Bowling Green (Now the car park)
The Stourbridge Institute Social Club dates back to reign of William IV,
for 180 years the it has been at the centre of Stourbridge and the centre of
The Social Club began as the Stourbridge Mechanics’ Institute, founded
in 1834 in what was then called the Rye Market. It was founded to “afford
information on a variety of interesting subjects, especially among the
labouring classes”. To this end a library was opened on 16th February, 1835.
Initially a great success, after three months it sank into obscurity. However
its committee was able to gain backing from Stourbridge’s wealthy businessmen
and bankers and the Institute was able to continue on a sound foundation,
charging workers 2d a week.
In January 1839, a new building was built for the club, on the site of
Baylie’s chain works, next door to the Cross Keys Inn, at a cost of £650. The
first lecture was given by J. Brindley, master of Oldswinford Hospital School,
on “The objects, advantages, and pleasures of scientific pursuits”.
In 1840 the society changed its name to the Mechanics’ Institute of
Popular Science and Literature, there were 160 members, the news room was open
from 9am to 10pm, and the library contained 660 volumes.
A year later the number of books had increased to 1,100. By the late
1840s the School of Design had been incorporated into the Institute and it
occupied premises at the corner of Foster Street.
By 1856 a Working Man’s Institute had opened in Stourbridge and there
was discussion as to a possible merger, it being thought that the town was too
small to support two such institutions.
Negotiations were competed in March 1857 and the new body was called the
Stourbridge Mechanics and Working Man’s Associated Institute.
A New home was found at the Falcon Inn in Market Street which had become
vacant; this was bought and adapted to the new Institute’s needs. To clear of
debts a “Monster Picnic for the Million” was held in Hagley Park with parades
and bands and around 10,000 visitors were entertained. The new Institute at the
Falcon Inn opened 2nd November, 1857. As well as the library and program of
lectures, members could take part in games of draughts, quoits or bowls; join
the choral union or the drum and fife band, or the classes in French, elocution,
debating, arithmetic, writing, history and others.
The two associated institutes continued as separate bodies, meeting in
the same building and jointly holding their annual general meetings.
It was not until 1891 that the two bodies merged into a single
In 1897 the Institute bought its first billiards table; a camera club
was set up in 1903; and new billiards hall was built in 1906; the Institute
Male Voice Choir was founded in 1908; in 1909 the new name Stourbridge
Institute and Social Club was adopted; a bowling green was laid down in 1912.
Proposals to rebuild the Institute’s home were first put forward in
1935. In January, 1936 a special general meeting was held to discuss the plans.
The plans were approved and construction began later that year. The formal
opening of the new Institute building by the Mayor of Stourbridge, Alderman
G.H. Eveson, was held 8th May, 1937.
was extensive redevelopment of the Institute buildings in the 1970s and ’80s.
The bowling green fell into disuse, so was turned into a car park and a new
extension was opened in January 1986.
Market Street around 1857, the second building on the left is the Falcon Inn, used by the Institute until the current new premises were built on the site in 1937