Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Project Tags

view all


Hastings Winkle Club

The Hastings Winkle Club is an internationally famous charity formed in 1900 by Hastings fishermen to help the under-privileged families of Hastings Old Town, East Sussex, in the south east of England.

The Winkle Club headquarters, located at the Fishermen's Institute, opened in 1882. The building was given in trust for the use of Hastings Fishermen; the ground floor area, now used as the bar and clubroom, was initially used by the fishermen for making and repairing their nets.

Apart from some specially selected local residents, Winkle Club members have included some illustrious personalities such as the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Lord Montgomery, Sir Norman Wisdom and Sir Winston Churchill.

Each Winkle Club Member (or 'Winkler') carries a winkle shell which they must produce when challenged to 'winkle up'. Failure to do so results in a fine which goes towards local charities.

During special occasions, members of the Winkle Club gather together on Winkle Island at the foot of All Saints' Street. Winkle Island is the venue for many of the club's outdoor events. The giant winkle that stands on the pavement (the project photo is of the modern version - this is the old one), was used as a collecting box in the past.

The club was founded in 1900 at the 'Prince Albert' - a popular fishermen's locals in the Old Town, Hastings. A number of the fishermen regulars had often discussed the idea of doing something to raise money to give the poor children of the Borough a happy time at Christmas. There was no welfare state at that time 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 so the Winkle Club was born.

Every member was to carry a winkle. The original occupants of the shells were removed and their places filled with sealing-wax. Anyone caught without his badge of membership, the winkle, had to pay a fine - a penny in the early days, 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 raised went towards the cost of the clubs great objective – a monster treat at Christmas for poor children.

From the Hastings Mail of 04/01/1908

The Mail said: "The Winkle Club has not been in existence more than two years and yet already has a membership numbering 100. The club was originally formed with the idea of fishermen holding a jovial New Years Eve together, but with its growth a larger object is to provide a meal for some 300 or 400 children. Mr John Hart is at present the secretary and John Webb the treasurer. A hundred hungry men were served with dinner in the Harbour Shed, decorated with bunting, on Tuesday (31 Dec), while an estimated 750 children were given a good square meal dinner on Wednesday".


Those marked ❋ were early local members or present at the club's foundation



  • Joe Bannister ❋ Fisherman
  • Bunny Baron
  • Sir Edwin Bate
  • The Duke of Bedford
  • Dick Betts ❋ Fisherman
  • Bill Betts ❋ Fisherman
  • Admiral Sir Alexander Binglry, Commander-in-Chief
  • President of The Magic Circle, Ali Bongo.
  • Admiral Lord Michael Boyce
  • R.S.M. Brittain
  • Mr John Burton MBE former Director of Entertainments and President of Hastings Winkle Club


  • Alec Chatfield ❋ Fisherman
  • M. Chauvel, French Ambassador to London
  • Sir Winston Churchill: On receiving his invitation to join the Winkle Club Churchill accepted, saying ‘This is one thing I want to do’. Sir Winston became a member on 7 September, 1955 a great occasion in the history of the club. Visitors to Chartwell will be able to glimpse Churchill’s golden winkle in the Museum Room.
  • Frank Cousins, former Transport & General Worker's Union





  • Jimmy Gearing ❋ Fisherman









  • Harry Oakes




  • Councillor Robinson, President of the Shire
  • Sir Alec Rose


  • Charlie Stewart


  • Tommy Trinder
  • Jack Tripp



  • Maruis of Verdun, former President, French Section of the Souvenir Normand


  • Jack Webb ❋
  • Sir Charles Wheele, former President of the Royal Academy
  • Tom (Tit) Willis ❋ First Chairman
  • Sir Norman Wisdom