The Sunderland hotel which welcomed the Beatles

The Grand Hotel in February 1971.
The Grand Hotel in February 1971.
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It was grand by name and - in its heyday - it was very much grand by nature.

The Grand Hotel oozed class at the height of its popularity in Sunderland.

Preparing to demolish the Grand in 1974.

Preparing to demolish the Grand in 1974.

Today, Philip Curtis of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, looks back on a place which became a venue for the rich and famous.

Throughout the years the town centre of Sunderland has always had a number of high class hotels catering for visitors.

However, there was once a hotel on Wearside that was as much a part of Sunderland as the sorely missed Town Hall.

It was called the Grand Hotel and it stood in Bridge Street, opposite St Mary’s Church.

The hotel bore all the elements of an elegant age and was the place where the rich and famous usually stayed and wined and dined when they came to Sunderland.

Philip Curtis

At one time The Grand was a landmark in the town centre and nothing could touch it for elegance, for its atmosphere or for its class.

The Grand housed 50 bedrooms which had ceilings that showed

wonderful examples of the plasterer’s art as well as furniture in hide.

It had decoration which was in shades of russet and green.

The Grand.

The Grand.

The hotel bore all the elements of an elegant age and was the place where the rich and famous usually stayed and wined and dined when they came to Sunderland.

So who could the Grand boast as well-known guests?

Well, among the good and the great who stayed there was the most famous Hollywood cowboy of the silent films, Tom Mix.

He slept there in 1938 while his horse Tony, which accompanied him, was looked after at Weightman’s Farm.

He was by far from being the only dignitary to spend time at the hotel.

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his wife also made The Grand their choice of abode when they visited Sunderland in 1959.

The celebrated Austrian tenor, Richard Tauber, apparently was once heard practising his chords in one of the hotel’s ornate bathrooms.

And it is even said that the well known novelist and playwright J.B.Priestley was very impressed with its standards of comfort and décor of Sunderland’s town centre venue.

The stars of the stage were just as renowned to be guests.

More often than not, the headline star at the Empire Theatre would stay at the Grand during their appearance in the town.

Perhaps the most famous visitors in the hotel’s later years were The Beatles who stayed there on November 30, 1963 whilst they were appearing at The Empire.

Although attempts were made to keep their stay a secret, the hotel was still mobbed by adoring female fans.

But the end of an era brought a change in fortunes.

As the 1960s came to a close, so the Grand began to lose some of its grandeur.

And it came as no surprise when the hotel finally closed in January 1969. At that time it was owned by Berni Inns.

In June 1971, the hotel was put up for auction with a starting price of £20,000.

However, no bids were forthcoming and it was withdrawn from the auction.

Sunderland Corporation then stepped in and purchased the building but it still remained closed.

Over the next three years, the building steadily deteriorated and plans were put in place to develop the surrounding area.

By December 1972, the old hotel was in such a poor state that the Echo even featured it as one of the blackspots of the town.

The Grand was finally demolished in October 1974 leaving just memories of its potted plants, plush furniture, velvet curtains, beer from the wood served in the upstairs buffet and the iron cage lift.

Today the site of the hotel is occupied by Bridge House.

But perhaps Echo readers have memories of the hotel which once attracted the stars.

Or maybe you stayed there yourself in days gone by.

If so, get in touch and re-live the memories.

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk.

l Is there a part of Sunderland’s history you would like us to visit?

You might want us to share an aspect of your family tree, in the hope it can uncover even more of your past.

Or perhaps there’s a particular event in the city’s past you would like to remember.

We would love to hear from you. Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk