Shaftesbury Youth Club can trace its roots back to 1886. First established in Birkenhead, the club moved to its current site in Prenton in 1971 with the provision of a brand new building.


Club members of long ago

William Arthur Norrish is born on 25th April.


Norrish, a shy, bearded optician who teaches at Chester Street Mission Sunday School and runs a small weekly boys' club in an Ivy Street shop, begins to plan for a larger club to replace it and gathers the first committee, led by H. J Legge, the first Chairman.


Meeting on Friday winter evenings at the Craven Rooms, leased from Chester Street Mission Sunday School, the club is opened on 15th January by William Laird, with Clarke Aspinall, a local magistrate and coroner who is known as a speaker for temperance, as the first President.

Initially called the Shaftesbury Street-boys' Club after Lord Shaftesbury, it is renamed The Shaftesbury Club for Street Boys and Working Lads several years later. In its first year, the club opens a small library from donated books to assist its educational efforts and reaches a membership of 270. On 30th April, the first year of club meetings ends with a festival including entertainment and a tea party paid for by Alice Laird, an early benefactress of the club. This festival tea subsequently becomes the traditional end to the club's winter meetings.


The club begins to open on Tuesdays for younger boys, with older boys continuing to attend on Fridays.


The club arranges to take over the Sunday School's lease at the Chester Street Mission and, as a condition of this, also its Savings Bank and work for Boys' Temperance.


The club begins to meet on six evenings a week, with membership costing 1d each year. The Shaftesbury Aid Club, with Vivian Couche as Treasurer, is set up to raise funds.


Aspinall dies and is replaced as President in the following year by J. H. Ziegler, a cotton broker who is one of the club's benefactors.


Legge retires and Henry J. Matthews, the founder of a printing firm, becomes Chairman.


For the first time, the club organises a summer holiday in North Wales, near Caergwyle. Such holidays are continued, moving to Delamere Forest two years later.


In August, with the membership now too large for Chester Street Mission to accommodate, the club buys the Ebenezer Baptist Chapel on Jackson Street for £1,250 and launches an appeal for funds to pay off the mortgage, which will last until the beginning of 1905. By 15th October the chapel has been renovated according to plans drawn up by the architect Glen Dobie, and the club holds its first meeting there, with an attendance of 600. In November, the bank manager Harold C. Paul replaces Matthews as Chairman.


In July, the Shaftesbury Old Boys' Club is formed under E. Vivian Couche. The annual meeting, held as usual at the Town Hall, is addressed by General Baden-Powell.


On 1st January, the twenty-first birthday party for the club takes place. The first summer camp at Penmaenmawr is held; Penmaenmawr will become the customary place for camping in North Wales. Except during wartime, camping is undertaken every year hereafter.


The club decides to build a new building to Glen Dobie's design on vacant land on Thomas Street that was bought at the same time as the existing club building alongside it, so as to allow the club to open to all on the same nights.


The club decides to buy additional land on Thomas Street as part of its plan, and launches its second appeal, which will last until early 1914, in order to raise the £2,700 total.


On 18th May, the wife of the Club President lays the new building's foundation stone. In October, the new building is completed in time for the club's winter reopening. It provides space for the Old Boys' Club and the Seniors' Club, which serves boys over 14 1/2. In November, the new building is officially opened.

1914 - 1918: The Great War

During the war, the Pioneers, a self-governing year-round group of boys founded by Norrish shortly before the war, prepare for army service and run frequent errands. With food rationing preventing festival teas from being held, Norrish arranges Good Friday rambles in the countryside, which will continue untill WWII, and organises an annual basketball championship. At this time, he abandons his optician's business to concentrate on running the club as Secretary, and the committee begin to pay him a salary. In 1916, the club is renamed The Shaftesbury Boys' Club.


Ziegler resigns as President; from now on, the position will be rotated between prominent people every one to two years.


In September, the club decides to buy a recreation ground near Prenton Park for £1,900, and conducts a short appeal to raise the funds needed. The new ground is opened on 24th October, enabling regular organised Saturday football to begin.


On 8th June, the playing field is ceremonially dedicated to the members who died fighting in the war. J. M. Wallace, a cotton broker, replaces Harold Paul as Chairman.


The 31st Birkenhead Scout Troop is formed at Shaftesbury with the aid of Herbert Bickersteth, a cotton broker, and his wife Edith, both of whom are great benefactors of the club. It will last until the beginning of WWII.


W. E. Roberts, a school headmaster, replaces Wallace as Chairman.


With membership around 1,300, the club decides to demolish the former chapel and replace it with a new building. Another public appeal for funds is undertaken.


On 16th September, Herbert Bickersteth opens a new pavilion on the recreation ground, built at the Bickersteths' expense.


On 16th November, Norrish dies at the age of 72, in the same month as the promininent benefactor and flour miller W. Hewitt Paul. Norrish's funeral is attended by hundreds of mourners, and his coffin is carried by a group of Old Boys. Meanwhile, work begins on the new club building.


In February, William A. Young, who has a keen interest in sports and is like Norrish a devout Christian, is appointed as Secretary after a protracted interim. During the summer, the new building is completed and the appeal for funds ends successfully; the gymnasium is dedicated to Norrish's memory. The new building is opened on 2nd October by the President of the Board of Education, Oliver Stanley. Membership reaches a peak of 1,856.

1939 - 1945: World War II

The outbreak of WWII initially reduces club activities. In 1940, the basement of the new building is commandeered for use as a bomb shelter, and in May 1941, the ground floor rooms at Jackson Street are taken over for use as a kitchen and canteen; however in the winter of that year, reduced bombing enables the club to begin operating again.


Edith Bickersteth dies.


In January, the club holds a celebration for the troops' homecoming and its sixtieth anniversary.


The ground floor rooms at Jackson Street are returned to the club.


Herbert Bickersteth dies.


Roberts becomes club President and is replaced as Chairman by the Treasurer, a solicitor named J. William Jones.


Arthur Burton, a policeman and former professional footballer with an interest in film, succeeds Young as Secretary. He adds a downstairs counter selling snacks. Also, the Shaftesbury Supporters' Association is set up to conduct continuing fund-raising. During Burton's time as Secretary, improvements begin to the recreation ground and membership fees are raised from 1d to 3d for the first time.


Jones becomes President and C. L. Bibby succeeds him as Chairman.


Burton commits suicide and Elwyn S. Rees, a young Welshman with an interest in canoe-building, becomes Secretary, introducing judo and kendo to the club and working to improve links with national youth organisations.


At Easter, Rees takes a party of twelve boys to play basketball at Grenvilliers to celebrate its twinning with Birkenhead. The traffic congestion around the Birkenhead tunnel entrance results in a large-scale clearance of housing around the club to make way for measures to control it.


In the autumn, Rees leaves the club to undertake training as a youth leader.


Derek Ray becomes Secretary.


In the autumn, work begins on a new club at Mendip Road, by the Recreation Ground, and a public appeal for funds is begun to supplement the grant money obtained from government. Annual membership fees are raised again as a condition of the grants.


On 28th October, the new club building at Mendip Road is opened by Lord Leverhulme.

Copyright © 2016 Shaftesbury Youth Club
A registered UK charity, Charity Reference Number: 520021
Registered Office: Shaftesbury Youth Club, 60 Mendip Road, Prenton, Birkenhead, Merseyside, CH42 8NU
Telephone: 0151 608 7165 Email: