In the beginning…
It was in September 1986 that six (then still young!) businessmen – a solicitor, a newspaper editor, a building society manager, an hotelier, a butcher and a public relations consultant – met over a convivial lunch at the Abbots Well (now the Mercure Chester) Hotel.
A germ of an idea developed to set up some kind of new ‘business’ organisation – but different from the existing ones where, for example, accountants, hoteliers, solicitors, estate agents, bankers and the like joined their respective ‘institution’ associations and, in the main, did little to promote ‘Chester’ beyond their organisations’ own terms of reference.
The six Founder Members of what became the Chester Business Club wanted to create a new business grouping that business people wanted to belong to rather than the one they felt obligated to join.
Further ‘exploratory’ lunch gatherings (always convivial!) continued; then with the Founder Members each inviting one other businessman (no women then!) to the next lunch; then the ‘twelve’ each inviting one other person to the one after that – and before long there were 96 individuals who had accepted invitations to become CBC Members.
At that stage, the intention was to ‘close’ the membership at 100 but the activities and growing influence of the Club meant that more and more businessmen – and by then, businesswomen – wanted to become members. The number of Members was gradually increased, first to 125, then 150, 175 and, now, 199 – with invitations to join always extended on a personal rather than corporate basis although, once admitted, Members do largely represent their business/ organisation. (In recent times, a Corporate category of membership has been added.])
One of the principal activities over the years have been the Speaker Dinners. The key aim of these Black Tie events is to provide an impartial forum for leading commentators – from Business, Politics, Media, The Arts and Public Life – to speak on a topic of their own choosing, as a positive contribution to increasing public awareness of the important issues of the day. And as the Club has also built up a reputation for providing speakers with a happy and welcoming bunch of people as an audience, they tend be socially agreeable occasions too!
A natural extension to the Club’s activities was the instruction of ‘social’ activities (e.g., Drinks Receptions), Charity fundraisers (e.g., an annual Charity Walk, Golf Day, and Charity Ball), informal dinners and networking events (e.g., Member evenings at local businesses’ offices).
Another feature of CBC activity has been the social weekends (sometimes longer) the Club has organised. These have taken Members to London, Paris, New York (twice), Florence, the Cotswolds, New Orleans, Dublin, Venice, the Lake District, San Francisco, and Dublin.
Distinguished local business leaders have occupied the position of Club President: Tom Hunt (Chronicle Newspapers); Andrew Wood (NWS Bank plc), Ron Smith (Landsmith Ltd), David Pickering (Meadow Foods Ltd), David Faulkner (NWN Media Ltd), and since 2019, Julie Mogan (Excello Law).