chapter  II
51 Pages

Working-Class Attitudes and Institutions

As has been noted earlier, virtually the only source that we possess for determining working-class attitudes is the workingclass institution. Pride of place is given to the working men's club as our channel into working-class society, but reference is also made to Trades Councils and the working men's colleges where they are relevant to the discussion. The Club Movement was chosen because of its basically non-sectarian nature and because it reached a large number of working men. By 1903, about 900 clubs and 321,000 members were affiliated to the Club and Institute Union which was the central governing and coordinating organ of the movement. The clubs were, in origin, just one of many social-reforming institutions founded by the middle classes for the working classes in the middle of the nineteenth century. But unlike most other examples of this kind of social-reforming philanthropy they had retained their working-class character both in composition and in function. A few scattered examples will enable us to illustrate the workingclass membership of the clubs. Thus, in 1866, the Wednesday Club was composed 'almost exclusively of bona-fide weekly wage operatives, the only person a little above that rank . . . being a clerk'. In the same year, the committee of Camden Town Working Men's Club was composed of three journeyman upholsterers, two piano-makers, three printers, a painter, tinplate worker, tailor and seven other miscellaneous trades. The artisan class of the men who attended the clubs did not change throughout the century. In 1899, the Secretary of Boro' of Hackney Club revealed that the members reflected the dominant trades of the area; shoe-makers, cabinet-makers and woodworkers made up the majority of the membership.1