Monday 25 April 2016

Childe of Nature - Hale Village in the footsteps of the McCartneys (and Harrisons)

Hale Village,

Find me in my field of grass,
Mother Nature's son,
Swaying daisies sing a lazy song beneath the sun
(Mother Nature's Son, by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, 1968)
I'm just a child of nature,
I don't need much to set me free,
I'm just a child of nature,
I'm one of nature's children
(Child Of Nature, by John Lennon, 1968)

This is a continuation of my earlier post about Dungeon Lane and the Oglet Shore line, a favourite playground for Paul McCartney and his brother Michael, George Harrison, and their gang of mates growing up around Speke during the 1950s. I retrace their footsteps out of the Speke council estate into the open countryside towards the tiny township of Hale..

In his biography of McCartney, Many Years from Now,  Barry Miles describes how Paul and Mike, like many of their generation living on the new Speke Housing Estate in the postwar period, were raised on the border of country and city:

For Paul and Michael, the best thing about living in Speke was the countryside. In a couple of minutes they could be in Dungeon Lane, which led through the fields to the banks of the Mersey. The river is very wide at this point, with the lights of Ellesmere Port visible on the far side across enormous shifting banks of mud and sand pecked over by gulls. On a clear day you could see beyond the Wirral all the way to Wales.

Paul: This is where my love of the country came from, I was always able to take my bike and in five minutes I’d be in quite deep countryside. I remember the Dam woods, which had millions of rhododendron bushes. We used to have dens in the middle of them because they get quite bare in the middle so you could squeeze in. I’ve never seen that many rhododendrons since(McCartney, Many Years from Now,  Barry Miles)

Ellesmere Port, from Hale Head, "Paul and Michael", cyclists on the coastal path.

Paul and Mike would often cycle the two and a half miles along the shoreline to the lighthouse at Hale Head, where the river makes a 90-degree turn, giving a panoramic view across the mud and navigation channels to the industrial complex of Runcorn on the far side. These are lonely, cold, windy places, the distant factories and docks dwarfed by the size of the mud banks of the river itself.

It was not without danger. Paul was mugged there once while messing about with his brother on the beach near the old lighthouse. His watch was stolen and he had to go to court because they knew the youths that did it.  One of them lived in the house behind the McCartney's.

Paul: They were a couple of hard kids who said "Give us that watch" and they got it. The police took them to court and I had to go and be a witness against them. Dear me, my first time in court. (McCartney, Many Years from Now,  Barry Miles)

The scene of the crime. The control tower of Speke Airport is visible in the distance

Mike McCartney paints this picture of their times on the Mersey shoreline: We walked along the top of the cliffs with our bikes, entirely disregarding the magnificent view over the River Mersey to the Wirral and Welsh Wales, preferring to look down into the grass for any lost money. The top of the cliffs was the spot where loving couples met and did all that 'rolling round' on the ground.... (and not finding any money - it had been raining) .. we joined a gang of Garston lads playing "chicken" on their bikes. All one had to do was ride one's bike down the sheer cliff face and stay on.  Evel Knievel would have been proud of the Evil McCartney brothers as they risked death numerous times. It was either that or get beaten up by the Garston "they play tick with hatchets" gang. (Mike McCartney, Thank U Very Much)

Sometimes, however, rather than play with his friends, Paul preferred to be alone. He'd carry his Observer's Book of Birds and wander down Dungeon Lane to the lighthouse on a nature ramble or climb over the fence and go walking in the fields. He would later admit: This is what I was writing about in ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, it was basically a heart-felt song about my child-of-nature leanings. (McCartney, Many Years from Now,  Barry Miles)

The Speke estate (top left) on the northern shore of the Mersey with the open countryside towards Hale on the right. Hale Head is bottom right (click to enlarge)

Liverpool has its own identity. It's even got its own accent within about a ten miles radius. Once you go outside that ten miles it's 'deep Lancashire, lad'. I think you do feel that apartness, growing up there (Paul McCartney, Anthology)

Living in Speke Paul didn't even have to travel ten miles. Whether cycling with his brother, or out on a family walk with Jim and Mary, a favourite destination was the picturesque township of Hale, where as if living beyond an invisible borderline, the locals spoke with a Lancashire accent, not a Scouse one. Leaving Ardwick Road and turning from Oldbridge Road onto Central Way, right onto Eastern Avenue and then left onto Hale Road they'd be out of the estate and surrounded by fields within a quarter of an hour.

Hale Road looking towards Hale from Speke

Often the McCartneys would take the coastal path, today designated "The Mersey Way", which closely follows the edge of farmland on the north bank of the river, heading to Hale Head, once the southernmost point in Lancashire, where they'd stop and look at the lighthouse.

The Lighthouse at Hale Head

The first lighthouse was established here in 1838; the original octagonal structure was superseded by the present taller round tower in 1906.  Still a functioning lighthouse during the McCartney's time in Speke the light was discontinued in 1958 when there was no longer any shipping on the north side of the river. Today the building remains in use as a private residence.

I followed the McCartneys' walk inland from the lighthouse, heading for St Mary's Church, its tower visible across freshly ploughed fields, and the township of Hale with its many whitewashed cottages, thatched roofs and country gardens set against a backdrop of maturing trees.

The Runcorn - Widnes Bridge, viewed from Hale Head

Anybody walking up from the lighthouse today is afforded some great views of the industrial areas on the banks of this part of the Mersey, most of it built in the last 50 years.

Looking towards Widnes and Runcorn today the horizon is dominated by the bridge that links both towns, a replacement for the old Transporter Bridge built in 1901 and still in use until the start of the 1960s (see below).

Construction work began on the current bridge on 25 April 1956, five days before the McCartneys left Speke. 

Building of the bridge itself commenced in March 1958 with the side spans completed by November 1959. The main arch was built by cantilevering steelwork from the side spans until it met in the middle in November 1960.

Main arch construction (1960)

From February 1960 approach roads and viaducts were being built on both sides of the river and the bridge was officially opened on 21 July 1961. The Beatles would use the bridge regularly until the end of 1963, Neil Aspinall driving them in their van to venues across Cheshire, South Wirral and North Wales.

Knowingly or otherwise, the McCartneys may have crossed paths with the Harrisons here. Like Jim McCartney George's father Harry was a keen gardener and in addition to growing vegetables in the Upton Green back garden the Harrisons had an allotment in Hale, most likely just off Carr Lane on the left of where the old Nurseries used to be on Morecott Lane*

It was here that George is said to have first felt the lure of horticulture - something he would later devote much of his time to. Hale is known for its rich and fertile soil and George would always remember the pleasant feeling he got from pushing his fingers into it.

St Mary's Church in Church End is now a designated Grade II listed building. The site was occupied by a chapel as far back as 1081 which later served as the burial place of its founder, John of Ireland, whose remains seem to have been transferred to the later building. The tower is the oldest part of the church that now stands on the site and dates from the 14th century. The walls of the nave date from 1758 but the interior is a 1980 recreation resulting from a devastating arson attack in 1977 which destroyed everything but the nave walls and the ancient tower.

The Church was a popular stop on a day out for the McCartney boys, the graveyard being the final resting place of Hale's most famous son. 

According to folklore, John Middleton was one of the tallest men in history. Born in 1578, the 'Childe of Hale', as he became known, grew to a fantastical height of 9ft 3in (2.82m), if his epitaph is to be believed.

Surrounded by railings the worn gravestone is inscribed 'Here lyeth the bodie of John Middleton, the Childe - nine feet three'. Paul and Michael would stare at his grave in wonder. It certainly makes you think.

Sadly, no official record of John Middleton's true height exists to prove - or disprove - his gravestone's lofty claim.
It is thought that Middleton visited Brasenose College in Oxford with his patron, Sir Gilbert Ireland, who had studied there. Elizabeth Boardman, archivist at the college, said "The tradition is John Middleton left an impression of his hand on the wall - we know that Samuel Pepys saw that in 1668, but it doesn't survive anymore".  At some point the span of the handprint was measured and was reputed to be between 15 and 17 inches (38-43 cm).
According to the Guinness World Records someone with a hand span of this size would have "a probable height of 7ft 9in (2.36m)" - somewhat shorter than the legend but impressive nonetheless.
Arguments about John's height continued even after his death.  In 1768 his remains were removed from his grave by the schoolmaster and parish clerk and measured. Reportedly his thigh bones each stretched from the hip of an average sized man to his foot which would give him a height of around 9ft 3in. This is the figure the locals now appear to have settled on.
If you dig graves there are some other headstones of interest close to John Middleton's which you should look for. This one (left) lies alongside Middleton. I wonder if, like me, Paul and Mike saw the skull and crossbones and then crouched to examine the weathered inscription, hoping it would confirm a suspicion that this was indeed the grave of a pirate or buccaneer? I have since tried to establish what this symbol represents and have found various conflicting explanations. Pirates were said to be Liverpool's first great entrepreneurs, in the city with the permission from the Monarch to kill and plunder enemy vessels on the high seas but there appears to be no truth that a skull and cross bones marks the grave of a pirate. The primary reason for skulls appearing on a memorial or headstone was as a Memento Mori, a reminder of our own mortality.

At the rear of the church is this grave (left) which looks to receive special care, and rightly so.  There are three other graves dating from the Great War in St. Mary's graveyard, and two from the Second World War.

When leaving the graveyard be on the lookout for this tomb which appears to have a doorknob. Again I can find no definitive explanation for what this might signify. Perhaps it is meant to represent a door to the afterlife, or a means for the deceased to return from the grave. Perhaps it's just somebody's idea of black humour - the occupant being deader than a doorknob.

This "life sized" wooden sculpture of the Childe Of Hale used to stand opposite St Mary's Church. It was carved from a diseased beech tree by the sculptor Philip Bews in 1996. Unfortunately in 2013 it had to be removed for safety reasons after the wood started to rot away, riddled with beetle bore holes.

The villagers of Hale felt that the Bews' sculpture had been quite a big draw to the village and they wanted a new one. It was replaced that same year by a bronze statue standing 3m tall created by local sculptor, Diane Gorvin.

The new statue can be found further along Church End. Explaining the piece Gorvin said: "I've depicted him as if he's just paused on a walk, leaning on a stick and looking across towards the cottage where he lives. It gives people the opportunity to stand next to him, hold his hand and look up to him. I'm hoping it will become an important part of Hale village.

Manor House

The impressive property behind the statue is Hale Manor House, originally built as a vicarage in the mid 17th century and today a Grade II listed building. In the early 18th century it was refaced and partially rebuilt. It was used as a farmhouse during the 19th century and was known as Manor Farm. The last lord of the manor was Peter Fleetwood-Hesketh, an architectural historian who moved into the house with his family in 1947.

The house was the subject of a poem by Sir John Betjeman no less, imaginitively entitled:

The Manor House, Hale, Near Liverpool

In early twilight I can hear,
A faintly-ticking clock,
While near and far and far and near
Is Liverpool baroque

And when the movement meets the hour
To tell it, stroke by stroke,
“Rococo,” say the pendulum,
“Baroque, baroque, baroak.”

Encrusted vases crowd the hall,
Dark paintings grace the stairs
And from the wild wind’s harp withal
Sound soft Lancastrian airs.

On a bend sable three garbs or –
Th’ achievements hold my gaze;
Though fierce without the tempests roar
The banner scarcely sways.

O’er Mersey mud and Mersey flood,
Rust-red above the folly
How trimly rides the brick facade,
As flimsy as a folly

The Manor House, the green, the church –
From Runcorn to West Kirby
You will not Find howe’er you search
So sweet a rus in urbe

Within sight of Gorvin's statue, just across Church End from the Manor House is this lovely thatched cottage which was formerly  the home of John Middleton. I paused and studied the two small upstairs windows on the gable end of the cottage, and wondered whether the McCartneys had known of the old story about John which says that owing to his enormous height he had to sleep with a foot poking out of each. 

A plaque commemorating the former home of the Childe of Hale

Passing the Childe of Hale pub we reach the heart of the village where the impressive war memorial stands with a field gun as a relic of wars past. Ahead is Town Lane and Barry Miles writes that "On their way back the McCartneys would stop at a teashop called the Elizabethan Cottage on Town Lane for a pot of tea, Hovis toast and home-made jam. It was a pleasant, genteel interlude, a touch of quality before they walked back to their very different life among the new grey houses and hard concrete roads of the housing estate" (McCartney, Many Years from Now,  Barry Miles)

I could find no mention of the Elizabethan Cottage or tea rooms on Town Lane. There are a number of older cottages which may have served as a tea room back in the 1950s but today they all appear to be private dwellings. Unable to turn up any information on line I sought assistance from the Visit Hale Village Facebook page, hoping a local historian might know. 

Almost immediately I received this reply: Yes, there used to be Tea Rooms on Town Lane, it was next to the old Estate Cottages  - these cottages are still there - opposite the Wellington Pub bus stop, but the Tea Rooms have long since been taken down, they were constructed out of wood. I have a photo of it in our archives. I will dig it out and send it over to you. 

How's that for service?! 

Stonehouse Teas, (far left) the tea rooms on Town Lane. The interior shot shows the tea rooms set up for a wedding reception, circa late 1940s early 1950s. Curiously nobody seems to recall the tea rooms trading as the Elizabethan Cottage. I wonder where Miles got the name from?

Refreshed, the McCartneys, if the mood took them, would cut through Hale Park and return to the cliff top for the walk back to Dungeon Lane. If they were in a rush to get home they'd walk the 2 miles back along High Street and Hale Road, perhaps catching sight of Harold Harrison making his way back to Speke after a few hours work on his allotment, eventually turning up Eastern Avenue.


Hale is officially known by the Post Office as Hale Village. But it's not a village at all. It's a township. And its chief citizen is not a chairman, or a mayor, but a full-blown Lord Mayor. This is not pretentiousness. Hale got its charter before Liverpool, even if only just. King John granted Hale its charter in 1203. Liverpool had to wait another four years, until 1207.

The entire area was historically in Lancashire and the residents of Hale may still speak with this accent rather than Scouse but today the township is actually part of Cheshire, despite still having a Liverpool area postcode (L24).

Whether John Middleton, the Childe of Hale, ever exceeded a height of nine feet - greater than the tallest human ever known - may never be confirmed. The Guinness World Records has only recorded 10 confirmed or reliable cases of humans reaching over 8ft in height.  Robert Wadlow, from the US state of Illinois, measured 8ft 11in (2.72m) when he died in 1940 - the tallest man in medical history.

*Unless Harold had one of the burgage plots that use to be attached to each of the cottages on the High Street. These were long gardens near the Drill Hall as seen in the map above.

Much thanks to the Visit Hale Village Facebook page for their great assistance with this post.

Monday 18 April 2016

Scuffling Skifflers

Winter Gardens / Co-operative Ballroom,
Heald Street,
Liverpool 19

In 1909 the roller skating craze reached its peak. Needing a suitable venue the Garston Skating Rink Co settled on a site in Heald Street, next to a Welsh Methodist Chapel and directly opposite the police station. They appointed a local architect, T. Townson and his plans for the rink were duly submitted to the City Building Surveyor who approved them on 19 October 1909.

The managing director George Atkin applied for a music and other public entertainments licence on 11 January 1910 but the application was withdrawn as the building was not ready. It was re-submitted that March, and approved on 24 May, at which point the new skating rink opened, just as the skating craze was coming to an end.

To keep the premises open and aware that moving pictures were the next big thing Atkin applied for a cinematograph licence which was granted on 27 September 1910. 

The short lived skating rink was converted into the Garston Picturedrome, a stadium-type auditorium with a seating capacity of 586, for performances of pictures and variety. Records show that further work was undertaken in May 1912 to increase the seating capacity on premises which for a time were operating as the Rink Cinema.

Three years later, under the ownership of the Garston Empire Ltd a plan to increase the seating capacity to 886 was completed by 20 August 1921. However, when the cinematograph licence expired on 31 October 1923 it was not renewed and the cinema closed after only 13 years.

The building continued to be used as a venue for dancing, music, and singing. A public entertainments licence was granted on 14 December 1923 with the premises operating under a new name, the grandiose Winter Gardens.

The new proprietors, Winter Gardens (Garston) Ltd, 19 Castle Street. operated the dance hall until the early 1940s but in 1943 it was closed. The building was used as an A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) depot for the remainder of the war. It did not reopen for dancing until October 1950 by which point it had been taken over by the Garston and District Co-op Society. Locals often still referred to it as the Winter Gardens. 

I wrote on a number of local history sites asking if anyone had memories of that time and Mr Paul J King was kind enough to reply:

Hi Mark, I and my friends lived in Aigburth/Mossley Hill so we only ventured at odd times down to Garston but we did go into the Pub in James St opposite the Empire* and it was nicknamed "The Widows Nest" before we went to Heald St (Co-op Hall) for the dance.

Most of the female clientele in the Pub were early twenties or even younger and willingly told us that their husbands were in the Forces in Singapore etc, etc and that they would be going to the Dance. We did go but kept well clear in case their husbands suddenly came home on leave !! (Paul J King)

The subsequent explosion of rock 'n' roll during the late 1950s would bring a new lease of life to the venue as jiving became popular.  Popularised by American servicemen during the Second World War, by the 1950s the main exponents of jive in Britain were Teddy Boys and their girls. It was not welcomed everywhere.

Wally Hill had spotted a market for it whilst working at the Rialto Ballroom, a respectable venue where jiving was most definitely frowned upon. It was the same story in most of the established dance halls in Liverpool at that time. Couples found jiving would be separated. The manager of the Rialto tried to run ballroom dances at the Co-op in Garston but packed it in after several evenings descended into violence. Hill however, saw an opportunity and with the support of his wife decided to have a go at rock 'n' roll: "We opened for business and it was great".

Despite the Police Station facing the Co-op there was frequent violence.  Liverpool had become the setting for a series of Teddy Boy battlegrounds, rival gangs from neighbouring areas fighting over territory, usually in minor scuffles, occasionally in all out pitched battles. The Garstonites didn't like anybody from outside their area in the dance hall. If a stranger wandered in, he was found in the toilets half alive, if he was lucky.

For the Teds in Garston their sworn enemies were the Teds from the Dingle, who counted among their number a certain Richy Starkey. Not that he'd had a choice in the matter.

We were by the docks in Liverpool and each and every area had its own gang. It was like New York or Hamburg. I was a Teddy boy; you had to be. It was deadly serious - that's what life was about. Where I lived, you had to associate with some gang otherwise you were 'open city' for anybody. If you weren't, you weren't protected and you'd be beaten up by everybody. The choices were: you could either be beaten up by anybody in your neighbourhood, or by people in other neighbourhoods (which I was, several times).  

There was a terrible thing in Liverpool were you'd walk past somebody and they'd say, 'Are you looking at me?' If you said 'no' they'd say, 'Why not?' and if you said 'yes' they'd get you anyway. So you couldn't win. There was no answer to that question. If you were in a gang, you were safe. 

It must have been difficult for John, Paul and George because they were never in gangs. None of them were Teddy boys, really. (Ringo Starr, Anthology and Interview by Elliot Mintz, April 1976)

I was fairly tough at school, but I could organise it so is seemed like I was tough. It used to get me into trouble. I used to dress tough like a Teddy boy, but if I went into the tough districts and came across other Teddy boys, I was in danger. At school it was easier because I could control it with my head so they thought I was tougher than I was. It was a game. I mean, we used to shoplift and all those things, but nothing really heavy. Liverpool's quite a tough city. A lot of the real Teddy boys were actually in their early twenties. They were dockers. We were only fifteen, we were only kids - they had hatchets, belts, bicycle chains and real weapons. We never really got into that, and if somebody came in front of us we ran, me and my gang.
(John Lennon, Anthology, from a 1975 interview)

The washers and the buckle on the belt would be filed down sharp, and a whack from that would really hurt - all that Teddy-boy madness. People would have razor blades behind their lapels, so whoever grabbed them would get their fingers chopped off. It was deadly serious, because that's what life was about.

One time, Roy (Trafford) and I decided to go to the Gaumont cinema. When we came out, we walked up Park Road and saw the gang who used to meet on the corner. We knew them, but they said: 'Come here.' So we did, and they said, 'We're going to Garston to have fights, so just hang out till we go.' You knew immediately that you could either say 'no', and the whole gang would beat you up there and then, or you could go to where the fight was going to happen and take your chances. You could mingle with the crowd, rip your belt off, just look OK and hope to God that the big guy in the other gang didn't pick on you. There were a lot of really angry people around: Liverpool working-class, tough-gang shit. (Ringo Starr, Anthology)

Years later Ringo was asked what was the most important piece of advice he ever received in Liverpool. He wasn't being facetious when he replied "Run!"

We were into area fights. I wasn't a great fighter, but I was a good runner, a good sprinter - as I still am - because if you were suddenly on your own with five guys coming towards you, you soon learnt to be. There was no messing about; it was, 'You! Come here!' - bang, bang. I didn't knife or kill anyone, but I got beaten up a few times - mainly by the people I was with. It's that terrible gang situation where if you're not fighting an outsider you get crazy and start fighting among yourselves, like mad dogs. It was quite vicious. I have seen people beaten up with hammers.

The gangs didn't have names, but there were leaders. We were the Dingle gang. There were several gangs in the area and you'd walk en masse to try to cause trouble; 'walking with the lads', it was called. But all you'd do was walk up and down roads, stand on corners, beat someone up, get beaten up, go to the pictures... It gets boring after a while. I wanted to leave all that, and I started moving out of walking with the lads when I started playing. Roy and I wanted to be musicians, and we started leaving the gang life. Music possessed me and I got out. I was nineteen when I finally made it out, thank God (Ringo Starr, Anthology)

In addition to Wally Hill's  rock 'n' roll promotions the Co-op held regular auditions during the skiffle explosion in 1957-58. 

Rod Davis, banjo player with the Quarry Men remembers them venturing into the Teddy Boy domain on several occasions during this period, usually with one eye on the exit.

The Quarry Men in 2015 - Rod Davis and Colin Hanton (above) and Len Garry (below)

You'd go and play at the dance hall, and the real Teddy boys didn't like you, because all the girls would be watching the group - you had the sideboards and the hair and you're on stage. Afterwards the guys would try and kill you, so most of fifteen, sixteen and seventeen was spent running away from people with a guitar under your arm. They'd always catch the drummer; he had all the equipment. We'd run like crazy and get the bus because we didn't have a car. I'd get on the bus with the guitar, but the bass player - who only had a string bass with a tea chest - used to get caught. What we used to do was throw them the bass or a hat and they'd kick and kill it, so you could escape. (John Lennon, Anthology, from a 1975 interview)

Quarry-mania in full flow inside the Heald Street Co-op.(allegedly)

A regular attendee at the Co-op was a local railway clerk named Bob Wooler who offered his services as disc jockey and MC (master of ceremonies). Hill accepted, probably liking the idea of a gimmick as at that time it was unusual for someone to announce the records and take requests whilst the groups were changing over on stage.

Through his lifetime Bob was a great hoarder which meant that many years later he was able to show author Spencer Leigh a list of records he had played at the Co-op in 1958:

·         I Got Stung - Elvis Presley

·         Say Mama - Gene Vincent

·         Love Makes The World Go Round - Perry Como

·         The Day The Rains Came - Jane Morgan

·         Hoots Mon - Lord Rockingham's XI

·         Wee Tom - Lord Rockingham's XI

·         Mason Dixie Line - Duane Eddy

·         Stood Up - Ricky Nelson

·         To Know Him Is To Love Him - The Teddy Bears

·         Real Love - Ruby Murray

·         Problems - The Everly Brothers

·         The Diary - Neil Sedaka

·         Break Up - Jerry Lee Lewis

·         Livin' Doll - Cliff Richard

·         Chantilly Lace - Big Bopper

·         Beep Beep - The Playmates

·         Baby Face - Little Richard

·         Gotta Travel On - Billy Grammer

·         Tom Dooley - Lonnie Donegan

Bob Wooler: That was the start of things. I was known as the Daddy-O of DJs on Merseyside because I was the first person to do an Alan Freed and specialise in playing rock 'n' roll records

As the Co-op was way out of their area, it's tempting to think that the Broad Green based Al Caldwell and the Ravin' Texans had been tipped off about the possibility of bookings in Garston by the Quarry Men*. Al Caldwell and his skiffle group approached Bob Wooler looking for work.

Bob Wooler: The first time I met Rory was at the Winter Gardens, Heald Street, Garston, when he was still Al Caldwell and his group was Al Caldwell and the Ravin' Texans. He wanted to play some dance halls and as I was handling bookings at the time, I sorted something out for him.

This was a pre-Ringo Starr incarnation of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes - guitarists Alan Ernest "Al" Caldwell (later Rory Storm) and Johnny Byrne, Reginald "Reg" Hales on washboard and Spud Ward on tea-chest bass.

Al and his group made one recorded appearance at the Co-op on August 15, 1958 apparently without their bass player as Spud Ward was busy elsewhere that night.

Further bookings may have been planned but never fulfilled. Tired of the regular bouts of violence pouring out of the hall and into Heald Street under their very noses  the police successfully pushed to have the venue closed in December 1958.

57 years to the day since George Atkin had applied for a music and public entertainments licence, plans to turn the premises into a discount store - the Garston and District Co-op Society - were submitted on 11 January 1967.

By April 1982 the building was sold, becoming a Government YTS centre the following year. In 1993 it became the property of a furniture manufacturers.

The premises have now been demolished and flats stand on the site (see below).

Heald Street today with the Police Station on the near left. Just past the Chapel on the right is the former site of the Winter Gardens.


* although they had played in Garston two months earlier at Wilson Hall on 20 June 1958. The Quarry Men and Al Caldwell's group had first crossed paths in early 1958 at the time of Al Caldwell's "Morgue Skiffle Cellar".


Picture Palaces of Liverpool (Harold Ackroyd)


The first two are (c) Philip G. Mayer

Last photo of the old building (photographer unknown)

For the Teddy Boys among you here's a link to a site where you could lose hours