Amongst the archive material at the John Cleveland College is a slim green volume blocked in gold with the title 'Clubland'. It was only by chance that I came across this bound selection of magazines which covered the years 1891-1892, each copy being sold for the handsome sum of two pence. Further investigation revealed the magazines as 'the Organ of the Hinckley and District Conservative Club," printed in Hinckley by W. Pickering at the Borough Printing Works.
The first edition appeared in March 1891 with Sharrad H. Gilbert announcing himself as both staunch Conservative and editor. Sharrad Gilbert was Secretary to the Conservative Club in Hinckley at this time when Lord Salisbury was Conservative Prime Minister. Later Sharrad would distinguish himself in the greatest of the Victorian Colonial Wars, the South African War of 1899-1902, His experiences in this conflict appeared in an account which he wrote entitled 'Rhodesia and After1. ‘Clubland' provided Sharrad with an opportunity to develop his literary skills as well as a method of building support for the Conservatives in the new single member Bosworth Constituency created by the 1885 Reform Act.
The magazine begins thus:
The first appearance of a paper resembles, in some respects, a vessel starting on its first voyage... We make our first appearance in the early part of a new year - a time when by all accounts good resolutions are formed - but we hope unlike the majority of these, our destiny will resemble a corner stone in the fabric of Conservativism in Hinckley rather than a paving stone elsewhere."
Sharrad's hopes were not to be crowned with success since a Liberal would hold the constituency for the bulk of the time between the early 1890s and 1914. However, for the local historian the magazine gives a detailed,if somewhat slanted view, of local politics, descriptions of living conditions in the town, including the soup kitchens and a monthly account of the 'History of Hinckley' written by Thomas Harrold. This last item will form the basis for a number of articles in future Hinckley Historians. Also included were full pages of advertisements by local Conservative businessmen presented in an elegant and inoffensive manner such as those which grace the opposite page. The bound copies only cover two years and one may only assume that the voyage upon which the editor had set sail with such great expectations was but a brief one wrecked on the 'Rock of Local Liberalism'.
Author: Hugh Beavin
Written for: Hinckley Historian Magazine