Site of Blackpool Comrades Club today

Remember the Comrades Club?

The Comrades Club was on Adelaide Street in central Blackpool, before being demolished after a fire. A locally important building, it was one of the founding groups of today’s British Legion.

The site is currently being used as a materials store while the new Winter Gardens conference centre is built.

In September 2020 we took a walk around the outside of the Winter Gardens. At 11.01 in this video you can see the site as it looks today –

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But the building had an interesting history, taking us way back into Blackpool’s past. Join us to find out more…

Blackpool Comrades Club

The Blackpool branch of the Comrades of the Great War Club formed on 10 October 1917. 

Until 1919, the club met at 16, Central Road with monthly meetings held at the Free Library on Queens Street. 

Comrades Club Blackpool. Photo: Juliette Gregson
Comrades Club Blackpool. Photo: Juliette Gregson

The minutes of the committee meeting of 30 September 1919 discuss the building on Adelaide Street. The report states that the lower part of the premises was to be made into a lounge, bar and billiard room.

The building on Adelaide Street was opened as the Comrades of the Great War Club on 24 January 1920, by the 17th Earl of Derby.

The first president of the Comrades Club was Major Leonard Greenham Star Malloy. Major Leonard was born in Ireland and educated as a Medical Doctor at Trinity College, Dublin. Commissioned in 1901 as a Lieutenant in the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1917. After becoming MP for Blackpool in 1922, he eventually owned practices in Harley Street and Monte Carlo. His obituary in The Times in 1937 describes Major Malloy as “one of the best known doctors in the north of England.”

The Comrades Club 1914-19 War Memorial

This memorial was erected by the members of the Blackpool branch of the comrades of the Great War. It’s in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice between 1914-1919.

WWI War Memorial inside the Club. Photo: Juliette Gregson
WWI War Memorial inside the Club. Photo: Juliette Gregson

Blackpool Comrades FC 1921-22

The Clubs football team must have been nimble footed, as seen in this commemorative certificate.

Blackpool Comrades FC 1921-22. Photo: Juliette Gregson
Blackpool Comrades FC 1921-22. Photo: Juliette Gregson

The certificate proudly proclaims ‘Runners up of the First Division Fylde District League 1922-23’. The Comrades Club Football Club are also winners of other medals in 1922-23, including:

  • the Ramsden Shield,
  • winners of the Fylde Cup
  • and winners of the Blackpool Football Club Medal Competition.

What were Comrades of the Great War Clubs?

In 1917 the ‘Comrades of the Great War Clubs’ were formed by the 17th Earl of Derby. That was George Edward Villiers Stanley, also known as Lord Stanley. 

Lord Stanley’s father, the 16th Earl of Derby, was the MP for North Lancashire from 1865 to 1885 (of which Blackpool was then part). He became Blackpool’s first MP.

The building of Stanley Park in Blackpool provided employment for returning soldiers and is named after the 16th Earl, being opened in 1926 by his son.

‘Comrades of the Great War Clubs’ were a non-political association. Their purpose was to represent the rights of ex-service men and women who’d served or been discharged from service during World War One. 

There were originally four different ex-service associations. In 1921 they were amalgamated into one to form the British Legion.

The Grammar School – before the Comrades Club

Today’s generation always knew this building as The Comrades Club. But before that it had another important and interesting life, as a school.

Local historian Ann Lightbown had researched some of the early private schools in Blackpool. This is some of the information she shared in a Blackpool Gazette article, back in 2014.

In the 19th and early 20th century, there were many private boys’ schools in Blackpool, as well as schools and academies for young ladies. Some lasted for only a few years. Others changed their names or were amalgamated, and many moved premises.

Children were sent to these schools from all over Lancashire and even more further afield. So a lot of them were also boarding schools.

How The Grammar School Began

Thomas Sankey came to Blackpool about 1887 and took over the privately-owned boys’ Collegiate School at the north western corner of Coronation Street and Adelaide Street. It was then owned by the educationalist Ebenezer Leigh. He’d run a previously-established school there since the 1870s.

In 1893 Thomas Sankey moved his school further up Adelaide Street to Frogmore at number 116. Frogmore was the more easterly of a pair of large semi-detached houses, with grounds at the rear.

He soon advertised that he was changing the name of his school to Blackpool Grammar School.

The Grammar School at Adelaide Street
The Grammar School at Adelaide Street

You can clearly see the shape of the Grammar School buildings in the Comrades Club…

Comrades Club before the fire. Photo: Google Street View
Comrades Club before the fire. Photo: Google Street View

The right hand house, Rougemont, was a private school for young ladies. But by 1900 that establishment had moved to Reads Avenue, allowing Sankey to expand into the vacated premises.

This advert is from 1909…

The Grammar School Blackpool
The Grammar School Blackpool

“The Grammar School, Adelaide Street, headmaster T. Banksey. A boarding and day school for boys with a ‘special department for very young boys’ (what we would no doubt today call a nursery). And ‘special attention to backward and delicate boys’. Private students prepared for examinations.

Sankey died in 1910 and the eldest of his seven children temporarily took over the running of the school. His son, a curate at Pendlebury, ran it until the summer holidays of that year. After that, the school wasn’t advertised any longer.

The End of Blackpool Comrades Club

Blackpool Comrades Club went into administration in January 2014 and closed for the final time on 15 November 2014. The Club tried to find a new investor to take on the building and maintain its local importance. 

However, that wasn’t to be. In the early hours of 13 July 2017 a serious fire swept through the building. After burning for several hours it left the building structurally unsafe. A sad end to an historic building.

Fire at the Comrades Club. Photo: Blackpool Gazette
Fire at the Comrades Club. Photo: Blackpool Gazette
Aftermath of the fire. Photo: Kate Yates
Aftermath of the fire. Photo: Kate Yates

For many years it was open as part of the Heritage Open Days tours. The last time that you could go inside as part of this national event was in September 2014.

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