The history of Walkley Community Centre

In the beginning

Walkley Community Centre occupies a building originally built in 1909 as the Walkley Liberal Reform Club. Funding for its construction (a cost of £2600) was provided by Councillor Walter Appleyard, who was unanimously voted president of the club at its inaugural meeting held on August 26th 1909. The “Pevners Architectural Guide to Sheffield” notes that the building was designed by H.L Paterson in a minimal Art Nouveau style and was established to “act as a counter attraction to the public house influence” for the young men of the area. The club provided no alcoholic beverages, which was much applauded by local politicians. From the start it clearly reflected the aspirational ideals of the urban middle classes. All Liberal Councillors and Aldermen were invited to become members and the local Liberal MP was invited to open it. Although primarily a club for Liberals, many Conservatives joined as well to enjoy the facilities. The opening of the club was reported in the local paper, much to the delight of the executive committee.

A popular and respectable club

The club developed quickly with numerous sub committees formed to deal with all aspects of social life. There was snooker, fishing, gardening, cricket, politics, whist clubs, bowls, a football team, outings and debating society. Outside there was a bowling green with a balcony from the snooker hall for the gentlemen to watch play below. Ladies of the Liberal League were allowed use of the front downstairs room if not required for any other groups. With weekly dances, theatricals, whist drives and annual treats for children in the Ruskin Hall, the club became a very popular and respectable place for Liberals to socialise.

The First World War: A gift to the people of Walkley, and the decline of the club

On December 4th 1918 Walter Appleyard announced that, “to celebrate & commemorate the allied victory over the federated states of Germany, to present in trust to the people of Walkley the club premises, the same to be dedicated to the Right Honourable Lloyd George in grateful recognition of the magnificent services he rendered to the nation in the most critical period of its history”. The gift was accepted by the executive committee with great delight. The Ownership of the building transferred to the Appleyard Trust with a board of trustees appointed. Unfortunately we have few documents for the period 1940 onwards but gradually the clubs membership & influence declined & the club was finally closed in the 1960’s.

Walkley Action Group and the birth of Walkley Community Centre

In 1969 Sheffield City Council had proposed major developments in Walkley including large scale clearance of areas of housing from Carr Road to Cundy Street on the basis that the properties were unfit for human habitation. The result was the formation of the Walkley Action Group, which campaigned relentlessly for 4 years to save their community and the houses, which gave it its unique character. In 1973 they succeeded in reducing the proposal to such an extent that the majority of the proposals were shelved, properties improved through grants and the community left largely intact. It was just after this that an approach was made to the Appleyard Trust to re-use the now empty buildings as a Community Centre for the people of Walkley. Although the Council were willing to allow the buildings to be used as a community centre, it was on the condition that off road parking was provided. The solution was to go straight through the lounge of the building next door and making a carpark where the bowling green was!! Unfortunately this did make the caretakers house unusable, a situation which has continued to this day.

The recent past

Since 1974 the Walkley Community Centre has provided facilities for local people. Like the Reform Club, however, use of the centre has gradually declined and in some ways the hall has become forgotten by many. The few trustees remaining worked hard to keep the centre going but needed new blood and help. Since 2004 new trustees joined to support the original trustees and so began the most recent phase of the Community Centre's life.

Read more about the history of the rooms in the centre

The Walkley History Project which is managed by the Walkley Community Centre is a community history project investigating the history of Walkley through the lens of  Walkley Community Centre. For more information about the project, please see the dedicated website: Walkley History