Initially known as the Chichester Working Men’s Club and Institute, the club was established in 1863 by Walter Farquhar Hook, who had been installed as Dean of Chichester in 1859.
The original purpose of the club was to provide a recreational space for the considerable number of workmen restoring the cathedral spire, which had collapsed in February, 1861, as well as other workmen in the city. Dean Hook purchased premises at 13 North Pallant and opened the club.
Very little is known about the early club, as the records were unfortunately destroyed by a fire in the assistant secretary’s premises. It is thought that the first premises in North Pallant housed a single room for the club.However, its exact size is unknown. At some point between 1879 and 1897 the club’s name changed to the Chichester City Club, as it remains known today.
A book of rules survives from 1879 that gives a fascinating insight into the everyday activities of members of the club. Its president was John Russell Walker, Archdeacon of Chichester, who was accompanied by 13 vice-presidents and trustees, a committee of 12, a treasurer, two secretaries and a custodian. Members were able to read the papers and play games from 10am until 11pm and the annual subscription charge was 6s alongside an entrance fee of 1s. Gambling, dogs and intoxicants were banned and offensive behaviour or bad language could lead to an expulsion.
Although card games were a popular pastime, billiards was a focal point for the club. The tradition of a monthly flyer handicap still continues to this day, and many matches had prizes, including 30 shillings for first prize, a pair of trousers for second prize, and an umbrella for third!
In 1913, Charlie Howard, who ran a well-known photography shop and who was a prominent member of society, donated some clocks which were used for the monthly handicap prizes.
In 1919, a memorial clock was unveiled by the Mayor of Chichester at 11am on November 11, which recorded club members who had given their lives during the First World War. This can still be seen in the club today. The club was prolific during the war, collecting for war charities and offering wounded soldiers honorary membership.
It was the early 1900s that saw the greatest period of change for the club. Alcohol, although previously banned, was sold on the site, as the club’s financial situation had become an area of concern. This in turn saw a change in opening hours to accommodate the sale of alcohol, and Sunday evening opening hours were introduced in 1921 until 1948.
In 1961, associate membership was opened up to women, although only to use the front bar (now called Pallant Bar). It was not until 2003 that other spaces in the club were opened up to women after they were allowed full membership.
The building has gone through many bouts of change. In 1954, it was redecorated by members of the club in an attempt to save money and revitalise the membership, in 1982 an extension was added to create a dining and entertainment area, and the two buildings were knocked into one.
The club still thrives with entertainment, sports and games taking place throughout the week. For information about membership please visit: chichestercityclub.co.uk/
By Portia Tremlett, museum assistant