the Anstice family as a memorial to John Anstice, the proprietor and manager of the Madeley Wood Company.

Great news! (September 2016). The Anstice has been purchased by Madeley Town Council and is well on the way to being restored to its former glory. Read more on the and on !

to read a local woman’s memories of when the Anstice was much more than just another social club.

The article below, by Chris Moore of Madeley, originally appeared in the 1990 edition of the Madeley Rest Room Review.

A HISTORY OF THE ANSTICE MEMORIAL INSTITUTE

The Anstice Memorial Institute has been the scene of many notable events in Madeley ever since it opened 120 years ago. It is situated in the centre of the town and over the years many meetings, lectures, plays and concerts have been held there. Prior to the redevelopment of the centre of Madeley in 1968 the area in front of the Institute was frequently the meeting point for parades, Sunday school demonstrations and other gatherings.

It was erected in 1868-9 as a working men’s club and institute to the memory of John Anstice, the proprietor and manager of the Madeley Wood Company, which had extensive coal mining and iron founding interests in the district.

His death on May 31st 1867 at the early age of 57 was much lamented by the whole town. All the local works closed down for the day of his funeral, as did the national schools and shops in Madeley and Ironbridge. Blinds were also drawn in many of the houses. According to the reporter who covered the event for the Wellington Journal there were from four to five thousand people present in Madeley churchyard.

John Anstice was much respected as an employer and knew all his men by their names. He spared no expense to improve the safety of his works and kept his men employed even during bad times.

It was widely felt that something should be done to honour the memory of such a man, and accordingly at a meeting of interested parties held at the infants school in Madeley on December 2nd 1867 it was decided to build a working men’s club.

The first working men’s clubs had begun some years previously. Often started by well-meaning philanthropists their aims were not solely recreational but frequently had educational, political and religious purposes as well, although in the case of the Anstice club political and religious meetings were initially not allowed in the hall. The nation-wide club movement was begun by the Rev. Henry Solly when he founded the Workmen’s Club and Institute Union in June 1862. Originally an instrument of temperance reform, the rule banning alcohol and tobacco had to be rescinded in 1865. By the time the Anstice Hall opened there were around 350 similar institutions in different parts of the country. However, many of these clubs would not have had their own premises but would have met in hired rooms. Few working men’s clubs would have owned premises as grand and imposing as that of the Anstice club.

The money for the new building was raised by public subscription. Sarah Anstice, the widow of John Anstice, subscribed £200, as did William Reynolds Anstice, his brother. John Anstice’s five sons each gave £100, and donations from two of his daughters and from his son-in-law brought the total gift of the Anstice family to £1,000.

Other large donations came from William Orme Foster of Apley Park near Bridgnorth, £250; John Pritchard of Broseley £250; Lord Forester £150; Mrs. Susannah Bartlett, Marnwood, Ironbridge £100; Alexander Brown M.P. of Grosvenor Gardens, London, S.W. £100; and Charles James Ferriday of Madeley £100.
Many other smaller donations were received from private residents, local tradesmen, and the population in general.

A site for the hall was bought in March 1868 for £330, and Mr. John Johnson of Moorgate Street, London was engaged as the architect, whilst Nevetts of Ironbridge were to be the contractors.

The Anstice memorial was opened on February 16th 1870, the sixtieth anniversary of John Anstice’s birth and was the event of the year in Madeley. In the centre of the hall on a large table were displayed some of the choicest productions of local industries. The Coalport China Company displayed several beautiful vases painted with birds, flowers, and landscape scenes; specimens of tea and breakfast ware, richly gilt; and elaborately finished candlesticks and tapers. Next to these the Coalbrookdale Company exhibited fine bronze castings of, among other things, the eagle slayer, a group of wild horses, a combat between a lion and a bear, and a group of dogs. From the works of Messrs. Maw and Co. came magnificent majolica jardinieres, a pillar and lamp stand and many patterned specimens of encaustic tiles. The works of James Edge and Co. provided samples of round, flat and twisted wire ropes, and huge round link and flat chains.

There was a model of the double action steam engine which worked the Kemberton pits, and a model of Buildwas Abbey made out of cork.

The walls of the room were decorated with a profusion of portraits of the Anstice, Ferriday, Brooke, Reynolds, Wilkinson and Foster families. There was also a great number of prints and engravings of local scenes from the previous century.

William Orme Foster, proprietor of the Madeley Court Iron Works, presided, and declared the building open. Captain Anstice, speaking of his late brother, said that although he had not been endowed with any extraordinary gifts he rendered to all around him any kindly services that lay within his powers, and had striven to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with his God. When such a man died, although the loss was great to his own family, he would not have thought it possible that a monument such as this would be reared to his memory. Captain Anstice therefore thanked all who had given, both the rich and the far from rich. An institution had been founded which he trusted would be an instrument of good for generations to come by diffusing the light of useful knowledge and strengthening the bonds of mutual sympathy and goodwill among them, and he prayed that the blessing of God may rest upon the work, on those who had been the means of establishing it, on all who from time to time assembled there, on everything that would during all time to come be said or done, designed or executed within its walls.
There were also speeches by several others including the Right Hon. General Forester, Mr. J. H. Maw, Mr. John Pritchard, Mr. C. J. Ferriday and Mr. C. W. Pearce. Mr. Maw thanked particularly the architect, Mr. John Johnson of London and Messrs. Nevetts of Ironbridge who were the builders. He said the building was a fine work of art and a credit to the neighbourhood.

Mr. Pearce said a small library was being formed and he hoped to see a workmen’s club established in the building. A room had been provided for this and he hoped that soon working men would obtain a good cheap dinner there and other advantages that would save them from the gin palaces.

The total cost of the building was £3,000. It is built of red brick and white stone (now painted grey) and has large arched upper windows in the Italianate style. On top of the stone entrance porch is the Anstice coat of arms, viz: Argent, a cross raguly gules between four birds azure, legged of the second. Crest: Out of a ducal coronet five ostrich feathers proper.

Inside, the entrance hall and passages were paved with encaustic tiles given by Messrs. Maw and Co. (These are now covered over).

The main hall will seat 750 people, but the capacity is now limited by law to 400.

A reading room on the ground floor originally held a small library of about 2,000 books, and daily and weekly periodicals were subscribed to. Daily papers are still taken at the hall.

The Anstice Memorial had only been open for four years when on Tuesday, March 17th 1874 it was very severely damaged by fire. At about 8.35 in the morning the wife of the hall-keeper was cleaning the room after the previous nights drawing-room entertainment when she noticed the fire through the ventilating holes in the ceiling, and immediately raised the alarm. Whilst the ceiling was burning the piano, some tables, books and forms were rescued from the building. Fire engines from Messrs. Maw’s, and from Coalbrookdale, Wellington and Shifnal arrived and hundreds of men and women fetched water in buckets and cans. The fire, however, spread very rapidly and as the roof burned the rafters caved in and set fire to the whole interior. Flames leapt up any woodwork that was left and the glass in the windows fell in with great crashes. The heat was so intense that the lead and glass were melted, and the flames billowing above the parapet could be seen for miles.

The committee decided immediately to rebuild the hall. At first it was thought that the shortfall between the insurance money and the cost of rebuilding would be met by public subscription, but the Anstice family came forward and offered to make up the difference.

The restoration cost nearly £2,000, of which £1,090 was paid by the Lancashire Insurance Company and the remainder given by the family and brother of the late John Anstice. The original architect and builders were called in to carry out the work, and the opportunity was taken to effect some improvements. A handsome and substantial oak staircase leading to the concert room was constructed, and a performers retiring room and an external covered staircase were also added. A gallery was built and the platform approaches were improved and ornamented.

The Anstice Memorial was formerly reopened on January 11th 1875 by a grand miscellaneous concert of operatic songs and piano solos. The audience was not so large as had been anticipated, however, owing to an absurd rumour that had got abroad that the building was unsafe.

At the annual meeting in February 1875 a report was read out concerning the fire and the subsequent restoration of the building. The committee expressed their sympathy with the family of the late John Anstice in the partial destruction of the noble institution, and also tendered their grateful and hearty thanks for its speedy restoration. Mr. John Randall said that he had no doubt that the same feeling of respect for the late Mr. Anstice, which first led the public so nobly to subscribe, would equally have led them again to have raised a sum sufficient for the restoration of the building; but that had been rendered unnecessary by the generous manner in which the Anstice family had come forward. Mr. A. B. Dyas said, to cheers, that they had not only restored it, but improved it, and it was now in an even more finished condition than at first.

The Anstice hall was one of the largest concert halls outside Shrewsbury and was the obvious venue for many of Madeley’s social occasions. The annual concerts of the Wesleyan day school and the Madeley Choral Society were held there, as were New Years Eve parties and the Mayor of Wenlock’s charity ball.

This photo from 1910 shows the proclamation from the steps of the Anstice of the Coronation of King George the Fifth. 

The square in front of the Anstice was the focus for many important occasions.

In 1920 Horatio Bottomley and Sir Edward Marshall Hall came to speak in support of Charles Palmer, one of the candidates in the Wrekin by-election.

The Anstice played an important part in the early history of the Rest Room because it was there that the Rest Room was started.

The room that Robert Moore hired was on the ground floor at the rear of the Anstice to the right of the stairs leading up to the main hall. Here every Friday a comfortable room with a bright fire was open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Pensioners could collect their pensions from the post office opposite and then have a rest and chat to friends before walking home. From 11 a.m. until 12 there was a service of singing, prayers, a Bible reading and an address from the morning speaker.

The Rest Room met every Friday in the Anstice from December 13th 1929 to February 16th 1934, a total of 218 weekly meetings. The Rest Room became so popular during this time that it was then able to move to new purpose-built premises on the opposite side of the road.

Lloyds bank had a sub-branch in the hall from the early years of the century until 1970. At first it was in a room on the right of the main entrance, but at sometime, probably during the 1920s, they moved to a room on the far left of the building which is now the kitchen. On leaving the Anstice the bank moved to its present position in Bryan’s former shop at the top of High Street.

In 1879 membership of the Anstice was 158, and in 1913 it was 118. In 1948 a bar was installed on the ground floor and membership trebled from 105 to 340 two years later. At the end of 1963 a bar was put in the corner of the ballroom and Saturday night dances were started. The large increase in population brought by the new town, and the fact that there was virtually no other entertainment in Madeley on a Saturday night meant that there was a dramatic increase in membership. From 451 in 1958 membership rose to 1,800 by 1972 and a few years later the committee had to limit the number of members to 3,000.

In February 1968 a new lounge was offically opened and an extension was built onto the rear of the hall as living accommodation for the steward, the steward’s previous rooms having been converted into the new lounge.

Further redevelopment was carried out and the rear of the building extended along its whole length. This provided for a new lounge bar at the side of the ballroom with bar storage space below. This extension was opened on September 1st 1972 by Mr. Emyr Thomas, general manager of Telford Development Corporation.

For many years members were able to enjoy a game of bowls on a bowling green behind the hall, but this was compulsorily purchased by the Development Corporation and is now a car park.
The Anstice today is run by a committee of twenty, each member being elected for two years. The club has around 1,500 male members who each pay £2 a year. Wives and daughters of members can join for £1 a year, and about 1,000 women are currently members.

The bars are open lunch time and evening and members can play snooker, darts, pool and dominoes. On Tuesdays and Fridays bingo sessions are held in the ballroom and there is live entertainment every Saturday night and sometimes on Sunday. The ballroom is occasionally hired out to other organisations for events such as charity balls.

In 1968 the Development Corporation demolished almost the entire centre of Madeley, the Anstice Memorial being the sole survivor. Among other premises, the buildings on either side of the Anstice, the Three Horseshoes and the Baptist Manse, were pulled down, and the whole of the long row of shops opposite, known originally as Commercial Buildings was razed to the ground. This unfortunate and unnecessary demolition was not improved by the unattractive shopping precinct that was built to replace it.

Yet at least the Anstice Memorial survived, even though its surroundings have changed. It has always been a focal point for much that happens in Madeley, and stands as a handsome monument to the Anstice family, to the men who worked in the coal and iron industries in the district, and as a lasting reminder of Madeley’s industrial past.

C. R. Moore

References:
Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News, June 8 1867; February 19 1870; March 21 1874; January 9 1875; January 16 1875; February 20 1875.
Dawley Observer, February 14 1968.
Telford Observer, September 6 1972.

Randall, J., History of Madeley.
Robertson, P., The Shell Book of Firsts.
Burke’s General Armory.


The Anstice Club in March 2000 – now simply a members’ drinking club with regular bingo sessions – still, it’s a nice building compared with the 1960s eyesores around it!

[Update 2009 – most of the 60s eyesores have now gone – recent photos to follow].

Click the photo to enlarge it.

 

 

In 1973 the Telford Journal (the local weekly newspaper) published a reader’s memories of the Anstice in the days when it was at the heart of the local community:

“The Anstice or ‘Stute’ (short for ‘institute’) played a great part in the life of Madeley by virtue of its good stage, auditorium and gallery, dance floor and other facilities. The reading room had a wide range of newspapers, magazines and periodicals. The county library opened on Tuesday evenings with Miss Ethel Owen in charge. During the day, Lloyds Bank and Mr R. Piper used this room. There was a good billiard room and an excellent bowling green to the rear (now the Anstice car park). But of greatest consequence was the well sprung dance floor, said to be the best in the Midlands, where one could dance from 8pm to 3pm without ones feet getting ‘drawn’ by the floor.

Outstanding annual events included the Mayor’s Charity Ball, the Choral Society Dance, the British Legion Remembrance Day Dance (held as near as possible to November 11th), the Boxing Day Dance and the event of the year, the New Years Eve Cracker Dance. There were also cricket, football and bowling club and carnival dances.

For all these dances, the wives and daughters of the committee always beautifully decorated the room, the balcony being festooned with greenery, traveller’s joy and flowers in season. The room at that time was permanently decorated with flags and shields.

Music for dancing was provided by various wellknown bands, including Morrises of Shrewsbury, older people will remember Mr Joseph Ellis, Jack Lister and Reg Boycott, and of course the very popular Freddie Lawton. The band was always in the furthest corner of the room, under a window, at the foot of the platform, which was always reserved for refreshments, laid out from end to end on long tables, which were also beautifully decorated with flowers and greenery.

There were two intervals, one at 10pm and another at midnight. The band would be booked until 1 or 2am, but if the event had gone with a swing a collection would be taken to pay for another hour. At the ‘Cracker Dance’ it was the custom a little before midnight for the MCs and helpers to go around the room with large laundry baskets filled with party crackers. All took one and pulled it with their nearest dancer, and then wore the hat for the rest of the dance. A romantic atmosphere was induced by putting out the lights and using instead ‘limelight’, obtained from huge lamps fixed on the balcony. The colours were changed by placing different coloured glass slides in front of the lamps.

As midnight struck, all joined hands for ‘Auld Lang Syne’, and kissed all and sundry under the mistletoe. The MCs would call for ‘order’, usually Mr ‘Jacky’ Williams and Mr Fred Harrison, who then announced a ‘Grand March’ followed by the dancers. Choosing a partner, a long line assembled at the door, and out of the hall onto the landing. Dancing people then marched round and round the floor to ‘Colonel Bogey’, splitting up to form eights for ‘the Lancers. MCs were very vigilant to ensure that no lady got swung off her feet in the ‘circle.’

Etiquette had not yet vanished from the scene, and the MCs made sure that all was as it should be. Men wore white gloves, so that if their hands became hot and sticky, they did not soil the ladies’ dresses, and would not be allowed on the floor without them. Ladies were presented with small printed programmes with tiny pencils attached by coloured silk, for the purpose of reserving dances.”