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The history of the Grosvenor Assembly Rooms in Grosvenor Street, Liscard is closely associated with the adjacent building on the corner of Manor Road and Grosvenor Street, now the 27 Social Club but which was previously the Wallasey Concert Hall.

The Concert Hall was built in 1875 by a local entrepreneur and businessman James Joseph Brewin and the building quickly became the centre of the social life of the expanding District. There was a large Ballroom/Concert Hall on the first floor reached via a grand staircase. The building originally had a large glass veranda at the front under which carriages could drive and the ladies in their fine dresses could alight and not get wet when it was raining.

Apart from Grand Balls, Dances, Orchestral and Choral Concerts in the spacious main Hall on the first floor, the various rooms in this large two storey building were used for all manner of and Social Events. Meetings of local businessmen and Societies, Public Meetings, lectures and debates, Weddings and Receptions, Bizarre, Whist Drives and numerous private functions were all held in here. It was advertised as “An up-to-date Hall for up-to-date People” and rooms could be hired for between 1 and 4 guineas per night (1905).

In his booklet, “Sandstone and Mortar - More of Old Wallasey” Noel Smith explains that it was in this building that the Wallasey High School ( now Weatherhead School named after Canon Weatherhead one of the founders) was started in September 1883. The school hired two large rooms on the ground floor. The school had 14 girls in the first term, which increased to 60 in the second year of operation and soon moved to new larger premises on the corner of Manor Road and Stringhey Road. At the back of the building there were extensive Tennis courts which could be hired. It was here that Harrowby Tennis Club was based before they moved lower down Manor Road next to the Masonic Hall. 
                                                                                                       

                                                                                       The exterior of the Hall in 2000
 
By 1905 the Concert Hall was proving inadequate to for all the numerous demands made upon its resources and the proprietor planned a new hall and Ballroom, which could accommodate 200 dancers, with a frontage on to Grosvenor Street. This new hall, which was to be constructed on part of the tennis courts, was to be called the Grosvenor Assembly Rooms. A firm of Liverpool architects, Messrs T T Wainwright were commissioned to design the new building which was constructed by a local contractor, Mr J Bellis of Liscard.

The new building was ready for use on 1st March 1906 and could be hired for 4 guineas per night. With the completion and opening of the Grosvenor Assembly Rooms and its large airy Ballroom, the ground floor hall at the Concert Hall was refurbished and redecorated (in pink) and was reserved for less smaller Balls, Dances and Receptions. This Ballroom could accommodate 70 dancers.

Whereas the outward appearance and internal decoration of his existing Concert Hall, constructed in common brick, was impressive and grand, Mr Brewin wanted an even more impressive design for his new building. The Wallasey and Wirral Chronicle reporting on the near completion of the building on 26th October 1905 describing the building said:

"The external appearance is light and elegant, the style being the French renaissance, freely treated. Accrington red pressed bricks have been used for the front, with heavy overhanging cornice of Talacre stone, the window sills and other prominent parts being of the same material; but a novel feature is introduced in the use of buff terra cotta dressings for the windows, which give a cheerful aspect to the facade.

The large hall, which runs east and west, is 63 feet long by 40 feet wide, with a height of 23 feet, and it will accommodate about 500 persons. Separated from it by glass and paneled partition on one side is a spacious refreshment room. There are several smaller rooms available for whist drive, et, anti rooms, lavatories and capacious kitchens at the rear for cooking purposes. The floor of the hall is of maple boards tongued and grooved, and supported on heavy springs, making a unique floor for dancing purposes, in fact the finest in the district. The building is lighted by electricity and gas, the sanitary arrangements are of the best, and it is thoroughly well ventilated”

Today, apart from internal redecoration the, building is largely unchanged and today’s dancers are still dancing on the original floor.
 
 

                                                                                 The Ballroom as it was in late 2000

The First Dance
The honour of the first use of the new Assembly Rooms fell to the Egremont Lodge (No 2872) of the local Freemasonry who hired the venue for a social evening on Monday 5th March 1906. There was a formal dinner this night followed by musical entertainment. The Wallasey News reporting on the event in it’s edition on 10th March 1906 said
 
“The floor was afterwards cleared for dancing, which was kept up in a vigorous manner to the lively strains of the band provided by Worthy Brother, Charles Evans, until 1.30 am. This was the first function to take place in the new Assembly Rooms, which were generally admired and found to be most conveniently adapted for this purpose”
 
In his advertisements of February 1906, and other publicity for the this new venue, Mr Brewin had speculated as to who would have the first dance on the new sprung Dance Floor. The guests of honour at this function was the President and Worthy Master of the Lodge, W H Moore and Mrs Moore it is probable therefore that the first Dancers on the new Ballroom floor would be this couple who would “open the floor” to dancing. The Dance programme for the evening would mainly have been Waltzes. In a programme of twenty four dances, at that time, eighteen would have been Waltzes,. the remaining numbers would be Two Steps and perhaps an Old Time Barn Dance. The Waltzes would probably have been Old Time Rotary Waltzes to a fast Viennese timing (60 bpm) although the slower rectilinear Waltz similar to the Waltz popular today may have been danced. This slower waltz initially called the Boston, which first appeared in London dance halls in 1902 was frequently to be seen at provincial social dances by 1906. The Foxtrot was not introduced until 1914 with the Quickstep appearing on dance floors in the early 1920’s. The Tango did not arrive until 1911.   

Proposed Council Offices

By 1920 whilst the Grosvenor Assembly Rooms were a popular venue, the fortunes of the Concert Hall were not so good and Mr Brewin sold the Concert Hall and Grosvenor Assembly Rooms in August 1920 to the Wallasey Corporation for the sum of £22,200. The Corporation wanted the Concert Hall for Council Offices, and did not really want to buy both buildings. But the owner would only sell them both together. The Concert Hall was required for of Police accommodation, Petty Sessions Court. The Corporation’s plans for the Grosvenor Assembly Rooms were that, with the Tennis Courts, they would continue with the existing arrangements for lettings in the short term but that it was as likely that the building would eventually be required for a new Quarter Sessions County Court and accommodation for the Borough Coroner. A Wallasey News report of the time reported that in a Council debate on the issue, the local Councillor, D P Charlesworth said:

“.While there was no intention to occupy the Grosvenor assembly Rooms for the moment, they would be required very shortly. There was no reason why , until then, the building should not be used for social purposes as at present, because it would meet a large public want, had it been possible that this would not be done there would have been strong opposition”

We are today very fortunate that the need for other uses of this fine building did not materialise and that 94 years later, it is still in the ownership of the Local Authority and used for the purpose it was built, although the Tennis courts have been converted to a car park.

The Police, Courts and other Council Office accommodation were eventually relocated to other sites and in 1989 the Concert Hall was sold by the Council to the Trustees of the 27 Club who at that time were using the building as a Police Officer’s social club. The name of the club - 27 being 3 9’s. This Club still occupies the building today.

During the both World Wars and the inter war years the Grosvenor flourished as a centre and focus for the social life of the District, with Dances, social events and meetings most nights. The smaller rooms being popular for card games and Whist. Many wartime romances started on this Dance floor.
 
The Post War Era

In 1946/1947 there was dancing at the Grosvenor three nights of the week sometimes five nights On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday dancing was to Wally Poole and his New Rhythm, In the summer months, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays the Vincent Ladbrooke Sextet, who normally played for Dancing on the Promenade Pier, New Brighton, would play at the Grosvenor if it was wet. Admission was 2/6d.

It was in 1947 that Les Dodd started promoting regular Strict Tempo Ballroom Dances at the Grosvenor. His first dance on 1st February 1947 under the name of Paramount Dance Association was advertised as 50% Modern and 50% Old Time. This was the first Wallasey appearance of the Bowler Hatters Dance Band. Subsequent Paramount Dances were at the Sandrock Hotel, New Brighton, still with the Bowler Hatters until Les started a regular Paramount Dance on a Tuesday evening at the Grosvenor on 29th April.1947, this was to be the start of a tradition at the Grosvenor as Les was still running a weekly Strict Tempo Dance at the Grosvenor 25 years later. The Bowler Hatters quartet was replaced by Stan Stretton and his Band, a five man outfit from Birkenhead. In 1949 the resident band was the Hignett Quartet and apart from a change in pianist they remained for 22 years until 1971. Whilst many of the other Ballrooms in the Borough adapted to the changing dance styles of the era, the Jive, the Twist, the Shake, Skifle and Rock and Roll, Les Dodd with his regular dances at the Grosvenor withstood this assault of a more wild youthful form of dance. During this time attendance’s at his dances would be thin. Les only had the week nights for Strict tempo sessions but he was determined to carry on and maintain a tradition

The Council retained the coveted Saturday night for private hire or their own promotions. Some times this would be a group night attended by more than 200 teenagers. The Beatles played at the Grosvenor four times between June 1960 and February 1961. On some nights there would be fights between rival gangs of “Teds”. In a Biography of Paul McCartney there is a description of one night when he was there:-

“100 lads from Wallasey would be there ready to fight 100 lads from Seacombe when things got going. They started one night before I realised what was happening and I tried to save my amplifier. It was my pride and joy. One Ted grabbed me and said “don’t move son, or you’re dead”.

Events like this became a regular occurrence and eventually, in 1961 the Group Nights had to be stopped, it was then that Les Dodd was able to reinstate the institution of a regular strict tempo Saturday night dance with live bands at the Grosvenor, an institution which was to continue uninterrupted for 38 years until 1999. Leslie Dodd retired from the dance scene in 1971 to run a small local printing business in King Street Wallasey. He died age 66 in March 1981. Throughout the 70’s the regular dances continued after Les’s retirement, with a succession of popular dance bands. Ann Corlett, one of the regular dancers in the 60’s and who has danced at the Grosvenor almost every week since that time recalls this era with fond memories:-

“The Grosvenor dances were the highlight of my week, the Ernie Hignett Quartet played on a Tuesday and Saturday night. Mr Dodd was the MC. and always looked smart and very much the part in his suit and dickie bow. We had a dance called the Parabola in which a basket was placed in the centre of the dance floor and you had a numbered card, numbers would be called out and if your number was called you would place your card in the basket and sit down, the last couple left standing would win a prize.

They always had a bar in the side room on New Years Eve, one year they used the Studio upstairs but you still danced in the Ballroom. There was a Doorman on a Tuesday and Saturday nights. If there was any trouble with the men, he would see them off the premises. We used to pass round polo mints when the men smelt of drink. Dennis and Pam White were in the tea room, they always served good refreshments, Dennis was a ex Navy Chef. We used to jive and twist the night away.

"They had a separate Handbag Room. Lena and Eddie Cole looked after this and the Cloakroom. We used to have a lady dancer we called the Duchess, she would bring a case full of dresses and change in the Ladies loo every other dance. The men would all stand around the door under the clock and would eye all the girls up to see the best dancers or the best looking ones”

The Last Waltz ?

Ricky Price and his Band took over the Saturday night Dances in 1981 and played every Saturday until he retired in September 1999. By then, although the Grosvenor Assembly rooms were still owned by the Local Authority, a change of departmental responsibility for the venue in 1998 meant that the day-to-day management was left to the users and the local community. The Management Committee determined that in future Saturday nights were to be used for community purposes and for private functions rather than regular bookings. The weekly Saturday Ballroom Dance moved to a Sunday evening, promoted by Mike Tew and his wife, with dancing to recorded music. The last Waltz at Ricky’s dance on Saturday 18th September 1999 was an emotive affair for Ricky and Bill his organist and the many dancers, some who had been there in 1947 and earlier, who had turned up to wish Ricky well. It was the end of an institution of regular weekly strict tempo ballroom dances to live music which had spanned 52 years from Les Dodd’s first Paramount Dance on 1st February 1947.

Today, as the Grosvenor Assembly Rooms approaches the 95th anniversary of that first dance on 5th March 1906, the venue is still fully used for the purposes it was built. In addition to many private functions, there are regular weekly Ballroom, Sequence, Social and Tea Dances, and Line Dancing. Choral and Orchestral Concerts are often held. The rooms are used for educational purposes, for Sequence, Ballet and Tap Dance Classes, Keep Fit, Yoga and even a Sunday Church Service. For the youth and young people of the area there are monthly Disco and Pop Concerts.

Apart from the Main Hall of Wallasey Town Hall which is rarely used for functions, the Grosvenor, with its spacious main Hall and large sprung dance floor, is the only remaining venue of its type left in the Borough and it is hoped it will continue to be used for many years to come.

If you have any information that you can add to this History, perhaps from personal recollection of dancing at the Grosvenor during the War year's or the 50's / 60's please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   We would love to hear from you.