Quintin Hogg’s vision was to educate the ‘mind, body and spirit’. Polytechnic members established clubs and societies, raising funds primarily from membership fees. As each club was run by its members, this gave the young men (and later women) the opportunity to acquire business and administrative skills in roles such as secretary or treasurer.

The earliest clubs were sporting ones, under the umbrella of the Hanover United Athletic Club in 1874. This initially covered rowing, swimming, cricket and soccer, but soon expanded to include gymnastics and track and field – the latter eventually becoming the famous Polytechnic Harriers.
For those more inclined towards intellectual or indoor pursuits, a Polytechnic Parliament and a Reading Circle were established in the 1880s-1890s as well as societies related to the Polytechnic’s classes, including printing, shorthand, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering societies, as well as French and German mutual improvement clubs. These student societies enabled members to keep their knowledge up-to-date in a less formal environment, organising visits to technologically-advanced factories or famous buildings.
Many Poly members were involved in music, ranging from a Choral Society to a Mandolin orchestra. The 1891 Scheme of Administration of Regent Street Polytechnic banned ‘any dramatic representation or dancing’ and this clause wasn’t officially repealed until 1929. From the 1930s the dramatic arts thrived at the Poly, with both an Operatic and Dramatic Society regularly performing in the Portland Hall.
During the 1960s, wider social upheaval led to a change in the Polytechnic’s student body and many of the clubs struggled to recruit new members. The clubs and societies were formally separated from the institution with the creation of the University of Westminster in 1992. Nevertheless the ethos of the Polytechnic continues to thrive in the many clubs and societies of the Students’ Union today.

Period: 1960s

Barry Nicholson studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic both as an A Level Student in 1963 and as a Mechanical Engineer in the late 1960s. In this excerpt he discusses being a member of the Polytechnic Rifle Club.

The Rifle Club used the purpose built Rifle Range in the basement of 309 Regent Street. The Range was added to the building by Quintin Hogg soon after moving in and a club was quickly formed. The range still exists but is no longer in use.


Period: 1940s; 1950s; 1960s

Connie Russell was a member of the Polytechnic Rambling Club from c.1946. In this excerpt she discusses a typical weekend ramble.

The Rambling Club was established in 1886 by WK Davis and Percy Randall.  Only 5 people went on the first ramble but numbers soon swelled and it became one of the most popular clubs at the Poly. Women were not allowed to join the club so formed their own, but on the occasions when they joined together for mixed rambles numbers often reached 80. By 1950 membership of the two clubs was 300-400. It was not until 1955 that the two clubs formally became one.

The club travelled to many locations including Barnet, St Albans, and Shoreham-by-Sea and generally walked 10-12 miles a day. After the Second World War public transport costs increased so the club went for weekends away staying in Youth Hostels and walking up to 25 miles each day. In the winter months trips to museums and places of interest often replaced rambles and the club was also known for its popular dances and socials. The club is still in existence although it is no longer affiliated to the University.


Period: 1980s; 1990s

David Bench studied Environmental Biotechnology at PCL in the late 1980s-early 1990s.  In this excerpt he discusses his time in the Canoe Club and their afternoons on the Thames.

Water sports have always been popular at the Poly.  Quintin Hogg was a keen rower at Eton and bought a boathouse on the Thames at Chiswick for the Poly in 1888.  As a result rowing became a very popular sport and a rowing tank was installed in 1921.  The boathouse was badly damaged during World War Two but was rebuilt in the 1950s.  Today the building is shared by the University and the 100 year old Quintin Boat Club.  The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race finishes by the Boathouse and Chiswick Bridge.


Period: 1980s

David Price studied Engineering at PCL in the 1980s. Despite the Poly’s rich cinema heritage and strong photography and media courses, the Union had no related club. Whilst in his second year David Price decided to establish a Movie Makers Club with fellow enthusiasts. In this excerpt he discusses setting it up.


Period: 1930s; 1940s

Lionel Price attended the Polytechnic Secondary School at Regent Street between 1938-1941. He also joined the Institute as a member soon after leaving school in order to use the sports facilities. He joined the basketball club and was selected to represent Great Britain at the 1948 London Olympic Games. In this excerpt he discusses using the sports facilities at the Poly during his time at the Polytechnic Secondary School. As most of the classes at the Poly were in the evening, the school had use of the classrooms and sports facilities during the day.


Period: 1970s

Nigel Winser studied Life Sciences at PCL in the early 1970s.  He was also involved in establishing an Exploration Society which took students on scientific trips around the world.  In this excerpt he discusses establishing the society and its first trip to the Sahara.

Period: 1940s; 1950s; 1960s; 1970s

The Polytechnic Cycling Club was founded c.1878 and took the name Ian Bicycling Club after Quintin Hogg’s second son who was then a baby.  The first runs were mainly to Richmond and Mortlake but they also occasionally went as far as the New Forest.

When the Poly moved to Regent Street the club became the Hanover Bicycle Club, taking its name from its former home in Hanover Street, and had 29 members.  In 1885 the name Polytechnic Cycling Club was adopted.  The Club grew in popularity and some of its members were very successful.  David Rickets won a team bronze medal at the 1948 Olympics.  Gradually over time the increase in cars on the road impacted on the popularity of the club.

Many of the clubs and societies organised socials.  These ranged from whist drives and garden parties to dances in the Portland Hall at Little Titchfield Street.  They gave the various different clubs a chance to mix.

In these excerpts members of the Polytechnic Cycling Club discusses their reasons for joining and the social side of the club.


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