The Campaign for Real Ale has been around since 1971 and is now the largest single issue consumer group in the UK. So when out of 28,000 possibilities they named Wortley Men’s Club as their National Club of the Year, Take Stock went to find out more.
Situated in the heart of a pretty south Yorkshire village, Wortley Men’s Club occupies what were once the Earl of Wharncliffe’s reading rooms. Fed up with having to share the Wortley Arms pub
with rowdy American soldiers stationed around the village during WWII, the Earl transformed the rooms into a club on 22nd December 1945 and it’s been a haven for drinkers ever since.
First impressions are good: a sweeping drive, tended lawns and a nicely preserved stone and externally timbered building with parking behind. Ducking through the entrance you’re immediately into a large, comfortable lounge, with a cosy bar area off it, whilst through an open doorway a snooker/games room with proudly displayed trophies beckons.
However, it’s the warmth of welcome from steward Nigel Pickering and his wife, Theresa, that really sets this club apart – something CAMRA fully recognised when making their decision.
“We’ve been here since 2004 and love it,” says Theresa. “We’ve around 650 members – 200 or so who come in regularly – and the committee is really supportive, which means we can concentrate on looking after the day-to-day running of the club. Annual subscriptions are just £15, but as our prices are around 15% less than elsewhere around, regulars soon get that back. We focus on making regulars and their guests feel at home, and the club is available to hire for parties and meetings. So, for instance, we’ve two shoots that meet here on Saturday mornings. We lay on bacon sandwiches and coffee – setting them up for the day – and then they finish up here, swapping stories and comparing ‘bags’.”
Nigel and Theresa get members in by running a quiz at 9.30pm on Thursday evenings and a cash prize draw on Saturday nights and Sunday lunchtimes, plus snooker and darts competitions.
“It’s full on, but hugely enjoyable,” she adds.
Wortley is a great place to live. The couple work closely with the church, local shops and their neighbours – the Wortley Arms’- to run events that benefit both residents and visitors.
“In mid July (17-19th) we’ll be running our annual beer festival, where people will be able to sample around 40 beers and 10 ciders,” explains Theresa. “Then we’re planning a Brass Band Festival on 6th September and are looking at the possibility of running a Christmas market. We also support the Yorkshire Air Ambulance – donating £9000 over the past three years. Come and join us!”
Providing and serving the best real ale is a passion for the couple. Success in winning CAMRA’s National Club of the Year is clear recognition of their hard work and dedication.
“We dedicated one pump to cask ale in 2007 and have never looked back,” says Nigel. “We’ve now got four plus a craft cider, and we change what’s on offer every two or three weeks. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord is what we’d call our resident beer and then we have regional and local guest beers – so right now you have a choice between Ringwood Boon Doggle, Spring Bank from the Small World Brewery at Shelley, West Yorkshire and Chantry Brewery’s Diamond Black Stout, plus of course more mainstream brews.”
When it comes to choosing the beers that the club will run, Nigel says he keeps his ears open as to what’s new, gets great input from his regulars and suggestions from CAMRA members too.
“I then deal directly with the breweries, helped by the fact that we sell quite a bit – 310 brewers barrels last year,” he adds. “Winning this award has made my life a bit more difficult, as I’ve been inundated with breweries calling to ask if I’ll feature them in the club, or during the beer festival. I’m not complaining…it’s a nice problem to have!”
And top tips for success? “We try hard to make our customers feel welcome, comfortable and relaxed,” says the couple. “We listen to their suggestions; serve them the very best and never stop trying
to do better. We want them to love the club as much as we love working here!”
On 22nd December 2015 the club celebrates the 70th anniversary of its first licence. The Earl of Wharncliffe would be proud of his legacy.
For more information visit www.wortleymensclub.co.uk or call
One of Britain’s most notorious highwaymen – John Nevison – was born in Wortley in 1639. Reputedly nicknamed ‘Swift Nick’ by King Charles II after he rode non-stop from Kent to York so as to establish an alibi for a robbery he’d committed, he became famous for his gentlemanly conduct and refusal to take from anyone but the rich. After numerous run-ins with the authorities and an escape whilst on his way to be transported to Tangiers, Swift Nick’s luck finally ran out in 1684 when he was sentenced to death for the murder of a constable. He was hanged at the Knavesmire, York now famous as the home of the annual York Camra Beer & Cider Festival!