The Flaxdressers and Weavers Golf Clubs were working men’s clubs, mostly drawing members from Richards and Co, a large textile mill on Mill street. After 1850, when new machines replaced large numbers of weavers and flaxdressers, the membership of these clubs started to dwindle. In 1864 they decided to merge as the union club, which survived until the end of the 1880’s with many of its members joining the Mercantile.
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The Mechanics Club, formed in 1846, catered for the men who looked after the new machines in the mills. The Mechanics eventually joined with the Mercantile Club, and the Mercantile Men still play for the Mechanics cup today.
In 1868 the Star Golf Club, a Wednesday half holiday Club was established for merchants and shop keepers who couldn’t play golf on a Saturday. Like many of the local clubs they met at the Star Hotel. The proprietor John Hastle was a golfing member and presented a Gold Star for annual competition.
The Birth of the ‘Merky’
The Mercantile Golf Club was formed in 1879, as an off-shoot of the Star Golf Club, and like the Star, Mercantile competitions were initially played on a Wednesday.
Once the club was opened to Saturday Golfers, there was a great increase in membership and by 1998 the Merky had 240 members and all the weekly competitions were played on a Saturday
A Clubhouse for the Mercantile
The first meeting was in the ‘clubroom’ which may well have been a room in the Royal Albert’s Southfield Clubhouse. Later they appear to have met in a room in the Victoria Golf Club’s premises at the foot of Bents Road.
The Mercantile’s first custom built clubhouse Golf Lodge was built in 1891. In the foundation stone was placed a ‘local newspaper, a Mackinstosh Golf Ball, a clubhead made by Geordie Croall, and a list of the clubs shareholders, 200 working men, having each taken out £1 share to help pay for the building’.