Early Closing

The following is a extract from “The Town’s Game: The Origins of Rugby and Association Football in Southport” by Daniel J. Hayes and adds some context to the circumstances that led to the creation of recreation sports clubs in Southport

Before 1870 the only guaranteed national holidays were Christmas and Easter, meaning that for the working classes there was little time for recreational sport. By 1850 the Factory Act had begun to limit the working week to sixty hours with the week ending earlier on a Saturday. With Sundays being set aside for Church this naturally led to Saturday afternoons being given over to leisure. Skilled workers were first to exploit this limited leisure time, and those towns given over to manufacturing industries such as Sheffield were quick to make the most of the new Saturday half day holiday. By the 1860s other industries began to follow, with the railways providing more of the lower middle-class workers.

In Southport, Saturday afternoon recreation was still far from the minds of the majority. Indeed, the Southport News and Independent reported that there were still on-going discussions in the town regarding the ‘early closing’ that had begun to happen across the country, as an enabler for such activities.

Our readers will observe, by announcement in our advertisement columns, a public meeting will be held in the Town Hall on Thursday evening next, to consider the question of a general uniform closing of the shops in the town, and to form an early closing association similar to those already formed in towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is hoped that there will be a large attendance of tradesmen to consider so important a question

Southport News & Independent, 30th November 1872

The meetings convened to contemplate the early closing motion were considered a success in Southport in terms of establishing a time where leisure activities could be more easily pursued. This was a most significant development in creating an opportunity for people to engage in organised activities to alleviate the burden of their working lives.

The Early Closing Movement has at last taken some shape in this town. We have the subject fairly launched, and it now rests with the tradesmen of the town to say how the matter shall succeed. An opportunity now presents itself for a combination which cannot fail, to be productive of much good. The meeting on Thursday evening, we are well aware, was largely composed of assistants, and their enthusiasm in the matter could not be misapprehended. Of course, the circumstances may give the impression that the whole question is affecting the assistants only, but the facts gleaned from the employers, who really did the business, and who were the speakers on that occasion, sufficiently show that they are evidently alive to the fact the question is one of equal moment to themselves. Indeed, Southport must be a remarkable exception to the rule if masters do not derive an equal advantage with the assistants from the adoption of shorter hours. One fact much overlooked, was brought prominently forward – that if the tradesmen act only upon the supposition that the hours at which a certain class of customers at present do their shopping is to be the rule when the shops are to be closed, no satisfactory result will ever be arrived at. Of course it is impossible but that some little inconvenience may accrue to a few individuals. This will be the case in every movement for the public good.

Southport News & Independent, 7th December 1872