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At: The Merchant Bar, 25 Peckover Street,
Little Germany, Bradford, BD1 5BD Tel: 01274 721100

Est: 1956



Club Constitution, History,
Memoirs, Records,
Facts & Trivia

Club Constitution

The Club's Beginning
By Alex Eaton. A report on the earliest years of The Topic Folk Club written for 30th Anniversary and published in 1990 in Tykes' News in three parts.

The First 12 Years
By Denis Sabey, Tykes' News 1968

The First 25 Years
Booklet produced by the club in 1981

The Club in 1970-72
By Trevor Carolan. A personal memoir with some photos

The Topic at 60
The view from 2016, by John Waller

Historic Photo Gallery
A selection of photographs from the very early days of the Club

Songs for The Topic at 60
Songs written by club members to celebrate The Topic's 60th anniversary, performed 3 November 2016

Gigs List
Club nights from 1957 to last week

Compiling the Records
Trevor Charnock on tracking down sources for the gigs listed

Guest Artist Links A to Z
Web links for 732 Topic acts

The Club's 14 Venues

Sept 1956 to 11th Apr 1958:
Laycock's Rooms, Albion Court

18th Apr 1958 to Aug 1959:
Oddfellows'/Unity Hall, Rawson Square

4th Sept 1959 to ?Apr 1960:
Fox and Goose, Canal Rd

May 1960 to mid-1963:
Oddfellows'/Unity Hall again

Mid-1963 to 22nd Nov 1968:
Sun Inn, Sunbridge Rd

29th Nov 1968 to 24th Jan 1969:
Market Tavern, Godwin St

The year of 4 venues: The Market Tavern, 6 weeks, Rawson Hotel (Jan 31 only), The Ukrainian Club (Feb 7th-Sept 19th), and then the start of the 22-year stay at The Star Hotel.

Sept 26th, 1969 to Mar 1st, 1991:
Star Hotel, Westgate

March 8th, 1991 to Jul 8th, 1995:
Peel Hotel, Richmond Rd

Jul 13th, 1995 to Dec 29th, 2005:
Melborn Hotel White Abbey Rd

Jan 5th 2006 to Feb 28th 2008:
Cock and Bottle Barkerend Rd

Mar 6th 2008 to Dec 19th 2013:
Bradford Irish Club Rebecca St

Jan 2nd 2014 to Aug 22nd 2019:
Glyde House, Glydegate

Aug 29th 2019 onwards
The Merchant Bar, Peckover St


Club Night
For nearly 40 years the club met on Fridays - also with Saturday concerts in some of the earlier years - but it has been Thursday nights from March 24 1994.

Logo & Straplines
June 1995 - first appearance of the Wandering Fiddler logo
September 1995 - "Probably" dropped from "Probably the oldest Folk Club in the World".
January 2009 - Wandering Fiddler dropped. New strapline

Drinking & Smoking
The club was a non-booze venue at the very start, with a lot of school-age attendees, but moved to a pub (the Fox and Goose) in 1959, so U-18s no longer allowed. March 1995 saw "Thank you for not smoking" appear, and 1st July 2007 smoking in pubs was made illegal.

The raffle started on 26th August 1966, after the Committee had noticed funds depeleting. The first prize was a 15/- record token, and 1 6/8 was taken in ticket sales (a little under half what was taken on the door that night). It has continued ever since.

Secretaries & Bookers

Club Secretaries
1958 to 1982

Isobel Arlott
Sept 1958 - Sept 1959
AM (Molly) Brown
Sept 1959 - ?
Sandra A Kitchingham
April 1961 - ?1962
Malcolm McGeorge
?1962 - Aug 1964
Hilary Stevenson / Tideswell
Sep 1964 - March 1966
Pat Butterfield
April 1966 - June 1967
Jan Heatherington
July 1967 - March 1968
H Denis Sabey
April 1968 - May 1970
Jim Boyes
May 1970 - Nov 1971
Roger Sutcliffe
Nov 1971 - June 1972
Ken Hall
July 1972 - March 1974
Mick Wheeler
March 1974 - March 1976
Trevor Charnock
April 1976 - April 1982

Booking Secretaries
1982 to now

Ronnie Wharton
May 1982 - May 1988
Deanna Norman

June 1988 - March 1992
Brenda Baldwin
March 1992 - March 1993
Roger Sutcliffe
March 1993 - Nov 1994
Philomena Hingston
(sometimes with Finola Hingston)
Nov 1994 - Dec 2003
John Waller
Dec 2003 - Dec 2008
(with Simon Alexander Jun-Dec 2006)
Rahel Guzelian
Jan 2009 - Dec 2010
Joe Grint
Jan 2011 - Jan 2012
Anthony Charnock
Jan 2012 - Sep 2013
Sue Gaffney
Oct 2013 - Dec 2015
Rahel Guzelian
Jan 2016 - Jan 2018
Sue Gaffney
Jan 2018-Jan 2020
Martin Richards
Jan 2020 on


NB: The first few months of a new booker's reign were generally booked by the previous incumbent.

History of the Cock & Bottle
93 Barkerend Road, Bradford BD3 9AA

From January 2006 to March 2008 The Topic Folk Club was at the Cock & Bottle. Only a short time, but we did a bit of historical research on the pub when we moved in, and it seems a pity to lose it even though we're no longer there. It's a social history of Bradford, or something.

Anyway, with a fatal stabbing on the premises, an exorcism, four years being run by a Christian volunteer group followed by a period of abandonment and the undignified prospect of being turned into a children's nursery, the Cock & Bottle's history is worthy of a folk song in its own right - and that's only including events from the fairly recent past.

There's another 250 years to take into account, but it looked as though the long story had finally come to an end when the Cock & Bottle closed and was boarded up in March 2003. That same year, ironically, the pub was one of only 250 in Britain to be classed by CAMRA as having an interior of outstanding historic interest, which people could no longer see.

There was some concern about what would happen to the Grade II listed building, but in 2005 local small brewer William Greenwood stepped in and bought the pub, did it up and opened it in the summer with landlord Peter Fell in charge. This was no big anonymous brewery, as the Cock & Bottle was the brewer's only pub and the names of their real ales brews - such as Old Jock Strap and Blind Ref - reflected the Rugby League interest of founders John Williams and Rick Greenwood.

The new owners started brewing again on the premises for the first time in 80 years, picking up a long historical thread. An inn of some sort was first licensed on or near the site of the Cock & Bottle in 1747 and ale is said to have been brewed there at the time. Just over the road from Bradford's oldest house, the Old Paper Hall, the location has another historical connection - it's the place Sir Thomas Fairfax's wife is said to have been captured by Royalist forces in 1643, during the Civil War.

The pub was completely rebuilt in 1820, when the Otley Road was constructed, and the name The Cock & Bottle - which has nothing to do with fighting cocks but essentially advertises that both bottled and draught beers were on sale - was in use by 1822, when it was recorded in a trade directory. In the 1860s it was remodelled, doubled in size, and pushed upmarket with large plate glass windows, mirrors, gaslighting, brass, polished wood and pewter fitments designed to create a warm and bright environment that must have been quite exotic by contrast with what were most people's experiences of a dim indoors lit by, presumably, a single candle.

The Cock & Bottle was refurbished again around the turn of the 20th century, and when it was offered for sale in 1902 the notice described the pub as "a valuable fully licenced premises with brewhouse, stabling and outbuildings [and] two shops with dwelling houses." The inn was "a commanding corner property, substantially built, well arranged and doing a very large and lucrative business, being in a thickly populated district, and only a few minutes walk from the centre of the city. Trams with connections to all parts of the city were said to pass the door." (Malcolm Toft, in Bradford CAMRA).

It was probably the last home-brewhouse left in Bradford when brewing stopped in 1927, on the death of the Cock & Bottle's then owner, William F. Howard (though it restarted in Spring 2006, with Drop Kick the first new real ale brewed on the premises). The pub was sold to Leeds & Wakefield Breweries, which traded as Melbourne Brewery - a link there to The Melborn Hotel, which took its name from them (and changed the spelling following a dispute). Joshua Tetley & Son took over in 1960, and in 1984 named it the city's first Tetley's Heritage Inn in recognition of its historic origins and fittings. The pub's venerable decor got it parts in the 1983 film The Dresser (with Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney, and directed by Peter Yates, who also did Bullitt), and episodes of TV's Minder series.

Despite that, the pub had a chequered history in the 1990's. It was closed and boarded up for a while in 1991 when the licensee walked out, and in 1996 the then landlord Peter Tooley was stabbed to death by his wife Marjorie after a row. In 1998 Tetley sold it to the Enterprise Inns group, and in the same year the building was given Grade II listed status by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at the urging of CAMRA because of its traditional "compartmentalised" interior.

In 1999 the pub was rented by a Christian group who - after exorcising the building - ran it as a non-profit-making operation, staffed entirely by volunteer worshippers from Bradford's Christian community. In 2003 that project came to an end and the doors closed, many thought for the last time. No-one could be found to take over the lease and it was put on the market as part of a larger pubs sell-off, with accountants, architects and a children's nursery owner among the bidders.

Fortunately nothing came of those plans and the tiny tots and bean-counters had to take their miserable businesses elsewhere. In 2005 William Greenwood took over the Cock & Bottle and reopened it as a pub with a live music licence and up to 13 hand pumps serving their own and guest real ales. So when late in 2005 The Melborn Hotel announced it was closing its doors forever and the Topic Folk Club knew it would have to move, the Cock & Bottle was ready - a suitably old new venue for The Oldest Folk Club in the World!

Unfortunately, since the Topic moved out the pub was boarded up again and lay empty for years. It is now (2016) a restaurant.



How Bradford looked in 1800, with the site of the Cock & Bottle marked near the old Paper Hall. This map is from William Cudworth's late 19thC book "Round About Bradford" and can be seen fuller size on the web pages of Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.


How Bradford looked in 1889, with the site of the Cock & Bottle shown as close as can be determined. The full map from William Cudworth's (1888) "Worstedopolis" is at The Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society

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