Click here for the Glossary page
Click here for the main index of the Burton Latimer Heritage Society site
Click here to return to the previous page
Article compiled from material held at the museum in 2009 and updated in the light of new information in 2013.

Burton Latimer Working Men's Club

Photograph taken outside the Club in the mid 1970s showing the older members about to embark on an outing.
This mid 1970s photograph taken outside the Club shows some of the
more senior members. Click here to see a larger version with names.

The club's early history
Thanks to Mr. Wallace Johnson, who rescued a bundle of documents from the club premises in 2013 during its demolition, we now have a clearer picture of its early years. From information found on the annual returns that were submitted to the Registry of Friendly Societies (an almost complete set of which for the years 1898 to 1944 was with the documents) the club was formed on 5th January 1897. Click here to see returns that contain over three hundred names. The trustees named on the first return we have, for the year ending 31 December 1898, were Edward Ambler, High Street, Samuel Miller, High Street and Frank Mason, Croxen's Yard. The treasurer was William Blaxley, Finedon Street and its auditors were F. T. Freestone (described as a bookkeeper) and W. Hobbs (described as a tailor). A profit of £70 0s 6d was carried forward to the next financial year. Perhaps it wasn't a requirement, but no steward or manager was named in the returns until 1915 when William Drage's name appears. He also appears on the next return but in 1917 his wife is named as stewardess and we know that he was killed in action serving with the Royal Naval Division in France in December 1917 aged 36. Walter Henry Turner was then appointed steward serving until at least 1931 and subsequently as landlord at the Thatcher's Arms from 1936 to 1940. C. J. Buckley was probably the next steward and is known to have been there in 1939. Bernie Woods was another long-serving club steward who held the position from about 1939 until John Willets was appointed in 1960. John went on to serve until 1987.

The club was affectionately nicknamed "The Rack"; the origin of this may date back to the 1930s when profits began to decline and was referred to as "The Rack and Ruin," but some former members contend that it was named after the rack which was to be found on the ground floor of the Whitney & Westley shoe factory located across the road. By the 1960s things had picked up considerably; there was a much younger membership, which enjoyed lively entertainment, talent contests and the like. Interestingly enough, the club was not CIU affiliated, which meant that prospective members had to be proposed by existing members and then approved by the committee.  By the late 1990s finances had suffered and the club was taken over for a while by the Wellingborough Working Men's Club, but finally closed in the first decade of the new millenium and was demolished in 2013 to make way for housing - see photographs at the bottom of this page.

Games and Teams
The Burton Latimer Gala Programme for July 1939 shows that the Club fielded a Tug o' War Team, and although we have no photograph it mentions that its members were: Cyril Lewis, Vic Blowfield, George Cartwright, Percy Toseland, Ernie Drage, Jim Wade and Arthur(?) Palmer. Other teams in other years that we know of are shown below.

Photograph of the Quoits Team taken in the mid 1920s.
Quoits Team - mid 1920s
Standing: Alf Clipstone, ? , George Woods, ? , "Dot" Johnson, George Mutton, Arthur Lovell, "Wocker" Turner.
Seated: ?, Andrew Conroy, Alf Eady, ? , Bill Drage, Alex Bunyan.
Photograph of the Darts Team taken in the 1950s.
Darts Team - 1950s
Standing: ? , Percy Toseland, ? , Albert Toop, "Huffy" Northern, John Strudwick, Bob Coles.
Seated: Horace Northern, Fred Oram, ? , Bernie Woods, ? , Bill Smith, Cyril Lewis.

Photgraph of the skittles being set up at The Rack. Photograph of Members taking a break during a 1950s outing.
Teddy Haynes and John Ellson set 'em up at "The Rack".
An outing in the 1950s

Walter "Dot" Johnson,
Leo Corstin, Bill Goodliffe,
and Bill Smith

"Rack" Committees
Photograph of The Rack Committee taken in November 1962.
November 1962
Standing: John Willetts (Steward), Fred Knighton, John Edwards, "Curly" Nicholson, Vic Blowfield, Ted Dicks, Bill Downing, Arthur Carter.
Seated: Bradley Simpkins, Ken Desborough, Bernie Woods, John Ellson, Bert Hobbs.
Later photograph of The Rack Committee
Taken in the 1980s (?)
Back row: John Willets (Steward), Mervyn Rowlett, Arthur Clements, David Thurlow, Arthur Liggins, Ron Ellson.
Seated: Vic Blowfield, John Ellson, Frank Hicks, Percy Evans, Tony Burbidge, Ken Desborough.
Front: Mick Stephenson, Brian Keech.

Inside "The Rack"
Photograph of a group of members taken inside The Rack. Photograph of the refurbished bar at The Rack.
Pictured here putting the world to rights are Frank Hicks,
Percy Evans and John Ellson.
The refurbished bar, with Steward John Willetts in attendance.
His customers are Mr Loak and Brad Simkins.

Photograph of a large group of members at The Rack.
Burton Latimer WMC Members - 1960s(?)
Standing: Jack Benford, Tommy Clarke, ? , ? , Eric Stokes, Curly Nicholson, Dot Johnson, Cecil Laying.
Seated: ?, Cyril Lewis, Leo Corstin, ?, Bill Smith, Bernie Woods(?).

John Willets
John Willetts was the Steward at the club and with his wife Frances served at the bar for 27 years. The photograph below shows them waiting to serve at the refurbished bar, while the second down was probably taken when they celebrated 25 years at the Club

Steward John Willetts pictured with wife Frances and brother-in-law Jimmy O'Neil.
John Willetts is pictured centre, together with wife Frances (nee O'Neil)
and brother-in-law Jimmy O'Neil MBE.

Photograph of John Willetts with wife Frances at his retirement party.
John and Frances Willetts celebrating 25 years as Stewards.
Also pictured are (Left-Right): Ron Beddows, Mick French, Frank Spokes,
John Ferrier, Tony Burbidge and Mick Stephenson.

The Premises in 2009
Photograph of a sign on the side of the club bearing the words"Wellingborough WMC (Burton Latimer)".
Left:This sign was erected when the club was taken over by the Wellingborough branch and despite its closure still remains to the present day (December 2009).

Right: It was not without protests that the club closed, as this poster shows.
Photograph of a notice advertising an urgent meeting for members past and present.

Photograph of the unused premises taken in December 2009.
Left: The current sad demise of The Rack in December 2009.

Below: The Rack in its happier days.
Photograph of The Rack in its happier days c1970.

Below: The last days of 'The Rack' - Demolished in March 2013 to make way for housing

The bar area during demolition March 2013 The Rack being demolished in March 2013
A desolate bar during demolition in March 2013
The end of the road for 'The Rack' - March 2013
Click here to return to the Main Index
Click here to return to the Pubs & Clubs Index