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Jim Hollis, 2008
Windmill Club History

The old mill house.
The old cottage where the club first began was near the old windmill at the top of Windmill Road. [see below]

A meeting at which the formation of a club was discussed was held at the house of Mr. C. Hodson in Brookfield Road.

In 1898 the first Windmill Club was built on the corner of Windmill and Glassbrook Road, opposite the original meeting place. In 1899 a new addition was added at a cost of £850 and two houses were also purchased, 21 and 23.

In 1929 when the new club was built in Glassbrook Road, the club and houses were purchased by William Childs, as a heel factory. He lived at no.23 and sold no.21 to Mr. Wilfred Myers, for £350.

A postcard by C F Chapman c1928
A postcard by C F Chapman c1928
Date stone The old club
The date stone
The old Windmill Club

Football team 1910
Rushden Echo, 29th June 1900

A library has been opened this week at the Windmill Club and the committee intend to purchase a number of books for the members. At present the Working Men’s Club Union and Institute, London, are lending the books.

During the first World War there were several Rolls of Honour erected in Rushden. In 1917 one was erected in the Windmill grounds. Later in the same year the committee of the Roll sent 3s. 6d. to each of the 50 boys whose names appear on the roll. Over the next six months nearly £50 was sent in monthly sums.

In July 1920 a religious service was held in the Windmill Club concert room to dedicate a memorial to members of the club who had served, some of them falling in the Great War. On the Roll of Honour it listed 138 names of members of the club, 16 of which are of the fallen. It was constructed by Messrs. Fattorini and Sons, Ltd., of Bradford, and cost £110.

In 1927 a new and much bigger Club (the present one) was built on the opposite side of Glassbrook Road. In March of that year whilst working on the new building a Mr. Joe Harrison, a foreman, fell off the scaffolding from a height of 10ft. or so, landing on a stack of slates, severely cutting one of his ears and the flesh behind it. He had several stitches inserted by the doctor but was well enough to go back to work the next day. Later on that year during the half yearly meeting it was decided that a maple floor instead of deal would be laid in the large room upstairs for dances and other purposes.

On 24th March 1928 the new Rushden Windmill Club was officially opened by Mr. Bertie Hall, the national secretary of the Club and Institute Union.

Mr. F. E. Preston was the Architect, W. Packwood and son the builder, and Messrs. Whittington and Tomlin did the woodwork.

The new club was erected (including fittings and furniture) for about £12,500.

The first steward of the club was a Mr. Abbott, who lent the money for the club officials to buy the beer.

To start with the club did very well some of the big names of the day playing in the concert room, it was quite common on a week-end to have a row of coaches lined up along Glassbrook Road having brought people from miles around to see the performers. There have been wrestling matches put on at regular times, even the odd Town Christmas Carol Service.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 28th May 1954, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Six cobblers, a barrel of beer began it all
Sixty years ago, half a dozen cobblers met in a tiny white stone mill-house at Rushden, and with them they had a barrel of beer.

The old mill house.
This was the humble beginning of the Windmill Club, famous today to Working Men’s Clubs throughout the Midlands and Northamptonshire’s Olympia.

There are two stories about the Windmill Club. So before we go “behind the bar” at the Midlands’ biggest C. and U. Institute building, let’s take a look at the Windmill Hall – dance hall, political forum, concert house, sports arena and exhibition emporium all rolled into one.

Few halls in the Midlands can claim to have housed so many different attractions.

Big Bands
Dances, boxing, wrestling, flower shows, dinners, symphony concert, furniture exhibitions, factory parties, political meetings, variety shows, pantos, brass and dance band contests have all been staged there.

In the thirties the Rushden and District Query Motor Club ran a series of charity dances bringing the “big bands” from London. They included Jack Hylton, Roy Fox and Billy Cotton. Once, the club managed to persuade Arsenal manager, Herbert Chapman, to allow the F.A. Cup to be displayed as the crowds waltzed and quick-stepped.

“Young bloods” of those years will remember the glittering carnival queen contests at the Windmill Hall – and the glamorous film stars who tripped upstairs to present prizes.

In 1938, twelve Midlands dance orchestras played at the Windmill Hall in the area finals of a national dance band contest. Stage and radio star Bertha Willmott, who lived at Northampton, was a judge.

Then came the war, and in the place of soft lights and sweet music, the excited cries of the boxing fans and the gentle shuffle of exhibition viewers, came the heavy thump of military boots. In turn, British, Canadian and American troops occupied the hall.

Knock-Out Blow
At the end of hostilities, dancing, boxing, flower shows and the rest returned to the Windmill Hall. One of the first big events there was when the Rt. Hon. Clement Attlee addressed 1,000 people shortly before the 1945 General Election. Another was the visit of the famous Halle Orchestra.

A Festival Queen was chosen in 1951 and back came top names in the dance band world – Sid Phillips, Nat Temple, Oscar Rabin, Ambrose, Harry Roy and Freddy Randall. Cyril Stapleton made one of his last public appearances there before forming the B.B.C. Show Band last year.

Boxing was promoted at the hall from 1947 until 1952 and many up-and-coming boys fought before the Rushden crowds. Promoter was Mr. W. Furness now president of the Windmill Club.

The fights at one time attracted and average “gate” of 1,000 people, but the high entertainment tax and other factors dealt a knock-out blow to the sport two years ago.

High costs stopped the “big band” dances last autumn, but they may return this year.

Now we’ll go downstairs and look into the other side of the Windmill Club, where last year its 1,432 members paid £30,000 for everything that comes under the title of refreshments.

Several Veterans
Here, there is a warm and happy atmosphere of a successful, well-organised club – a club that members never leave. There’s more than a handful that can boast 40 years’ membership.

And it all started just across the road in a patched-up old building that is still standing. From the mill-house the club moved to a nearby tin hut, and then in 1898 the first club building was erected.

It was in 1927, after nearly two years’ building work, that the Windmill Club became established in its present premises. It cost something in the region of £20,000 and not until 1941 was the £8,000 debt paid off.

Justly Proud
Today, the “Mill” members are justly proud of their club. They have special rooms for snooker and billiards, cards, skittles and darts. There is a free lending library which contains 1,000 books, a committee room for the numerous “sub-clubs” – angling, horticulture, fur and feather section, sick club, coal club, loan and dividend club.

Ron Kemp draws a pint
In the bar - steward Ron Kemp draws a pint
Aged members and children are also well looked after.

Then there is the large bar and a cheerful smoke-room where “sing songs” go on all the time. Installed in the smoke-room is a £100 Univox – the latest type of electric organ attachment to a piano. Every weekend at least 500 members and relations attend the cabaret-dances in the hall.

The Windmill is proud, too, of its hard-working, part-time staff of 12 and the full-time steward and his wife. Four officers and ten committee men undertake the mammoth task of managing the club. They have given “umpteen” years’ service to the club.

Take, for example, the 43-year-old president, Mr. Wally Furness. He has been a committee man since he was 21 and spends seven nights a week at the club. His key helpers are secretary Mr. Jack Milburn and the always necessary “financial wizard” treasurer Mr. L. G. Bland.

But they never rest at the Windmill. “Only the best for our members is our motto,” says Mr. Furness. And the latest improvements are – a controlled temperature beer cellar and electric pumps at the bar in the hall.

Those half a dozen cobblers who looked at a windmill sixty years ago and decided on the name of their club could never in their wildest dreams have imagined such success.

The modern club 2008
1st October 2011

The club closed its doors today, due to financial problems that it had been trying to overcome for some years.

Club secretary Jim Milroy said closure was due to threatened legal action by H M Revenue and Customs.

Bar supervisor Mr Danny Wright said the club was being cleaned ready for sale by auction.

2015 - The club reopened under new ownership
The Club in 2008

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