Swanage Conservative Club

A brief history of the early years taken from information in the Club's first Minute Books covering the period March 1885 / December 1912.

A preliminary meeting was held on March 10th. 1885 at the Ship Hotel for the purpose of forming a Conservative Association for the Swanage District. Mr G. Burt was elected to the chair and the following officers were elected:

President. The Right Hon. The Earl of Eldon.

Vice Presidents. Mr. G. Burt & Mr H. Shilwell.

Chairman. The Rev. H.J. Mason.

Vice Chairman. Mr. H.W. Burt.

Treasurer. Mr. J. Andrews.

Secretary. Mr. J. Hardy.

The Committee consisted of twenty seven others mostly with well known local names i.e. Bonfield, Hixson, Horlock, Vye, Turner, Bower,etc. They had power to add to their number!

They resolved to invite a gentleman from the National Union to address the next meeting to be held on the 23rd. at the Town Hall kindly lent for the occasion by Mr. Burt and to have an inaugural dinner the same evening.

The first Committee Meeting was held at the Ship Hotel on April 1st. It was agreed to form a Conservative Working Men's Club and a subscription of one guinea was decided on, half to the Association, half to the new Workman's Club. A room at the Town Hall (later to become two) for the purpose of the Club was agreed by Mr. Burt.

At the next meeting on April 8th. Rules for the new Club ( sadly not listed) were set out and they agreed an ordinary members subscription of 6d per quarter payable in advance with an honorary members sub. of not less than 10/6d per annum. Club members had to be members of the Association and when the Club started it would have it's own Committee, rules, etc.

The first A.G.M. of the Club was held in the Town Hall Rooms on April 12th. 1886. The future of the Workman's Club at that time was questioned and it was decided to look for more suitable rooms. Meetings were frequent, almost weekly, in the early years and a Committee Meeting held at the Ship on May 19th. 1886 decided to move the Club to a room at the Drill Hall (now the Post Office at the rear and north of the current Club) being erected at the time by Lord Eldon.

At a meeting on March 29th 1987 it was decided to have a public dinner as an opening of the Conservative Club Room at the Drill Hall. There is some confusion in the Minutes as to the exact name of the Club, the above Minute refers to the "Conservative Club Room" but a further meeting held on July 1st decided to erect a notice outside saying "Swanage Constitutional Club Room" and the word "Constitutional" occurs in later entries..

A meeting on May 24th. decided to install gas lighting in the new room.

A meeting held on June 14th. 1987 decided to have the following newspapers and periodicals available for members:

The Standard, Daily Telegraph, Moonshine, Tit Bits, England, Dorset County Chronicle, Western Gazette and the Graphic. A meeting on November 24th. added The Union and The Illustrated London News. Newspapers and periodicals seem to have had some importance as votes were taken yearly as to which should be made available to members.

The Committee Meeting held on October 25th 1887 decided on a dinner to be held on November 7th. (this was later postponed as the President, Lord Eldon, was unable to attend) when tickets would cost 2/6d but for working men 1/-. 150 were printed.

Meetings became monthly from 1989 onwards and many of the details in the minutes were typical of what you would expect to find - new members, minor problems with supplies, members in arrears, etc.

In 1890 it was agreed with Lord Eldon to take over the tenancy of the cottage adjoining the Drill Hall to house the Club caretaker, Mr. Brumsden, he should occupy the cottage free of rents, dues and taxes but in lieu of salary. At the same meeting it was unanimously agreed to organize a Smoking Concert! These were to become a regular feature.

In the early 1890's meetings seem to have become rather infrequent or minutes were not taken. There were no Committee Meetings detailed between 1895 - 1896.

The A.G.M. held on 26th. October 1894 received an offer from Mr. John Mowlem Burt to give the Club a piano. This was gratefully accepted and a Committee Meeting held on 26th. November agreed to have a brass plate fitted to the piano engraved with the words " Presented to the Swanage Constitutional Club by John Mowlem Burt J.P. Chairman 1894". He also presented the Club with "a fine cluster of incandescent lights (180 candle power)". The same Committee Meeting voted and agreed no dogs be allowed in the Club.

The A.G.M. held on November 26th. 1898 unanimously decided no one could become a member unless he signed a paper stating he was either a Conservative or Liberal Unionist and that the minimum age be set at 16.

After much debate over a long period a secondhand billiard table was obtained from a club in Branksome, it arrived in the Club in December 1903.

In April 1905 is was agreed to buy two rowing galleys for members use and a rowing club and committee be formed.

The A.G.M. held on the 30th. November 1908 instructed the Secretary to apply to join the Association of Conservative Clubs for the affiliation of the Club.

The current building was first mentioned at a meeting held on February 8th. 1910. Subsequent meetings during that year discussed the New Club, running costs, etc. It was agreed the New Club should be able to accommodate between 250 - 300 members.

At an S.G.M. held on May 19th. Mr. Pond gave an account of the work and explained what Lord Eldon proposed to do, there were suggestions to increase the size of the building. As a result it was decided to increase the annual subs to 4/- per year. Mr. Cann spoke on the Dorchester Club and said this had not paid until a bar was installed. It was agreed to close the Club from 11am until 6pm for the funeral of the late King Edward 7th.

At the Committee Meeting held on November 9th the building was again discussed and it was unanimously agreed to write to the agent, Mr. Candy, urging the commencement of the work as it had Lord Eldon's approval. Yet another Smoking Concert got approval!

The Committee Meeting held on the 17th. May 1911 agreed to advertise in the Dorset County Chronicle and the A.C.C. Gazette for a Steward. A large number of applications were received and the following meeting on the 13th. June reduced these to six - Messrs. O'Neil, Northover, Stevens, Matthews, Denness and Wilson. After a discussion it was agreed to offer the position to Mr. Denness at a salary of £24.00 per year subject to a satisfactory interview.

A special meeting was held on 15th. June to consider Mr. Denness's appointment and a long list of his duties was drawn up. Briefly, in addition to the £24.00 salary per year, he was to receive 10 days holiday per year and his employment would commence on September 1st. 1911. He was to keep the whole of the Club clean and should open the Club at 10am and close at 11pm unless told otherwise by the Committee.

The meeting held on August 8th was attended by the architect, Mr. Way, when the following extras were approved:

Bath £ 14:0:0

Vestibule £ 8:0:0

Speaking Tube £ 1:0:0

Seats £ 25:0:0

Lift £ 7:0:0

At a S.G.M. held on August 11th. Mr. Beer spoke eloquently about the excellence of the new building and it was agreed it should be furnished in a manner befitting the Town and the Conservative Cause. Money would be raised by means of loans of 5/- or multiples of from members with an interest rate of 3.75% to be paid. Members decided where possible local tradesmen and suppliers should be used.

The Committee Meeting held on the 30th. September 1911 were told the deeds were available and handed over to Mr. Slade, the solicitor. It was agreed the Club take possession of the new premises on the first Thursday in October 1911, the 5th. and on Friday October 6th. 1911 the first A.G.M. took place in the new Club. It was unanimously agreed the Earl of Eldon be re-elected president, Sir John Burt was elected vice president and Colonel Slater chairman with a Committee consisting of 14 members. 15 newspapers and periodicals would be available to members.

The first monthly meeting of the Committee was held on October 10th and a sample receipt from that time is attached to the Minutes confirming a person has been elected to membership and requesting a subscription of 4/- be paid within two days. Requests to use a room in the Club were received from various organizations including the women's Primrose League and Women's Unionist and Tariff Reform Association, a charge of 2/6p was levied to cover the cleaning, etc.

During December 1911 two meetings took place to discuss and pass new Rules. Each was voted on separately but, unfortunately, the rules are not detailed in the Minutes, only the numbers and who proposed and seconded them. Rules were agreed for billiards and the use of the rifle range, the Committee deciding to purchase two BSA air rifles. The question of the Club piano caused considerable discussion when it was decided to hire one when necessary.

The Club appears to have had a Reading Room and the Committee Meeting held on January 9th. decided to hold it's meeting there. At the same meeting it was decided to hold whist drives and to have a dance engaging a local band which should cost no more than £2-2-0d..

The Meeting held on 13th. February heard the Steward had asked for an increase in salary to £40.0.0 per year - agreed ( although not clear it appears he was no longer requiring the Steward's flat for his own use as the Club was looking into renting it out). It was also agreed, subject to cost, to have a telephone installed in the Club.

The rifle range clearly gave a sense of adventure to Members as it was decided to install plate glass screens to stop stray bullets striking those in the main hall! The Sports Committee had problems having to send snooker cues back to Riley's asking for them to be replaced. They formed a Cricket Club and also bought boxing gloves presumably for the use of Members.

By June 1912 minor problems were appearing in the new Club resulting in the Secretary writing to the architect about W.C. cisterns, wash basins, door locks, etc.

The Meeting held on August 13th. 1912 decided to have a flag pole erected and to invite tenders for the supply of a Club flag. A Meeting held on October 19th. agreed to buy a flag for 7/-.

The Meeting held on September 27th. 1912 was for the purpose of deciding how to celebrate the first anniversary of the Club. It was decided to hold yet another smoking concert and to spend no more than £2-2-0d on artists. (they overspent and had to find another 2/- to cover the cost).

The second A.G.M. in the Club was held on October 3rd 1912 when most of the Club Officials were re-elected. Again, great importance seems to have been attached to what papers and periodicals be provided for Members, a total of 18 were agreed each being proposed, seconded and voted on. Not surprisingly a Committee Meeting on December 10th decided to have a paper rack installed.

The final Meeting detailed in the first Minute book was held on December 24th. 1912 when it was agreed to organize a children's party with entertainment on January 3rd. Probably years ahead of it's time the Committee agreed to invite wives to form a Committee ( they were asked to cater for the party) and a sum of £7-10-0d was allocated for food, toys, etc.

Throughout the early years of the Club the Minutes detail mostly mundane day-to-day running of the Club very similar to today. The back of the Minute Book has pages of income and expenditure. Older members of the current Club will remember Bick’s tobacconist (he supplied this to the Club), Bartlett’s Printers, Burt & Burt (coal) Brunsden’s (ironmongers) and W.H. Smith.

Dave Snook. Vice-President in 2011 compiled this History.

Footnote: Having checked I am informed smoking concerts were live performances, usually music, before an audience of men only. Very popular gatherings men would smoke and speak of politics.

On the 5th October 2011 Swanage Conservative Club Members celebrated 100 years in their current premises. On Monday 3rd until Saturday 9th 2011 the Club held a series of events to celebrate the milestone including enhanced prizes for the usual activities, free draws, buffets and bar offers. Also awarding Commemorative Engraved Glasses to past Presidents, Chairman, Staff and prominent Town officials.


The Club began at a meeting held at the Ship Hotel on March 10th. 1885 called especially for the forming of a Conservative Association for the Swanage District, the following officers were elected:

President. The Right Hon. The Earl of Eldon.

Vice Presidents. Mr. G. Burt & Mr H. Shilwell.

Chairman. The Rev. H.J. Mason.

Vice Chairman. Mr. H.W. Burt.

Treasurer. Mr. J. Andrews.

Secretary. Mr. J. Hardy.

The Committee consisted of twenty seven others mostly with well known local names i.e. Bonfield, Hixson, Horlock, Vye, Turner, Bower,etc. Mr. G. Burt made a room available at the Town Hall for the Club's use. The first A.G.M. was held in the Town Hall Rooms on April 1886 and in the same year the Club moved to new rooms in the then Drill Hall adjoining the current premises.


The Club President, the Earl of Eldon, decided to erect a purpose-built Club in 1910 and the members took possession on the first Thursday in October 1911, the 5th. holding their first A.G.M in the building on following day, Friday 6th. The Earl of Eldon was re-elected President with Colonel Slater as Chairman. Subscriptions were set at 4/- (20p) per annum and early activities included boxing, shooting and rowing clubs, whist nights and occasional entertainment with local bands.

In the early seventies the Members were fortunate to purchase the building from the Scott family, the Earl of Eldon's title having lapsed, and became owners of the whole Club premises. The Club has continued to move forward and in more recent years has been completely revamped in a more up-to-date style including an air-conditioned Function Room available for a small fee to members and non members for an extra fee for private events.

Not surprisingly boxing, shooting, etc. activities are no more, the Club now offers snooker, pool, darts, etc together with card evenings, bingo, quiz nights, prize draws and Saturday night entertainment. New members are always made welcome by Club Staff and Officials, 'phone 422310 or 423600 for details or call in the Club.