The Salford Lad’s Club has been operating for well over a century, but only became well-known after it featured on the cover of The Smiths’ third album, The Queen is Dead (1986).
The Club committee was at first not pleased by this attention.
A later change-of-heart encouraged fans to visit, to take selfies outside the front door, to come inside to add their pictures to the Smiths Room and to buy an impressive range of souvenirs.
There’s much more to celebrate about the Club.
It was founded in August 1903 as part of the newly built New Barracks estate by the brothers William (1847-1927) and James Groves (1854-1914), local brewers, who persuaded Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) to open the club on January 30th 1904.
It was one of a number of local clubs founded to break the combative local youth gang-culture, known as “scuttling”, which had disturbed the peace of Salford and inner-city Manchester for the previous twenty years.
The main staircase has a memorial to William and James Groves, with the motto “To brighten young lives and make good citizens”.
The Club offered opportunities for strenuous activity, including annual summer camps in Wales, alongside less energetic pursuits such as billiards, snooker, draughts and bagatelle.
The building was designed by Henry Lord (1843-1926) who was also responsible for the adjacent New Barracks estate, Salford’s first municipal housing development, and survives almost entirely intact, providing a large gymnasium and a concert hall, both with viewing galleries, and a boxing gym. The former fives court is now split to create rooms on two floors.
The physical comfort of the modern building must also have been attractive. The sport facilities included showers at a time when hardly any homes had indoor sanitation, and the club was exceptional in offering an employment bureau for boys aged thirteen and upwards.
The Lads’ Club stands at the end of Salford’s actual Coronation Street. The model for the TV serial, Archie Street, was older and the houses were smaller. Archie Street was used in the title sequences of the programme from 1960 to 1969; it was demolished in 1971.
The Salford Girls’ Institute stood nearby at the corner of Regent Square, adjacent to St Ignatius’ Church, until it was bombed in the Second World War. It was never replaced and eventually the Salford Lads’ Club became the Salford Lads’ and Girls’ Club in 1994.
The building was listed Grade II in 2003 as a rare example of a purpose-built boys’ club.
The Club retains the membership cards of the 22,500 young people who have attended since 1903. This archive is digitised and accessible for family-history research, and the Archive Room contains the Wall of Names, installed in 2015.
Former members include Eddie Coleman (1936-1958), the youngest of the “Busby Babes” who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster, Allan Clark and Graham Nash (both born 1942), founder-members of the 1960s band The Hollies – Graham Nash went on to perform with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – and the champion boxer Jamie Moore (born 1978).
One of the co-founders of the Betfred bookmakers, Fred Done (born 1943), whose first betting shop opened in Ordsall in 1967, contributed to the cost of the Wall of Names.
As well as being a destination for music tourists, the Salford Lads’ Club does what it’s always done for young people in the local community – “brighten young lives and make good citizens”.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Manchester’s Heritage, please click here.
The 60-page, A4 handbook for the 2019 ‘Manchester’s Heritage’ tour, has a section on Salford which includes the Lads’ Club, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list. It is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.