ONE of Malcolm Lockwood’s earliest memories is getting a short back and sides at Eccleshill Working Men’s Club.

“I used to come in with my brothers - all four of us sat here and the barber cut our hair for sixpence while our dad had a pint,” says Malcolm, who moved to Eccleshill from Little Horton aged five. “Six kids in a back-to-back. The estate was being built, that’s why we moved here.”

This was in the 1950s, when the new Thorpe Edge estate brought more housing to the area. The local population was growing, and Eccleshill Working Men’s Club was a focal point. Today - more than 100 years since it opened - the club remains at the heart of the community.

The clubhouse has undergone a recent £35,000 refurbishment - its 140-seat concert hall has a sleek, contemporary look, with seats and tables restored to look new. The work took six weeks, with the club staying open, following a £16,000 refurb of the lounge bar. The next project is to upgrade the games room.

Many pubs and social clubs have closed in recent years, with the smoking ban and cheap supermarket booze often cited as factors, but Eccleshill Working Men’s Club is bucking the trend. “We’re one of the few clubs to make a good profit in the past three years, and that enabled us to do the refurbishment,” says president Neil Davison. “We have entertainment every Saturday, 52 weeks a year, and a weekly quiz and bingo. It’s packed Saturday nights, and we do charity events for the Mechanics Institute and Kipling Court. We’ve got a charity race night for the BRI neo-natal unit on September 27.

“We do weddings, wakes, Christenings, birthday parties. A lot of clubs and pubs are struggling these days, I think our success is down to the way we run the club, and the support of the local community and businesses. We have a good structured committee, and members help out.”

The club, on Stony Lane, is bigger than it looks. The large concert room, with stage and music system, looks out to a spacious beer garden at the back. Live acts are advertised on the club’s Facebook page.

It’s a far cry from “three barrels of beer on a plank of wood” of the early days, when membership was six shillings. When it opened in 1914 it was just the lounge bar, which remains at the front. A photograph thought to be of the original committee outside the club was taken in the early days. “The chap in the middle is Jack Stamp. His grand-daughter used to run the club,” says Neil, who would like to hear from anyone who can identify the men - and two members in another photo, probably post-war. “Unfortunately we don’t have many photos of the old club. We celebrated the centenary recently - it started as a social club then became a working men’s club - and we’d like to hear from people who’ve come here over the years, or whose relatives were members, who have photos or memorabilia. There’s a lot written about the history of Eccleshill, but nothing about the club, and it’s been here over 100 years.”

A 1930 photo shows the club’s orchestra. “Many clubs had a brass band - for a club to have its own orchestra was unusual,” says Neil.

In 1920 the venue joined the Club and Institute Union (CIU). The WMC was initially for men, mainly workers from local mills, to socialise, but in the 1960s it was expanded, to include the concert hall and games room, and started to attracted live acts, including Marti Caine and the Grumbleweeds. In those days singers and comics cut their teeth in the clubs - if you could entertain a working men’s club crowd, you were on the right track.

“The heyday was the 1960s, 70s and 80s,” says Neil, who came here from Sunderland in 1981, and was a detective for West Yorkshire Police for over 30 years. “Clubs became more family-oriented, with social get-togethers and turns. Women were encouraged to join the committee.”

Malcolm, a club member most of his life and now the treasurer, credits two women with keeping it going. “Carol and Mary Bell were the grand-daughters of founder Jack Stamp. Mary was president and Carol was the secretary. The club had been in a sorry state, without them it wouldn’t have lasted,” says Malcolm. “I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, but it’s still the same friendly place it was when I joined in 1969. It’s a social facility for the community, at a price working people can afford. Consistency is the key.”

The committee has 12 members and would like more. “We’re always looking for younger members - we have to think about longevity, taking the club forward for the next generation,” says Malcolm.

Downstairs in the games room there are pool and snooker tables, a darts board, packs of playing cards and domino sets.

The club has a games and pool league, and there’s a cabinet filled with trophies. Taking pride of place is the Bradford and District Billiards Association cup, won last year.

“I grew up in a WMC community,” says Neil. “This club has moved with the times, but it has the same ethos of 1914 - a good community facility, where everyone pulls together.”

l Anyone with club photos or memorabilia is asked to ring (01274) 635353.