One of Huddersfield’s best known clubs is 150 years old next month but the fear is the years ahead will be a struggle to survive.

Berry Brow Liberal Club opened its doors in 1874 at a time when people voted Liberal, Conservative or not at all and just 10 years later moved to its current location at Parkgate in Berry Brow.

Club president Kath Middleton said: “Berry Brow Liberal Club survived the Boer war and two world wars although they had a considerable impact on the membership, a membership that was strictly male until women were admitted in the 1970s.

“The major threat to the club was the former Huddersfield Borough Council’s decision to demolish the village of Berry Brow in the 1960s with the promise to replace the housing with an Italianate village.

“Sadly this never happened but the replacement was two tower blocks which gave priority to over 55s.

“For a while this provided extra custom and the club sought to capitalise on this by spending its reserves and using loans from brewers to redevelop our building but the major negative impact was the loss of many younger members from the community.”

The club used to host Armitage Bridge Cricket Club and, later, Berry Brow Football Club but over the years these developed their own facilities which further reduced the number of younger members.

Another threat to the club has been that in more recent years the presence of asbestos led the flats to be emptied and eventually designated for closure and demolition. The latest threat to the club is the high price of gas and electric.

Kath added: “Berry Brow will carry on the battle with more karaoke, more quizzes and we’ll maintain the breadth and excellence of our drinks offer. Will we make it to our 150th anniversary? We will. Will we and other small clubs and pubs make it through the next few years? Not alone. We need the community, its use us or lose us.”

The club’s history is both fascinating and, at times, quirky.

When it first opened there were two classes of membership, social and ‘voting’ with the latter reflecting the strong allegiance to the local Liberal party. 

How they differed immediately showed up in the first two items passed in committee. The first was to send representatives to a meeting supporting a campaign against alcohol while the second was to order the club’s first ever barrel of beer from Tetley’s brewery. 

Over the years the political influence began to reduce but even in the 1940s a member was threatened by the committee of being barred as “he had been seen on the Conservative club’s bowling green.”

The club has always opened during the day and provided newspapers to keep members up to date on national affairs, not to mention the horseracing.

The club gave its members the chance to play billiards – snooker was only developed in the 1880s – darts, dominoes and cards.

Gambling provided the club with some income as it was only permitted using the club’s own brass penny tokens. These were available at the bar at a rate of 10 to the shilling and this continued until the late 1940s.

The club has organised a month of entertainment in March to celebrate its anniversary.

The line-up is:

March 2 – singer Jim McLaine

March 9 – Holmfirth-based covers band Bash The Bishop

March 16 – Colin’s world famous quiz

March 23 – singer and keyboardist Phil James

March 30 – Rick Steer’s Karaoke

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.