A metal box with the name of The Settle and District Conservative Club House painted on it, with about two cubic feet of contents, was recently handed over to the Conservative Club. The bottom was very rusty and about to detach from the box. Inside were bundles of papers, three books, and a layer at the bottom of loose material much of it beyond recovery since saturated with rust. After some hours of sorting, it appeared that the papers represented the whole early history of the company with legal documents, architect’s proposals and invoices from local tradesmen, all in the first decades of the 20th century. There is a Day Book listing persons holding shares and the register of directors. The cash account book ranges from 1899 to 1930. The third is the Minute Book containing the prospectus and summaries of the annual accounts from 1900 to 1968.
In 1899 a meeting was held in the office of Messrs. Charlesworth & Co. to discuss the question of forming a Conservative Club House, in the presence of Mrs Birkbeck of Anley (widow), Miss E. Stansfeld, C.A.L Swale (barrister), G.K. Charlesworth (solicitor), J. W. Edgar (M.D.), C.E. Bygrave (clerk to Settle Poor Law Guardians), Thomas Holmes, C.W.Parker, John Knowles (tanner), S. Butler (painter), M. Mason (stockbroker), and J. Nelson. The Articles of Association were agreed and Messrs Charlesworth & Co. (corner of Chapel St and Duke St.) were appointed solicitors and asked to register the company. Walter Morrison wrote to Swale from Knowle Hotel in Sidmouth commenting on the Articles noting that ‘… our directors are not likely to get into gaol. I am here getting rid of my usual winter cold.’ The prospectus was issued in January 1900 with capital of £3000 in 1500 shares of £2 payable as 10 shillings on allotment and the balance as the Directors could determine at their discretion. The Provisional Directors included most of those named above with in addition S. Hadfield (bank cashier), A.S.J. Musgrave (wool merchant), W.G. Perfect (land agent), W.A. Stackhouse (J.P.) and John Wilson (accountant - acting secretary). The object of the company was to purchase from L.H. Carr Birkbeck part of the Ashfield estate or some other plot in Settle and to erect buildings for accommodation of a Conservative or Constitutional Club with a view to promotion of Unionist principles. Promises of subscriptions were obtained from Walter Morrison M.P. (£500), Mrs Birkbeck (£200), Miss Stansfeld (£50), A. Musgrave (£100), C. Swale (£100) and others, so success was assured.
In January 1900 743 shares were allotted at 10s each to 30 individuals ranging in quantities from 1 to 250 (the last number to Walter Morrison). The shareholders were from all walks of life - tanner, grocer, yeoman, L.H. Carr Birkbeck as student in London, but most were professional people. At the first meeting of the shareholders Directors were appointed (Mrs Birkbeck, Miss E. Stansfeld, Mrs Stackhouse and Messrs. C. Swale (Chairman), G. Charlesworth, R. Sturdy, J. Winskill, J.Wilson.) Meanwhile the architect’s proposed design had been accepted and contracts for construction went to Brassington Bros. of Corney, Christopher Slinger, Thomas Holmes and Edmund Handby, totalling £2256-12-00.
There is a letter dated January 1900 from George Stansfeld addressed to dear George (Charlesworth) saying ‘your Aunt Bessie handed me that part of your letter describing the various reqirements to be met in your proposed new Constitutional Club at Settle’. He goes on to give details of every room as tentative ideas to put to the architect. ‘This is not the first time that I have done very similar work & I have largely made use of old drawings when they seemed to meet the requirements & so save time and trouble’. Stansfeld proposed two shops on the ground floor with cellars, backrooms and toilets. The heating boiler was in the basement for hot water heating the whole building but fireplaces were suggested as well. The first floor had a reading room and games room with a movable partition between them to give a large open space. A committee room and magazine room were provided. On the second floor were two billiard rooms with seating all round, a toilet/cloakroom and a caretaker’s flat. Henry Ross the architect forwarded his plans and specifications in April 1900 with his tenders.
In July 1900 a note to shareholders informed them that L.H.Carr Birkbeck had agreed to sell a part of Ashfield estate close to Settle station with excellent frontage for two lock-up shops. The building had already reached the first floor. A call for £1 per share was made for August 1900. The Directors called for the remaining 10s in March 1901 and wrote to Mr Ross to obtain estimates for a hoist and heating apparatus. The accounts for that year noted payment of £1300 to Brassington Bros. of Corney, £80 to Mr Slinger and £100 to Mr Holmes. A Furniture Committee was set up to purchase scrapers for the hall passage, 220 square yards of linoleum (second quality), billiard room seating and Holland blinds for the Reading room. The deed of conveyance for the land purchased for £245-14-00 was drawn up and executed October 1901. A recent copy of the plan attached to this deed shows the building with a garden area on the west side. A mortgage of £1000 at 4% was arranged with L.H. Carr Birkbeck and George K. Charlesworth, gradually paid down over the years.
A series of certificates has survived from the architect for March 1900 to January 1901 to allow payments to the contractors. In addition annual company registration certificates have been saved for 18th December 1899 when the company was first registered, with examples from 1900, 1901, 1909 and 1929 showing the changes in address in London of the Company Registration Agency in Chancery Lane. A large number of the share certificates issued in 1901 and in later years were found in the metal box; they had been called in during 1926. They show many of the individual holdings of numbered shares as also listed in the Day Book in detail. On the decease of various shareholders - i.e. Mrs Rachel Birkbeck, Revd. John Robinson, James Hammond and Walter Morrison the original certificates and the Transfer documents have been saved.
The second AGM was held in the new building in 1902. In following years the rents of the shops were the main source of income. Rents were halved in 1917 and 1918 and moved up and down in the next few years. In 1913 Mr Swale died and Mr Charlesworth was elected Chairman; Colonel Birkbeck was appointed Hon. Secretary and Treasurer. There are no meeting Minutes for 1918 to 1923. In 1926 came an Extraordinary General Meeting to resolve that shareholders be asked to sell their shares to a joint committee of members representing the Conservative Club (six persons) and the Primrose League (six persons) at 10s per share. These 12 were to be Directors. The Primrose League was an organisation for spreading Conservative principles in Great Britain, founded in 1883. At a late point in its existence its declared aims were:
Shares were bought back late in 1926 and at first put into the ownership of John Birkbeck of Anley and George Charlesworth. The 995 shares were then divided into 11 blocks of 83 shares and one of 82 and transferred at 5s each to the directors. None of them could be separate individual shareholders. Further transfer of shares from retiring directors to any newly elected ones was required. Each such transfer incurred fees and Stamp Duty. This arrangement was in 1953 seen to be cumbersome when Mrs Muriel Birkbeck retired as Chairman owning inherited shares held in Trust. She did not feel disposed to give them away even though it was suggested to her that the shares had little value. However, Mrs Birkbeck pointed out that if the building were sold one day then the shares would have value. It may now be the case that any benefit will accrue to the national association rather than to the directors.
Thereafter the Club and the Primrose League seem to be separated from the Company to which rent was paid. Rent was reduced from £40 to £30 pa and all arrears were cancelled in view of the loss of receipts and expenses of altering the billiard room and assembly room.
Colonel John Birkbeck became Chairman in 1927 followed in 1936 by Mrs H. Muriel Birkbeck elected Chairman of the Directors (to 1951).
Substantial Income Tax seems to be incurred 1917 onwards. In the 1920s Schedule D tax on bank interest was 4s 6d, ‘to be paid forthwith.’ Schedule A Property Tax on the club house and shops at 4s per £ value (less allowance for repairs) on £60 had to be paid twice in 1926 and in later years.
The Second World War period brought financial difficulties. During and immediately preceding the war years it was realised that the Club was not in a position to pay any rent (nothing paid to the company from 1936 to 1947). Certain portions of the Club were to be closed apart from the Reading room. The vacant rooms were to be advertised and Mr Lord’s office rent was to be raised. In November 1939 the directors met Mr Clarkson of Bradford Grammar School and Miss Mildred Hooke, Head Teacher of Bradford Girls’ Grammar School, about letting of rooms for some girl evacuees at a rent of £40 pa but at a later meeting a rent of £26 pa was offered when the school asked for reduction. The tenancy agreement concerns the Assembly room, two large Billiard rooms, use of lavatories, cloak rooms and the coal cellar, with any outlay above £90 pa for rates, lighting, heating and cleaning being abated. Miss Hooke was there part of every week. The tenants were required not to cause or permit any damage except for damage by fire, storm, tempest, aircraft whether hostile or not, bombardment and anti-aircraft defences. The Girls’ Grammar School terminated their agreement in May 1940 after 6 months tenancy. During this time other girls from elsewhere had been evacuated to the school in Bradford. Rent discussions are noted with the County Poster Services (for an advertizing board of 14 ft by 10ft, rent of £2 pa being 6 months in arrears) and the British Speleological Association (Mr E. Simpson). Harger Bros. took up three rooms as a furniture store at £30 pa by July 1940 (terminated 1983). Property Tax was a worrying issue. An additional demand of £7-3-0 for Schedule A Property Tax was received in June 1941. War Damage Contribution was also to be paid.
A letter from the Conservative Club to the Club House Company dated February 1945 states that ‘the future of Conservatism in the district, and in particular the welfare and decline in membership of the above club was discussed at considerable length.’ A petition for a licence for sale of intoxicating and soft drinks was presented by members as one way of reviving the Club’s fortunes. A list of bar articles supplied in 1948 by Gaskell and Chambers Ltd. is of interest.
In 1947 it was proposed to reduce subscriptions to 6s to encourage Young Conservatives to use the club. The existing members were worried that there might be a sudden influx of new members ‘not all with Conservative views’ comprising a majority on the committee. A letter was written to a member in 1970 ‘expressing concern and disappointment that you allowed your name to be used in support of a candidate representing a rival political party during the recent election campaign.’
The Customs and Excise raised their heads in 1936 concerning a Garden Party. The Commissioners determined ‘that part of the charge of 1s for admission to an entertainment as a spectator does not exceed 6d and Entertainment Duty will not therefore be payable.’ The Gaming Act of 1968 and the Performing Rights Society had also to be reckoned with and the usual officious set of questions to be answered. ‘Is a steward employed? Who is he and where does he live? Has he any connection with gaming? Is anything known to his detriment?’
At various times Mr C. J. Lord, Mr R. Beckett (Coal and Coke Merchant) and Settle Limes (Coal Office) rented office rooms. By 1949 it was noted that ‘the company has been for some years living on its capital, a condition rather reminiscent of the methods of our present Government, and not conducive to future success.’
A large number of invoices from local tradesmen were rescued from the metal box - many in a very poor condition. The Table shows those involved and the dates of the invoices.
End NoteThis collection of papers has proved to be worth saving and a potential source of further study of the development of similar institutions elsewhere. The papers are lodged with the North Yorkshire County Record Office for safe-keeping and images of the tradesmen’s documents are on the dalescommunityarchives website.
The bar articlesPicture is missing
Station Road Settle