Saturday, 15 August 2015

Great Expectations

Mandolin Club
(formerly the Warwick Picturedrome)
101 Windsor Street,
Liverpool 8

Dickens Street, 16 July 1911

Situated at the corner of Windsor Street and Upper Warwick Street in the Dingle the Warwick Picturedrome was opposite the "Dickens Land" an area of terraced streets with names taken from the books of Charles Dickens. As well as Dickens Street there was Copperfield, Dombey, Dorrit, Micawber, Nickleby, Pecksniff, and Pickwick Streets. 

John Lennon's grandparents lived at 27 Copperfield Street and his father Alfred was born there on 14 December 1912. At some point between 1912 and 1915 the Lennons moved to number 57, just as the Warwick was converting to a cinema, right on their doorstep.

Living even closer, in a rented room on Windsor Street, were the Stanley Family, George Stanley and Annie Milward and their daughters. Their third child, Mary Elizabeth Stanley, known to all as Mimi, was born here on 24 April 1906. Mimi's sister Julia would later marry Alfred Lennon, and their only child together, John Winston Lennon would be brought up by his Aunt Mimi from the age of five.

The Warwick Cinema interior (1955)

The Warwick had first been used as a "live" theatre and music hall. The first reference to the cinema appears in the Bioscope Annual of 1912 as the Picturedrome, 101 Windsor Steet, for which a cinematograph licence had been applied for by A Leitch for Toxteth Picturedromes Ltd.

Describing the Warwick in "Picture Palaces of Liverpool" author Harold Ackroyd writes: The main entrance gave access to the stalls and the balcony of the 437 seat auditorium. As seen in the above photograph the balcony had straight extensions along either side with several long rows of seats on a stepped floor with a gangway at either side. Above, visible girders supported the ceiling and over the rear columns supported the projection box.

Unfortunately the only reference to this cinema in the local paper (and accompanying it the only photograph of the interior) was following an incident in October 1955. During one "house" about 60 square-feet of ceiling collapsed on the the balcony with the weight of the seats above, resulting in injuries to several members of the audience.

Following repairs the Warwick re-opened for three final years until November 1958, when the trustees managing the estate of the former proprietor wound up the company, reaslising the assets and paying off creditors.

During the 1950s television and bingo contributed to the decline in cinema admissions across the country and a number of picture houses in the Dingle closed around this time including the Beresford and the Gaumont, both in Park Road and frequented by young Richy Starkey.

The premises became the Warwick night club in 1959. This venture appears to have been unsuccesful because by 1961 the former Warwick Picturedrome was operating as a drinking den called the Mandolin Club.

In the early 1960s the pubs weren't open all day and on occasions, stuck for something to do after a lunchtime session at the Cavern, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and company would accompany the Cavern's compère Bob Wooler to the Mandolin Club for an afternoon drink.  As Bob would later recall: (The club) was an old cinema near the Cathedral in Windsor Street, just outside the city centre, run by Harry the Pole who I was amazed had a bowl of purple hearts and pills, which they popped in those days....

One afternoon, while John was otherwise occupied with a girl on the settee, Paul went over to the upright piano on the stage and began playing a tune Wooler was not familiar with: I asked him what it was called and he said "Suicide". I said it was a strange and uncommercial title for a song. I learned later that (this song) emerged on a tape he sent to Frank Sinatra for him to record.

Paul had great hopes for his composition. Unfortunately, Sinatra thought a song called "Suicide" was "an almighty piss take" and turned it down. Embarrassingly Paul would later admit: I think he sent the demo back.

A fragment of the song would later appear on Paul's first solo album, McCartney, in 1970.

Innaddition to it being one of their afternoon haunts for a time, the Beatles gave an unadvertised evening performance at the Mandolin Club on Thursday, 27 September 1962. Unfortunately almost nothing is known about this appearance. With Brian Epstein in place as their manager, why were they even making unannounced appearances this late in 1962?

Around this time in 1962, if not before, the Warwick had changed names again, becoming the Talk of the Town club through to the end of 1963. Seemingly the place attracted trouble (see the newspaper clipping below from November 1963) which probably led to its closure.

By 1964 it had become the Starline Restaurant Club, advertised as "Wine, Dine and Dance" and in this guise appeared to be more successful than previous ventures, operating at least until 1968 when an advert for a "Stag Night", licensed until 2am appeared in the Liverpool Echo on 27 June. Gina, Betty, Lou and Cindy were touted as the featured "Artistes" (i.e. Strippers).

The Warwick had been renamed the Starline Club by 1964. It looks as though the roof has gone on this photo. A fire perhaps? This photo was taken at the time of the compulsory purchase order in 1967. 

The building was demolished in the late 1960s. The site then became part of a sports centre before that too was demolished. Today the Fire Fit Community Centre stands on the site.

When he visited the Warwick John Lennon was probably unaware that he was yards away from where both sides of his family had been living half a century earlier. However, this area of the Dingle was very familiar territory to the Beatles' new drummer Ringo Starr.

Five years earlier, and a few doors along Windsor Street, the young Richy Starkey had served an apprenticeship at the premises of H. Hunt and Son.

H. Hunt and Son
89-93 Windsor Street,
Liverpool 8

Former factory premises of H. Hunt and Son (photo taken 13.6.67)

I was terrified about conscription and the thought of being called up to the army. That's why I became an apprentice engineer, because the army weren't taking apprentices in 1956 or '57. It got down to, if you've got a real job, we won't take you.' It seemed the best way out for me. The last place I wanted to go was in the army. My (step) dad knew someone in the pub who knew of a job at a firm called H. Hunt and Son. (Ringo Starr, Anthology)

Henry Hunt and Son was a long established factory manufacturing sports and leisure equipment for children such as swings and slides for parks and playgrounds, school gym apparatus and diving boards for swimming pools.

Already on his third job and not quite 16, Richy started working there just before his birthday in July 1956 - a five year woodworking apprenticeship as a joiner. As the new boy the menial tasks were all his - making the tea, going out to buy lunch, sweeping up the workshop and running all manner of errands on the delivery bike, some serious and some no doubt the age old pranks played on apprentices to this day. I wonder if he was ever sent to enquire whether he could have a long weight*, a short stand or tin of tartan paint? 

I went there to be a joiner, but they put me on the delivery bike for about six weeks. I got fed up and I went to complain: 'Come on, I'm here to be a joiner, not on the bike.' The man said, 'Well, there's no places for joiners - would you like to be an engineer?' So I became an apprentice engineer, going to school one day a week and working with the guys the rest. (Ringo Starr, Anthology)

The sixth British Empire and Commonwealth Games  was held in Cardiff between 18 and 26 July 1958. Mark Lewisohn writes in “Tune In” that for Richy, ‘the fruit of his labour at H. Hunt and Son must have been a source of real pride in the family when there, on television, was the diving board Richy had helped to make, the springboard to an English victory, no less’.  It sometimes amazes me what you can find on the internet because here is an actual photograph of the actual diving board!

It was while he was ‘lugging metal about and chopping it up and things’ for Hunt's that Richy became mates with another young Dingle lad, Roy Trafford.

It was at this place - my last proper job - that I met Roy Trafford. We became great friends. We still are; although we don't see a lot of each other, I still love the guy. He and I would go to the pubs (I was introduced to pubs at a young age, sixteen) and then to the Cavern. At the Cavern we'd get a pass-out, go to the pub - and then go back in and pass out!

Roy and I loved the same sort of music - we loved rock'n'roll. I listened to Radio Luxembourg all the time. The reception was bad, but it was great whatever you got, because at least they were playing different music. Alan Freed used to have a show on Sunday, and we'd always be at Roy's house listening to it. We'd hear rock'n'roll, and it was great. Roy and I would dress alike, and go and have our suits made together, because we were Teddy boys. I'd have it in black and he'd have it in blue. We did everything together.

In England there was Lonnie Donegan and The Vipers skiffle group. It was traditional jazz and skiffle then at the Cavern (that's why we started playing skiffle). Eddie Miles**, Roy and I started a skiffle band together: the first band I was in - the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group. (There wasn't really an Eddie Clayton.) We all worked in the same place. (RIngo Starr, Anthology)

Richy joined the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group with Ed Miles, the boy who lived next door. Eddie used to take his guitar to work every day. He was a smashing fellow - if ever a lad should have got somewhere he should have. I believe he's with Hank Walters and His Dusty Road Ramblers(Elsie Starkey (Ringo's mum), Mersey Beat)

Also joining the group were Peter Healey (guitar), and John Docherty or alternatively Micky McGrellis (washboard), all lads from the factory.

Eddie was a lathe operator, I was an apprentice engineer and Roy was a joiner. I was working in the factory and we played for our fellow workmen at lunchtime in a cellar. 
(RIngo Starr, Anthology)

Roy Trafford: It was only half an hour dinner, a quick sandwich and then down the cellar. We couldn't wait to play the skiffle stuff, we just loved it. The other workmen were there and we'd play whatever songs came into our heads, sitting on bags of wood shavings. We were rough but we got better...  (Tune In, by Mark Lewisohn)

With a few of the other guys from the factory we built up the band. And then we started playing all the freebies we could get, playing clubs or weddings.
(RIngo Starr, Anthology)

The Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group made their debut at the Labour Club on Peel Street off Park Road securing a residency both here and at the Boys Club meetings in the Florence Institute on Mill Street, also in the Dingle. They also performed at Wilson Hall in Garston and the Cavern Club in Liverpool city centre, the latter still strictly jazz. 
Richy Starkey (2nd left) playing the snare drum standing up with the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group at Wilson Hall on 23 May 1957. Roy Trafford is at the centre mic and Eddie Miles (with monogrammed shirt) far right (photo taken by Leslie Kearney)

The group broke up when Eddie got married. Richy then joined the Darktown Skiffle Group and finally, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes where he took on the stage name, Ringo Starr.

On 27 May 1957 the government announced that boys born in 1940 weren’t going to be called up for National Service. News greeted by Richy Starkey, John Lennon and everyone else their age with a massive sigh of relief. Mixing up the dates when talking about the announcement for the Beatles Anthology Ringo would recall: In 1959, the army decided that anyone born later than (I think) September 1939 would not be conscripted. I'd made it by ten months. That's when I thought, 'Great, now we can play,' and I left the factory and decided to go professional with Rory. We had a big family meeting when I asked to go with Rory and the band to Butlins, to play in the ‘Rock and Calypso Ballroom’ for £16 a week. Up to then I had been playing just at night, or some afternoons.

Clearly Richy's family had high hopes for him once he completed his apprenticeship and there were some difficult conversations when he decided to quit the factory:
I come from a long line of labourers and soldiers, and I would have been the first in our line to get a piece of paper to say he was actually something - an engineer. I remember my uncles, my aunties and the boss of the factory saying, 'You'll come back in three months, and you'll only be semi-skilled when you do.' I said, 'I don't care. Drums are my life, I want to be a musician and I'm going away with Rory to Butlins to fulfil this dream.' Which I did. I stopped work at twenty. I've always believed I'd be playing drums. That was my dream, although through my life I've forgotten that dream occasionally and let substances take over.

After the first three months at Butlins I bought myself a Zephyr Zodiac, which I adored. I was The King in that car. I was ‘The Big Guy With The Car’, driving people around. I drove to [H. Hunt and Son]*** parked it outside and went to see the guys still working there: 'Hey, I'm really doing well!' - because my wages had gone right up. I'd been getting £6 a week in the factory and £20 a week at Butlins.

I was loaded. It wasn't all rosy; I was on the dole a lot, too, and I still have a piece of paper from the DHSS saying, 'He left the factory to join a dance band.'
(RIngo Starr, Anthology)

(Above) The photographer was standing at the top of Pickwick Street when they took this view of Windsor Street looking north. Behind the white Morris Minor 1000 is Upper Warwick St, which runs across Windsor Street.  Just over the junction past the pub on the corner is the former Warwick, pictured to the right of the parked cars in the centre of the photograph. You can identify it from the three porthole windows. Next door are two houses with bay windows and next to them is the workshop for H. Hunt and Son. The old buildings on the west (left) side of Windsor Street just past the Bank House pub were demolished after the Second World War to make way for Sussex Gardens which stood facing Henry Hunt. Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral looms on the horizon. (photo circa 1965)

The east side of Windsor Street was demolished in the 1980s following the Toxteth riots. Trees obscure the site today (below) which is now occupied by the Fire Fit Community Centre. Only the building on the extreme left of the photo, now a hand car washing service, and part of the Bank House pub still stands. Visually not much of an improvement is it?

An earlier view of the same junction from 1982 (photo: Peter Hagerty) with both the Bank House pub on the left corner and the block of flats still standing.

Windsor Street in 1969. I've not been able to locate precisely which house the Stanleys lived in during their time here but many of the remaining 'original' properties have shops on the ground floor. Their rented room may have been above one.

Toxteth Co-operative Provident Society Limited, 145 Windsor Street, Liverpool 8.  The Co-op opened premises here early in 1893. I suspect that this shop is the one at the end of the block (far right) on the 1969 photograph

One of the few original survivors still standing is the Windsor Street Wesleyan School which had a playground area on the roof! You can see the railings on the top right of the photo. How many over-enthusiastically kicked footballs went off that over the years?! This is the school where "Aunt Mimi" and three of her sisters were pupils, a block or so further down Windsor Street from the Warwick.  


*    The joke being you tell the shop keeper / hardware supplier that you'd like a long weight.... and they leave you standing there, perhaps for not as long if you only need a short stand

**   Eddie Miles a.k.a. Eddie Clayton, lived next to Ringo at 11 Admiral Grove.

***  H. Hunt and Son had by then moved premises out to Woodend Avenue in Hunts Cross, close to where Paul McCartney and George Harrison were living in Speke.


The Cardiff diving board:

Information about Mimi's school can be found on the always excellent Streets of Liverpool site:

The photograph of the Beatles from September 1962 was taken by Les Chadwick for the Peter Kaye studios.


"Picture Palaces of Liverpool" by Harold Ackroyd

"Tune In" by Mark Lewisohn

"The Beatles Anthology" by The Beatles