Our local labour history
During the 19th Century a number of friendly societies sprang up to provide medical cover and insurance for working people who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Loughborough Medical Aid Centre was thus built. It was originally a hospital, pharmacy and medical hall built for a number of Loughborough Friendly Societies, including the Ancient order of Foresters, the Rechabites, the Druids and the Oddfellows. At the back of the downstairs room was a surgery and at the front of the building was a pharmacy. The upstairs was known as the Medical Hall where the Friendly Societies had their Lodge Meetings. Some of these involved elaborate ceremonies similar to those used today by the Freemasons. Most of the Friendly Societies had branches called “Lodges” but the Foresters branches were known as “Courts”. They all had slightly different ideas; for example the Rechabites would not allow anyone to join who drank alcohol. As a result of a small payment each week, the combined organisations were able to employ a doctor and buy medicines. The centre employed one of the first women medical doctors in England, Dr Gertrude Hutton in 1900.
The use as a Medical Centre declined after the introduction of National Insurance in 1912 and during the 1939-45 war the building was taken over by the government as a British Restaurant to provide cheap but nourishing food for working people.
In 1947 the building was purchased by Dr Mont Follick, the recently elected MP for Loughborough during the Labour Landslide election of 1945 and renamed Unity House.
Dr Mont Follick was a philanthropist, a proponent of language reform and ran a language school in Regent Street, London. He also endowed a Chair in Linguistics at Manchester University, which to this current day is named after him. For more information on Dr Mont Follick see here.
Originally our building was used for Labour and Trade Union branch meetings. It was visited by a number of prominent politicians including Jim Callaghan and Roy Jenkins.
Dr David Owen even used the building to launch his new SDP party under the cameras of Newsnight with Vincent Hannah. Although the building has been used as the headquarters of Loughborough Labour Party since 1947, its use has now widened to other community groups. During the 1990s there was even a bar. It is not clear what the Rechabites would have thought of that.
Mont Follick was succeeded by John Cronin
When John Cronin was defeated in 1979 the constituency went to the Tories in the person of Stephen Dorrell, late Secretary of State for Health. However the seat was won back by Andy Reed in the Labour landslide of 1997 who held it until 2010 when it went back to the Tories.