The Winkle Club

The East Hastings Sea Angling Association is the official headquarters of the Winkle Club.

The Winkle Club is over 100 years old. In 1900, the year of the club’s foundation, one of the most popular of the fishermen’s locals’ in the Old Town was the Prince Albert, now alas defunct but guaranteed immortality by the fact that therein the club was born. A number of the fishermen who used the ‘Prince Albert’ regularly had often discussed the idea of doing something to raise money to give the poor children of the Borough a happy time at Christmas. In those days there was no welfare state and some working-class families, especially throughout the winters, existed in conditions bordering on poverty. Although they were little better off themselves, the fishermen grew more and more concerned at the conditions they saw around them and one night their desire to help crystalised into action…

The rest of the story of the Winkle club’s early days is one of logical and indeed inevitable development. Obviously every member would have to carry a winkle. The mortal remains of the original occupants of the shells were removed and their places filled with sealing-wax. The luckless wight caught without his badge of membership, the winkle, had to pay a fine – a penny in the early days, a pound nowadays – and the challenger likewise had to report him or pay a fine too. An elaborate system of such penalties developed but nobody minded as all the money thus raised went towards the cost of the clubs great objective – a monster treat at Christmastide for poor kiddies.

Princess Elizabeth at Hastings Castle presented by Bunk Harffey with a winkle mounted as a gold brooch, 18th May 1951