2011 was a memorable year in the club’s history when it celebrated 100 years at its present site. The club was originally founded on the 26th of May 1886 when seventeen gentlemen of the Rawdon Polling District attended a meeting with the object of finding suitable premises in which to form a Conservative Club. The meeting took place at the National School Room, Rawdon – the first minuted records show that premises were found at Henley Hill for a rental fee of £10 per annum. The sum of £8-18s was spent on 4 tables, 2 dozen chairs, 2 fenders and 1 dozen spitoons.
General Rawdon, the local ‘Lord of the Manor’ and a member of the Green-Emmot family, was invited to become the first President and, on August 9th 1886, Rawdon Conservative Club was officially opened with a total membership of thirty six people, each paying an annual subscription of 5 shillings (25p) which could be paid in quarterly installments. The original club consisted of a reading room (“noisy conversation in the reading room is strictly prohibited”) and a games room for chess, draughts and dominoes. The first caretaker was paid 4 shillings per week (20p) plus accommodation and fuel. The first annual dinner was held in 1887 – dinner for 50 was ordered at The Emmott Arms at a cost of 2 shillings (10p) per head.
The club quickly became a popular venue with a rapidly increasing membership, so much so that, after two years (towards the latter end of 1888) it was compelled to move to larger and more convenient premises located in the area known as Over Lane.
By the time the club reached its 25th anniversary it was in a position to purchase a site in Leeds Road where the present building was erected and officially opened in 1911 by the then Editor of the Yorkshire Post, Mr J S R Phillips. The purchase price of the land was £365 and the cost of the new building was £1,512. When the property was valued for mortgage purposes the valuers commented that “an extension of the tramway system has greatly increased the accessibility and popularity of the area”.
The club constructed a small car park by filling in land to the east of the building, previously used as the Steward’s vegetable garden. However, by the late 1950’s increased use of motor cars made this space inadequate. The bowling green, which had been very popular between the wars and which, for a short period, had been used as tennis courts, had become neglected and little used. In 1962 it was decided to convert the bowling green into a car park. To help defray the cost a barbecue was held on the old bowling green before work commenced.
In the early sixties a controversial decision (carried by a narrow majority) was made to install a fruit machine which immediately doubled the club’s profits. The downside was that it also became a temptation for “The Fortnightly Burglar”. Attempts were made to break into the club on every second Saturday so, in anticipation of the third attempt, a policeman concealed himself on the premises. In the middle of the night, however, he had to leave to book in with his sergeant, only to find on his return that the burglar had struck again. On the next anticipated occasion the Steward cleared up with the words ” Hurry up, the burglar is due tonight” and sure enough another attempt was made but this time the culprit was apprehended, having triggered a silent alarm.
Shortly afterwards a second controversial decision was taken to allow members to bring their wives (on Saturday evenings only) to what had previously been a bastion of male chauvenism. However, the billiard room remained ‘gentlemen only’ for many years. Since then the club has undergone many internal and external structural changes to become what you see today.
When Guiseley Conservative sadly closed its doors in 2005 due to dwindling membership and popularity, the amalgamation of the two establishments gave the Club its present title of The Rawdon and Guiseley Conservative Club and provided a substantial and welcome boost to club finances. Following the merger the Club now serves both communities and, in 2008, achieved National recognition when presented with The Sir Marcus Fox Award for top Conservative Club in the country after being voted as regional winner in West Yorkshire earlier in the year – a truly remarkable achievement.
The delight of the Management Committee and club members on achieving National recognition and such a prestigeous award was very soon overshadowed when, just one month later, the main lounge and bar area was devastated by fire. Following a major refurbishment, and having to endure all the problems caused by the disaster, the Club continues to look for new ideas and attractions in these hard economic times and offers a wide variety of social events to its members with live entertainment every Saturday, Friday Open Mic nights and a quiz night every Wednesday. In addition the club boasts an excellent and very popular snooker room equipped with three match-quality tables. The Crowtrees function room is an attractive and popular venue for celebrations and parties and is in regular use during the week by various external clubs.
The Management Committee and members were able to look back at the foresight of their predecessors when the Club celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2011.