Secret Weapon: Dizzy & the Devil

This is one of Dizzy’s secret weapons: Barnoldswick Conservative Club.

Benjamin Disraeli, affectionately nicknamed Dizzy, was a Victorian British Prime Minister and convert from Judaism to the Church of England. He was determined to make his Conservative Party more appealing to the working class. As well as reducing tax on tea and malt, both working-class staples, he encouraged the establishment of Conservative clubs up and down the country. These members-only drinking establishments were popular in communities, and Liberal and Labour clubs followed suit. To socialise and fraternise with the politically like-minded made one feel part of a wider movement, with shared goals and aims. The Association of Conservative Clubs still has around 1100 establishments, though few of their members are young or even political. Whereas some think that the role of the clubs was minimal, it is worth noting that the British Conservative Party became the world’s post successful political party in terms of electoral success, at a time when most voters worked for a living.  

Around the same time, many nonconformist chapels sought to provide a social life for their members. Galas, teas, musical afternoons, soirées, concerts and slide-shows were common place in the late Victorian chapel, ours included. The organisers may have wished to replace the local tavern as the focus of village life, offering wholesome alternative. Unfortunately, while the political clubs seemed to contribute towards their respective parties’ successes, the chapels soon entered a spiral of decline. As social events increased, so gospel ardour decreased. They sought to entertain rather than convict, to garner smiles and laughter rather than tears of repentance. After the Great War, many working men realised they could get better entertainment down the music hall; the chapels stagnated, declined, then died.

Entertainment in the clubs was the politicians’ secret weapon; in the chapels, it was the devil’s. Don’t attend church to have a laugh or even to be uplifted; attend that Christ might be uplifted and you humbled, and thereby wonderfully blessed.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears… 2 Tim 4:3a