The committee of the Shildon Railway Institute – the “Stute” as it’s affectionately known locally – has confirmed that it expects the social club will close for business within a year unless steps are taken to save it.
The club has been steadily losing money to the point where it has now become critically nonviable.
“Our family has been coming in here for generations.
I can’t believe this could be the end of it.”
The decline in the club’s fortunes has been attributed to a steady fall in active membership and a combination of changing social habits in the community; the availability of cheap drink in supermarkets and rising running and entertainment costs.
“We’re devastated,” one member told the Crier. “Our family has been coming in here for generations. I can’t believe this could be the end of it.”
The committee and manageress have tried every avenue they can think of to attract new business; including offering the function room for hire at no charge and stocking a wide range of fashionable gin to attract younger adult members under the clever title of ‘the Ginstitute’ but ultimately to little effect.
Some have suggested that it’s not immediately apparent from the outward appearance of the building that it is a social club, which might deter many who aren’t regular customers, or perhaps are visitors to the town, from dropping in.
The Railway Institute is a continuation of the first of its kind in the world, tracing its roots back to 1833, with the current building having been built in 1911 by the North Eastern Railway to replace an earlier Institute building on Station Street which then became a cinema before its eventual demolition.
A plaque from 1933 inside the building commemorates the original Institute’s overall centenary; it’s bicentenary is just fourteen years from now.
This newer Institute building, on Redworth Road, was sold to the members in the 1980s around the time the Shildon Works was closing and has been under the custodianship of a local committee ever since.
The Grade II listed Railway Institute building is not just the home of the social club, but also acts as the headquarters for the Shildon Amateur Boxing Club, the second oldest boxing club in Britain, which was formed in 1903 and to this day helps local youngsters achieve their potential through the discipline and art of boxing.
The boxing club is now actively seeking a new home, which could potentially involve moving away from Shildon, although we understand a location in the town would be preferred.
“We’re really worried for the building itself,” a committee spokesperson explained. “While the club is still in business we can look after it. But once it’s stood empty, well, we’ve seen what happens.
“You just have to look at the old Flag and Whistle on Mill Street.
“It could be prone to vandalism or break-ins over time and become derelict.
“We’re looking at options but it’s a specialist building and with the Grade II listing it’s hard to see what other commercial uses it might have.”
An exact expected closure date has not yet been set. “Obviously we want to keep going as long as we can, but at the current rate of monthly loss we’re going to run out of time, possibly within the year,” added the spokesperson.