The Kimberley Workingmen’s Club in Stacksteads, Rossendale is the stuff of legend. Few, outside of those interested in such things, have heard of it and fewer still have visited it. Even many locals aren’t aware of its location and yet internet forums are full of people willing to travel across the country to visit a genuine slice of social history.
Established in 1897, the KMC started out as an afterhours drinking venue for quarry workers. Legend has it that it was carried down into the valley on poles. There are various theories about its South African connections-there is a Kimberley Street close by, but what we do know is that surprisingly little has changed since those early days.
Once you have got up the steep hill, over the dirt track and through the gate; you are confronted with two very small rooms. There’s probably just enough room to squeeze all 36 members in. This helps to explain why visitation is strictly by invitation only. We were privileged to enjoy a special Sunday opening. Normal hours are Tues. Thurs and Fri after 9.30pm.
When you are sat in the inner sanctum with the locals (and their dogs), you really are transported back in time. In fact, time becomes meaningless as you sup under the light of the single gas light. Naturally there’s no electricity-the vacuum cleaner is oil powered and the only nod to food is a packet of nuts. They can’t keep crisps, they’d get too damp.
However, some modern elements are present. They received planning permission to build toilets in 1934, but actually only got round to building them in 1999. Prior to that, it was "ladies use the short grass and gents use the long grass".
They also do now have (a few) bottles of lager for anyone from outside of the valley. Of course, there are no handpumps, so all the beer is brought up from the cellar. Taylor’s Dark Mild and Best Bitter are the choices, and I have to say I was impressed with how well they kept them. £1.50 for the Bitter may have the £5-a-pint craft beer aficionados spluttering into their Bollinger, but I didn’t hear many complaints.
A great day out and thanks to the Kimberley and Uncle Albert for arranging it.