The nature of drinking in London has changed radically over time. To many working class citizens across the city, their regular was a working men's club — somewhere you'd pay an annual membership to, in return for cheap drinks all year round.
Nowadays they've dwindled in number, thanks in part to the rise of cheap alcohol from supermarkets providing an alternative. It's also due to the changing demographics in the make-up of London's working class, and gentrification in some traditional working class areas.
Above is our map of where you can still find working men's clubs or something along those lines in London. Some of these are ex-working men's clubs, turned into regular pubs — but retain that nostalgic working men's club vibe, that people yearn for.
Bethnal Green Working Men's Club
The best-known of London's working men's clubs, though not for being a working men's club despite its name. Instead it hosts events, including gigs, cabaret and club nights. This was once a more traditional working men's club and dates back to 1887 — we're not sure how many old-school East End geezers are left now. We suspect that the light-up heart on stage might have scared a few of them off.
Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, 42-44 Pollard Row, E2 6NB
East Finchley Constitutional Club
A club for the community — that's the aim of East Finchley Constitutional Club. The venue hosts music nights, dance nights, baby and toddler classes and quizzes. Whichever of these you head down to, one thing remains the same. The relaxed atomsphere. No need to wait for a special event to visit though — just enjoy one of the two snooker rooms, or the lush and spacious garden.
East Finchley Constitutional Club, The Walks, N2 8DE
Peckham Liberal Club
Before gentrification, Peckham was a proper working class area, as demonstrated by working men's club, Peckham Liberal. It's a rare breed owing to the fact it's still functioning as such — an annual membership of £25 gets you drinks for prices long thought outlawed in London. Just don't expect to escape Peckham's hipsters here, as they like cheap drinks too. Get a feel for the place below in its star turn for singer-songwriter Nadine Shah's music video, Fool — also enjoy the creepy synchronised dancing scene.
Peckham Liberal Club, 24 Elm Grove, SE15 5DE
Teddington Constitutional Club
An outlier when it comes to these clubs, for two reasons. First, geography — Teddington Constitutional Club is in west London where our map looks very bare. Secondly, it's an old school club that serves real ale, whereas other clubs tend to rely on mainstream lager and... well, that's about it.
Teddington Constitutional Club, 5 Stanley Road, TW11 8TP
Walthamstow Trades Hall
And now for something more traditional. Like an old school working men's club, you can buy membership so you get massive discounts for events at the club. The events are massively varied: bingo nights, ceilidh evenings, and plenty of chances to get your boogie on.
Walthamstow Trades Hall, 61-63 Tower Hamlets Road, E17 4RQ
Dating back to 1888 the Mildmay Club takes its history seriously. At the club's peak, it had over 3,000 members, and is on the lookout for photographs and memories from the club's past. That's not to say this is a place in decline though. It's currently growing and has live entertainment every Saturday night. Joining the club is no easy feat... you need to find a member to nominate you and another to second that nomination — the traditional way.
Mildmay Club, 33-34 Newington Green, N16 9PR
Effra Social, Brixton
From the masters of the old-building-into-new-pub-conversion, the Effra Social dates back to the Victorian era when it was a Conservative club. Apparently Churchill and John Major occasionally drank here. Some might take that to mean that the Effra is posh, but allow us to assure you it's nothing of the sort. It's got that small hall feeling about it, and most importantly, a stage, which is put to good use with regular DJ nights, reggae sets, dances, quizzes and film clubs.
Effra Social, 99 Effra Road, SW2 1 DF
Norfolk House Constitutional Club, Peckham
Norfolk House is another ex-Conservative club, built in the back garden of a house on Queen's Road, and has stood for over 70 years. Like many other clubs from the time, originally women weren't allowed to be members. That stuff doesn't fly in the 21st century, and Norfolk House is now a welcoming place to all. Among the members is a branch of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, colloquially known as the Buffs — a fraternal organisation a bit like the Masons.
Norfolk House Constitutional Club, 188 Queen's Road, SE15 2HP
Catford Constitutional, Catford
An odd assortment of images line the walls at the Catford Constitutional. Images of Churchill and Lenin rub shoulders with vintage Private Eye covers, and someone's own personal family photos from the 70s. Yes, this is another Antic conversion so there's a bit of a faux sense of the past at play. However, this was once a real functioning constitutional club, and Antic saved it after it was left derelict for 20 years.
Catford Constitutional, Catford Broadway, SE6 4SP
MOTH Club is a glittering beacon in Hackney, that draws in those east London types, just like an eponymous moth to a light. Except that's not what MOTH Club's name is about at all. It actually stands for Memorable Order of Tin Hats — a military veteran's club that originates in South Africa. Nowadays it hosts gigs and club nights from exciting acts who play before a tinsel backdrop. However, that doesn't mean the venue has shed all its old school punters — they can still be found in the bar at the front, even if does mainly cater to the craft beer types.
MOTH Club, Valette Street, E9 6NU
Willesden Working Men's Club
Union Jacks galore. That's the look at Willesden Working Men's Club, the kind of patriotic club that holds a party for the centenary of the end of the first world war. The club's a real community, they organise trips away to the seaside and horse racing regularly. Along with that it's a good spot for lovers of a raffle, shove ha'penny and it hosts a regular chess club for adults and children. This is the place to break out your Sicilian Defense. Another to have starred in a music video, see below for proof.
Willesden Working Men's Club, 202 Villiers Road, NW2 5PU
Wood Green Social Club
To balance out the number of ex-Conservative clubs on this list, here's one with links to the Labour party. Once upon a time this was a terrible place to get a drink, one of the founding members was a teetotaller and the club was dry for over 25 years. Eventually, that changed, partially to recognise the fact that beer was the drink of the working classes. And you can still get a pint there today, something many choose to do before or after a Spurs game as the club isn't so far White Hart Lane.
Wood Green Social Club, 3-4 Stuart Crescent, N22 5NJ
Plumstead Radical Club
In a gorgeous historic building in south east London- look beneath at that wonderful frontage — the Plumstead Radical is another club which has its history intertwined with politics. The Radicals were were working class liberals who eventually affiliated to the Labour party. Again politics have faded, the club has other priorities nowadays. Like karaoke and table tennis.
Plumstead Radical Club, 83-88 Walmer Terrace, SE18 7DZ
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Know of any more working men's clubs or anything similar? Tell us about it down in the comments.