Unity House is a handsome Victorian building located near the centre of Loughborough. It is the home of the Loughborough Constituency Labour Party and as a meeting place for the Labour Party and other community activities. The building has a very interesting history serving the people of Loughborough since the 19th century.
History of Unity House
During the 19th Century a number of friendly societies sprang up to provide medical cover and insurance for working people who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Loughborough Medical Aid Centre was thus built. It was originally a hospital, pharmacy and medical hall built for a number of Loughborough Friendly Societies, including the Ancient order of Foresters, the Rechabites, the Druids and the Oddfellows. At the back of the downstairs room was a surgery and at the front of the building was a pharmacy. The upstairs was known as the Medical Hall where the Friendly Societies had their Lodge Meetings. Some of these involved elaborate ceremonies similar to those used today by the Freemasons. Most of the Friendly Societies had branches called "Lodges" but the Foresters branches were known as "Courts". They all had slightly different ideas; for example the Rechabites would not allow anyone to join who drank alcohol. As a result of a small payment each week, the combined organisations were able to employ a doctor and buy medicines. The centre employed one of the first women medical doctors in England, Dr Gertrude Hutton in 1900.
The use as a Medical Centre declined after the introduction of National Insurance in 1912 and during the 1939-45 war the building was taken over by the government as a British Restaurant to provide cheap but nourishing food for working people. In 1947 the building was purchased by Dr Mont Follick, the recently elected MP for Loughborough during the Labour Landslide election of 1945 and renamed Unity House. Dr Mont Follick was a philanthropist, a proponent of language reform and ran a language school in Regent Street, London. He also endowed a Chair in Linguistics at Manchester University, which to this current day is named after him. For more information on Dr Mont Follick see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Follick
Originally Unity House was used for Labour and Trade Union branch meetings and has been visited by a number of prominent politicians including Jim Callaghan and Roy Jenkins. Dr David Owen even used the building to launch his new SDP party under the cameras of Newsnight with Vincent Hannah. Although the building has been used as the Headquarters of Loughborough Labour Party since 1947, its use has widened to other community groups. During the 1990s there was even a bar. It is not clear what the Rechabites would have thought of that.