“It has been suggested that a Luncheon Club, on the lines of one that has been in existence for several years in Leeds, might well be inaugurated in Manchester.” So ran the opening paragraph of a letter, dated January 1922, which was addressed to a number of prominent Mancunians by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, the President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester. Councillor Simon first suggested the idea of forming such a club in a letter sent to Sir Edwin Stockton, President of the Chamber of Commerce on Armistice Day 1921. Councillor Simon had been Lord Mayor just two days. Soon after, further discussion took place with Sir Henry Miers, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Victoria University, hence the letter dated January 1922.
The letter met with a ready response and some 90 people attended the inaugural meeting in the Banqueting Suite of the Town Hall on 9th February 1922 (cost of lunch 3s6d) when it was resolved ” that those present hereby form themselves into a club to be called “THE MANCHESTER LUNCHEON CLUB”. the object of which shall be to afford opportunities for social intercourse to those interested in the Commerce, University and other acidities in the City, by means of periodical meetings.
It is pleasing to note that successive Lord mayors, Presidents of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Vice-Chancellors of the University of Manchester have preserved the links with the City, the Chamber and University by agreeing to serve as Vice-Presidents of the Club, together with the Bishop of Manchester and HM Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester
An early decision of the Club was that “in the choice of subjects suggested to or proposed by invited guests of the Club, topics on which strong differences of opinion may exist among the members shall not be excluded”, a sentiment still enshrined in the Club’s rules today. The first two meetings were held in the Town Hall but from April 1922 the Luncheons moved to the Midland Hotel. Many changes of venue have been necessary over the years. By the time of the Centenary meeting the club was settled at The Holiday Inn on Aytoun Street.
Many of the early meetings appear to have been planned at short notice and often took place twice a month. The business world was a vastly different place then; members were able to attend in their lunch hour. Talks lasted twenty minutes or half an hour. It has been said that the Ship’s Bell was extremely useful. After the speaker had been on their feet for 20 minutes, the Bell would be rung, this gave members permission to leave to get back to the office. It also acted as a prompt to the speaker to wind up their talk!
The Club was originally run by the Chamber of Commerce from their offices at Ship Canal House and it appears that much support was also given by Chamber of Commerce staff. In 1984 it was no longer possible to provide office accommodation and secretarial support to the Club. Running the Club was taken over by The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society at which point their Administrative Secretary took over until 1996.
Further changes took place in 1999 when the club lost the office base and administrative support. Since then, the Club has been run by the committee. Members have seen it fitting to celebrate the milestones of the Club over he years. Between September 1946 and February 1947, four eminent members each addressed the Club in celebration of the Silver Jubilee.
Councillor Harold Quinney J.P.
Sir Ernest Simon LL.D. Lord Simon of Wythenshawe.
Sir E. Raymond Streat C.B.E.
A souvenir book was presented to members.
The 40th anniversary luncheon in February 1962 was held in the Town Hall with guest of honour The Home Secretary The Rt Hon. R.A. Butler.
50 years was celebrated with a Civic Reception at the Town Hall in June 1972.
In February 1967, Ann Boulton addressed a 75th luncheon recounting her years as Honorary Secretary.
The 80th Anniversary was celebrated with a luncheon addressed by Felicity Goodey, Vice-President of the Club and president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The 90th Anniversary year was also the Diamond Jubilee of the accession to the throne of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In that year we held a celebratory lunch on May 22nd. We were addressed by Paul Goddard LVO, DL. One of our members, toastmaster Terence McNicholls, acted as master of Ceremonies that day.
On February 9th 2022, exactly one hundred years after that auspicious meeting in Manchester Town Hall, we met at the Holiday Inn, Manchester. Seventy-five people attended (cost of lunch £30). We were delighted to have our Vice-Presidents present and Sir Warren Smith KCVL, KStJ, JP, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester honoured us by addressing the meeting. A souvenir book was presented to members. We hope the founders look down on us and approve of the way we have adapted to keep the Manchester Luncheon Club true to the principles on which we were founded, “to afford opportunities for social intercourse to those interested in the commerce, university and other activities in the City by means of periodical meetings.” Our members reflect the founding members’ principles. we Professional, Academic and likeminded people maintain a lively interest in this great City of Manchester.
The Luncheon Club’s Bell is the ships bell from the Manchester Ship Canal dredger “Sir Edward”, named after Sir Edward Leader Williams, designer and formerly Chief Engineer of the Manchester Ship Canal. The whole canal was completed in January 1894, and he had full charge of the canal until 1905, when he was appointed consulting engineer to the Manchester Ship Canal Co.
It was presented to the Club in May 1939 by Sir Frederick West, a member of the Manchester Town Council from 1905, an Alderman in 1919, and Lord Mayor in 1924. He was a City Council Director to the Manchester Ship Canal Company; in 1933 he became Chairman of the company, a position he held until 1950.
This was the meeting at which the bell was first used and it has been used ever since. It had a mallet, one end of which was copper and the other wood. One president used to hit the bell with the copper end giving it a ‘hell of a bash’, hence the dents in the bell
The bell is still used to call our meetings to order; where the mallet went is a mystery.
This silver badge of office was designed and made by Mrs Alison Wilkinson’s mother, Margaret Isaac, a retired silversmith. Alison presented it to the Club during her Presidency in 1991.
Alison also arranged for a supply of several lapel badges for past presidents. These are based on the design of the Presidents badge. Past presidents are asked to wear these on meeting days.
The names of past Presidents who have held office since 1991 are recorded on silver bars attached to the badge’s ribbon.
Mrs Betty Gallimore, (President 2001-2002) presented jointly with those past Presidents who were still members of the Club, a special silver medallion to mark the Club’s 80th anniversary This was worn for the first time at the Luncheon on 5th February 2002.
Alison generously commissioned a silver bar to be added to the badge. this was to commemorate the Club’s 100th anniversary and was worn for the first time at the celebration lunch on 9th February 2022