The story of the club begins in the 1880s with Tom France who sold hot peas around the streets of Bolton.
In January 1886 Tom announced in the weekly Social Democratic Federation (SDF) paper 'Justice' that he would be glad to hear from any friends wanting to help with the formation of a branch of the federation in the town.
The SDF had started in London five years earlier, the first real socialist organisation in Britain (20 years before the founding of the Labour Party).
By September 1886 a Bolton branch had been formed with thirty members including Matt Phair and Joe Shufflebotham.
It met at Tom Frances house in Church St (behind St George's Rd) and so the embryonic Socialist club was born.
In the summer of 1887 the young SDF Branch received a great boost when political consciousness in the town was raised by a strike of engineering workers.
The dispute was long and bitter, mainly because the bosses brought in scab labour from other parts of the country. Hundreds of extra police and a detachment of the 13th Hussars were drafted into the town.
Members of the SDF supported the strike and were helped by the arrival of a full-time organiser, Tom Mann (later to become the famous trade unionist and a founder of the Transport and General Workers Union).
Outdoor meetings were held with audiences of up to 2000 and branch membership mushroomed.
Although the strike was finally lost, the Bolton Socialists were so impressed with the work of Tom Mann that they invited him to return for a longer stay. They set him up in a newsagent’s shop at 96 Deansgate (still a newsagents) and in March 1888 he came to live in the town and stayed until December.
During his stay William Morris visited the town and spoke to a large audience at the Spinners Hall on 'Art and Socialism'.
By the early 1890's the Bolton Socialists felt strong enough to rent premises in Back Cheapside and open the town's first Socialist Club. They served beer, established a library, provided entertainment in the form of chess, draughts and bagatelle, and to 'every genuine socialist on the road' the club gave one shilling provided the person in question could answer a number of questions posed by the barman.
Regular outdoor meetings were held on the Town Hall square as well as indoor 'lectures' and 'improvement classes' some times with nationaly known speakers such as Eleaner Marx (daughter of Karl) and her husband Dr Aveling who spoke at the Spinners Hall on 'The Evolution of Socialism'.
Despite its success however, the club hit its first crisis in November 1896 when the secretary resigned 'because he was being constantly grumbled at'. To make matters worse there were no nominations for the bar committee. It was agreed to abolish the bar and buy 10lbs of tea.
However, this situation lasted only a month, by December the bar was open again.
In September 1896, members of the Bolton Socialist Club helped to organise a massive 10,000 strong trespass march over Winter Hill in protest against the closure of the path across what Colonel Ainsworth claimed as his Grouse-moor.
Five thousand song sheets were printed, containing a song by Bolton socialist poet, Allen Clarke, titled "Will you come o Sunday mornin'?"
A hundred years later the club would celebrate this historic event.
In June 1898, Sarah Reddish (pictured), a well-known Bolton socialist and feminist, announced that the local branches of the Independent Labour Party (founded by Keir Hardie in 1893) and the Social Democratic Party were fusing.
'Division means weakness' she wrote. 'We want strength for useful work and therefore we hope that other local comrades will join us'.
The new body was called the Bolton Socialist Party and the following year the Socialist Club moved to 13 Lorne Street – a narrow back alley which now runs behind Waterstones Deansgate shop.