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Postill's Legacy

Mike Wilson, Bridlington Historian and Writer

One evening in January 1865, a Bridlington tailor, Mr John William Postill, noticed a group of fishermen struggling to read by the light of a storm lantern. Shortly afterwards he rented a small cottage in Cliff Street, a few yards from the harbour slipway, and allowed the men to read there in comfort. The Burlington Quay Sailors' and Working Men's Club had opened its doors to local working men.

Mr Postill owned premises in King Street and was prominent in local affairs. His name occurs time and again in the business of the Sailors' and Working Men's Club. He was Secretary from the club's inception until 1921, and Vice-President from 1922 to 1927.

From the minutes of the Club, it is shown that Wm. Watson Esq. was the first President and Treasurer, while John Wm. Postill was Secretary. A committee of 18 formulated the rules of the Club and on 5th February 1865 they were unanimously adopted.

The first rule stated that the name of the Club was "Burlington Quay Sailors' and Working Men's Club," the object of which was "to provide Instruction and Amusement to Members, free of Sectarianism and Party-Politics."

The fifth rule stated that "donors of Five Pounds and upwards shall be Life Honorary Members, and Subscribers of not less than 10s. annually be Honorary Members; Ordinary Members 4s. a year, 1s. a quarter, 6d. a month or one and a half penny a week - paid in advance and no tickets transferable."

Other rules stated "no Cards, Dice, or Gamblinig be allowed on the premises," "no Books, Periodicals, Papers, or Entertainments be provided without the consent of three-fourths of the Committee," and "that no new Rule shall be made, or old one altered, except at an Annual or Special Meeting called for that purpose."

The bye-laws of the Club stated that "no Intoxicating Drinks, or Intoxicated Person be allowed on the premises," "no conversation or smoking be allowed in the Reading  Room," "no person detain a Newspaper more than ten minutes after it has been asked for by another Member."

Rules for playing bagatelle or billiards stated that "no smoking, leaning on the Board or placing the hands on the cloth, when in the action of playing, will be allowed."

The newspapers provided for members at the opening of the Club were Manchester Guardian or Examiner, Eastern Morning News, Leeds Mercury, Illustrated London News, and Sporting Life & Standard.

Mr Benjamin Owen was employed as caretaker, his payment being 2s. 6d. per week. He was expected to make the fire, light the gas and clean the room, as well as being responsible for the security of the room at night.

The Club's involvement with the lifeboat service was first noted on 13th February 1871 when, at a General Meeting held "in consequence of the sad calamity by which six of our fellow-townsmen lost their lives when trying to rescue a ship's crew in the Harbinger, it was declared advisable to defer the Tea-Party to some future date."

The Secretary was asked to write to the widows of Messrs Richard Atkin and David Purdon [the latter being the builder of the vessel] "expressing the deep regret felt by the Club and their condolence with them in their sad bereavement."

A public meeting on 22nd February 1871 was held "to discuss the advisability of Harbinger coming into the possession of the Club with a view of her being properly taken care of and a proper state of efficiency kept up so that she may be ready for use at all times." The motion had only one vote against and a general meeting of the Club was planned for 3rd March so that the opinion of members could be gained.

In 1897, the sixtieth year of Queen Victoria's reign, the Club sent congratulations to her and also sought permission to rename the Club "The Victoria Sailors' & Working Men's Club Institute" in her honour. It also recorded that the year 1897 terminated the mortgage of the club premises.

In June that year, the Club received a letter from Whitehall stating that "Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve of the desired permission being granted."

At February 1913's annual general meeting, the Hon. Secretary, J. Wm. Postill, was presented with a portrait in appreciation of his long service to the Club. It was also noted that Mr Postill had been responsible for the institution of the Club. Because the subscriptions for the portrait were more than the cost, Mr Postill suggested that a further portrait be taken of all the Club members by Messrs R. Spurr, which would then be hung in the Club.

At the annual general meeting in 1922, both the President and the Secretary tendered their resignations due to ill health. Mr Postill was appointed a Vice President to retain his connection with the Club.

In June 1927, the Mayor presented to the Club a barometer given by Miss Postill, the property of her late brother. This barometer is still on the Club premises.


To this day, The Victoria Sailors' and Working Men's Club still exists in the same premises in Cliff Street, Bridlington. And Postill's name lives on in Postill Square, a cul-de-sac off Queensgate, part of the council estate built in the early 30s. It is said, however, that the square is named for the builder of the estate.