Club History

Oddfellows Hall


A brief history

In the days, long before the Welfare State was ever thought of, numerous Mutual Aid Societies existed to provide financial benefits or other help to their members when affected by such things as death, sickness, disability old age or unemployment. One such organisation was the Oddfellows (Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity Friendly Society Ltd) that opened its first Lodge (Branch) in our area in 1833 at Stokesley. As the first in the area Stokesley became the District headquarters for  further Lodges with such names as Traveller’s Home, Flower of the Dales, and Friend in Need. Our local Lodge, named after the Inn where the members had their first meetings in 1840 was the Stalylton.

            Records from 1842 show that the Lodge then had 27 members, met every other Saturday and the Grand Master was James Bean. During the 1850’s membership numbers rose to about 200 and sufficient for them to consider moving to their own meeting Hall. In c1856 The Eston Odd Fellows Building Company Limited was set up to acquire land and construct a purpose-built Hall that would be suitable for the needs of the Oddfellows and the community in general. On 5th August 1857 Mr Joseph Parrington of Crossbeck House (Zoe’s Place)  sold the Building Company a plot of land that was described in the Conveyance as being ”in the township of Eston in the parish of Ormesby in the said county of York being part of certain close of ground called Meadowfield, containing seven hundred and eighty square yards, bounded on the North by the public highway leading from Stockton to Redcar, on the South side by a street or road called the Back Road, on the East by property belonging to Lady Hewley Trustees and on the West by an intended Street (became Hewley Street). Several other local names are mentioned on the Conveyance including Robert Thompson, a wine merchant from Stockton, Robinson Watson a Merchant “of the same place”, and Isaac Scarth, Gentleman of Stanghow. The cost of the plot was £136 -10s and it was paid for by way of a mortgage of £250 that was made available by local farmer Thomas Graham at an interest rate of £5 per annum.

The first known plans for the new building  indicate that the ground floor consisted of accommodation for three  families in what became no’s 1-3 Hewley street along with stairs to the first floor “Hall“ that gave access directly to what is now at  the rear of the stage.

            First available records show that the Oddfellows were meeting in the new Hall in 1858 with the 1861 Census showing a total of 15 people living in accommodation “under the Oddfellows Hall”, these included local Builder/Stone Mason John Taylor who went on to build house numbers 4  to 13 Hewley Street for his brother Thomas Chisman Taylor that were first shown as being occupied in the Census of 1871.These properties must have all only been for rent as in August 1874 they were all advertised for sale in the Northern Echo as a “Valuable Investment”. In 1888 Thomas died leaving the houses along with about 20 more in the area to his wife Elizabeth who remarried in 1889 and in 1898 eventually repaid the mortgage he had taken out to fund the building the properties. The remaining houses in the street (Nos 14 to 16) were also built prior to 1871 but by a different builder with No 17 following on, sometime between 1881 and 1891.

From the time of it being built, the Oddfellows Hall was actually owned by the Building Company as in 1884 there is a further Indenture that shows that the title deeds of the property were sold by them to the Trustees of the Stapylton Lodge for a cash sum and exchange of shares when the company was eventually liquidated.

Minutes of the 3rd meeting of the newly formed Normanby Local Board show that they held the meeting in the Oddfellows Hall on 27th October 1865.(nbThe Local Boards were the predecessors of what became the Eston Urban District Council).

Membership of the Oddfellows continued to grow until it reached a peak of around 470 in the mid 1880’s, and as well as being used by them for meetings and Dinners the Hall was used by the wider community for Meetings (inc Miners Union) Pantomimes, Dances, travelling Theatre, Vestry groups etc. From the turn of the century, numbers started to fall to under 100 then at the end of the first World War, lodge meetings were transferred back to the Stapylton Arms. Even in 1901 the Lodge was reported as being in a very serious position despite members contributions being increased by 2d per month and sickness benefits reduced from 10/- for 12 months to 8/- for 6 months with further reductions over the longer term. The report goes on to state that “nearly all the members are Miners in the most dangerous Mine in the district and sickness claims are largely due to accidents”. This followed on from measures taken in 1897 and threats of expulsion in 1898 By 1938 numbers had fallen to less than 20 and the Stapylton Lodge was closed with its few remaining members being amalgamated into the Loyal Zetland Lodge (Marske-by-the Sea).

At the end of the Great War, a small group of local men, no doubt being aware of the demise of the Stapylton Lodge and the possible loss of facilities provided by their Hall, decided to form a social club named appropriately the Eston & Normanby Ex Servicemen’s Social Club. On 23 June 1919 the Club was registered as a limited company with 7 members holding the 640 shares

In January 1920 the Trustees of the Loyal Stapylton Lodge of the Independent Order of Oddfellows agreed the sale of the title of the 788 square yards of land that contained the “Public Hall known as the Odd Fellows Hall and two dwelling houses” to the Ex-Servicemen’s Social Club Limited and the  Lodge moved back to meeting at the Stapylton Arms. The £800 cost of the purchase of the Hall was paid by way of a mortgage that was repaid by the Club in 1922. In May 1921 the Club committee arranged a further loan of £500 for modifications and renovation from Colonel Maurice Lowthian Bell of Rounton Grange that was duly repaid with interest by November 1930.

After the successful launch of the Club, on the 19th of September 1924 an extraordinary meeting of members was called and it was subsequently resolved that the Ex-Servicemen’s Club should convert from a Limited Company into a Registered Society under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893 and would thereafter be called “The Eston and Normanby Social Club and Institute Ltd” with Mr Herbert Bean being the Chairman of the first meeting.

Not much is known about the early days of the Club but In 1938, plans of the ground floor show that the building still housed one family with two bedrooms and a sitting room at the North end. The Club smoking room, games/committee room and Billiards room had taken over where numbers 2 and 3 Hewley Street had been. A Bar, toilets and additional (present) access to the Dance Hall had been included into an extension built behind the Stewards house. The same plans show proposals to remove the remaining living accommodation and replace it with a larger Billiard room with a raised seating/viewing area, very much as it is at present but at the opposite end.

An article in the Gazette dated Saturday June 22nd 1940shows that despite the war, membership had risen to well over 400 and the Club   continued to function profitably , enabling  to carry out extensive alterations that had been financed by a mortgage from brewers William Younger (repaid in1944). When the Club re-opened some two weeks later, under the guidance of Secretary Herbert Bean and Steward Bob Morris, it was regarded as being one of the finest Social Clubs in the North of England

In 1966Alfred Samuel Cash (Lincoln’s Field London) a Solicitor acting for The Lady Sarah Hewley’s Trust along with the Charity Commissioners agreed that 2,625 square yards of farm land and hereditaments to the South of the Club could be sold to the Club for “not less than £700”. That land along with the purchase and subsequent demolition of numbers 4 & 5 Hewley Street allowed for large scale changes to be made to the Club and provided a car park and garden. It is believed that a closely contested vote was taken at the time as to whether the Club should be remodelled or rebuild (with the existing building being demolished). Those that voted for the former were expecting it to be the cheapest option but in fact it turned out that a new build would have been at less cost and the saving of a lot of upheaval during the work. Several attempts were made at around that time to incorporate a betting office into the extensions but were rejected by the Council several times until 1980. then in 1987 it was taken over by George Brown (Printers) then by local artist, Dave Mulholland as a studio. The room had a separate entrance from Hewley Street and is now the corner TV area.

Over the years there have been numerous other changes to the layout and size of the building, an early change would have been the addition of the Caretaker’s (Stewards House) that was originally accessed via a corridor from the Hewley Street entrance. Upstairs the major change has been the removal of the original balcony over what is now the stage and the bar being relocated to its present position the opposite end. The building was re-roofed in 1964, when it looks as if the original stone Oddfellows sign shown on old prints would have been removed.

Despite the general decline in the use of Social Clubs, the Eston & Normanby is in a healthy financial state and continues to grow and adapt to the times with over 1800 members it is looking forward to a long future.

This article is a “Work in Progress” and any further information with regards to the Stapylton Lodge of the Oddfellows, the early days of the E&N Club or Hewley Street will be gratefully received.

Thank you to long standing club member Kester Marsh for the information provided above.