"In 1836 a mechanics' institution was commenced in the town, the first meetings being held in small schoolrooms in Silver-street. It was removed in 1844 to a woollen warehouse in the Wylde, the use of which was granted gratuitously by Mr Edmund Grundy. Owing to the rapid increase of members the erection of a new building was resolved upon, and a canvass for subscriptions was at once set on foot. The Earl of Derby gave a donation of 100 guineas, and also a piece of land in Market-street. When the subscriptions had amounted to about £3,000, the erection of the building which is now called the Bury Athenaeum was commenced. The corner stone was laid by Lord Stanley, on the 3rd October, 1850. In character the building is Italian: it is 122 feet long, 44 feet high, and 43 feet deep, consisting of a basement and two storeys. The total cost of the building was about £4,000 and to its 250 members of the old Mechanics' Institution brought 1,000 volumes of books. The subscription is 2s 6d per quarter, and the institution is tolerably well supported. There are classes in it for the study of various subjects in connection with the Science and Art Department. The library contains a large number of volumes. Of late considerable improvements have been made in the assembly and other rooms."
Edmund Grundy (presumably the one mentioned above, who died in 1855 aged 75) was the first President. He contested the first parliamentary election in Bury in 1832.
The aim of the original founders in 1836 was to promote and develop education and cultural activities and to support local charities. A library and reading room were developed first with lectures and discussions on a wide range of subjects. There was a performance of The Messiah in 1851 and Henry Irving appeared in 1865.
this reproduction hangs in the main bridge room
Over the years, leisure activities such as table tennis, billiards and snooker were introduced. In the early 1940's whist became popular and whist drives raised funds for the Club. A natural development from whist, contract bridge is first mentioned in the Annual Report of 1945.
The Bury Athenaeum moved to its present site, a listed building on the corner of Moss Street and Haymarket Street in 1957. This building had previously been the Town Infirmary and then the Education Offices. The Council took over the old building, and despite numerous plans for its future use, it was demolished in 1971, just two weeks befrore a preservation order would have saved it. There is a picture of the old building, in its former glory in the mid eighteenth century, in the main bridge room.
Membership increased steadily during the 80's and 90's and in 1997 major building works extended and improved the Club's facilities so that now the Athenaeum must rank as one of the most comfortable and well equipped bridge clubs in the country. Present membership is now approaching 340. There is an active teaching programme for both newcomers and existing members.
It is pleasing to note that, although times have changed considerably since the mid nineteenth century, the Club's Committee, together with the Bury Athenaeum Trustees, who hold ownership of the land and building, still ensure that many of the aims of the founding members are carried out. The Club donates considerable sums to local charities, particularly Bury Hospice, and also supports local youth organisations, including the Youth Orchestra.
photograph taken in 1907