DCSIMG

Thieves target oldest WMC in Leeds twice in 10 days

Holbeck Working Mens Club.

Holbeck Working Mens Club.

  • by Jonathan Brown
 

Burglars have broken into Leeds’s oldest working men’s club for the second time in just more than a week – costing the debt-ridden facility around £1,000.

Committee members at Holbeck Working Men’s Club (WMC), in Jenkinson Lawn, Holbeck, were dealt the financial blow after a community effort saw it once again become profitable.

Thieves broke in and smashed two windows, overturned tables and damaged a cigarette machine but left empty-handed after security alarms were triggered on Friday at around 1am.

The raid came just days after burglars smashed through a window and stole £200 of takings between 11pm on December 16 and 9am the following day.

Earlier this year it emerged the club was on the brink of 
closure as it owed around £65,000 in loans for air conditioning, heating and redecoration work.

Liz Holgate, club secretary, said: “We have given up all of our time over Christmas and this is the thanks you get – I’m working 60 hours a week to get it built up again.

“We were just about getting on track and now they’ve knocked us back again.” She said the club, which was established back in 1877, is investing in new CCTV and alarm systems to prevent further break-ins.

In recent months Holbeck WMC has been hosting private functions, community events and concerts in a bid to make ends meet. Many of the club’s 200 or so members, some of whom joined as far back as 1948, are now working for free at the community club to help pay off the debts.

Ms Holgate, who has been a member at the club for more than 14 years, said: “We were hoping to set wages back for workers next year but this has knocked us back – it’s really knocked us for six.”

She said the club, which is currently ahead of its monthly debt repayments, is having to invest in a new interior door and replacement windows to make it secure.

The club was reportedly close to closure two years ago due to the smoking ban hitting trade and residents from nearby tower blocks leaving the area.

But this year long-time members decided to set up a website, Facebook and Twitter pages to bring in younger members.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said “enquiries were ongoing” in relation to the burglaries.

Anyone with information about the break-ins should call Holbeck Neighbourhood Policing Team on 101.

LENGTHY HISTORY

Holbeck Working Men’s Club is among the oldest clubs of its kind still running in the country.

Founded in 1877, the club has witnessed Government shake-ups, tax changes and generations of punters walk through its doors.

One club claiming to be the oldest in the country is Walthamstow Working Men’s Club, in London, which was founded in 1862 by Lord Henry Solly.

He lived in the town and founded the Club and Institute Union with the aim of educating the working classes and freeing them from alcoholism.

 

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