The Sunderland nightclub which had two acts a night

Wetherells night club.
Wetherells night club.
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From Gerry Dorsey to Dickie Arnold, Sunderland in the swinging 60s was a hip place to be.

And part of the reason was a new nightclub which pulled in punters from its very earliest days.

Wetherells on January 1, 1966, with Gerry Dorsey on at 10pm.

Wetherells on January 1, 1966, with Gerry Dorsey on at 10pm.

Wining, dining, dancing and cabaret were all on the ticket for this popular spot.

Its name was Wetherells, and Philip Curtis, from the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, gave us an insight into its history.

In 1961, the Bailey Organisation opened a new nightclub at The Green in Bishopwearmouth.

The name they decided to call their club was Wetherells.

The club soon became popular and throughout the 1960s and 70s ran cabaret throughout the week involving many of the top stars. There were usually two shows an evening with the top act appearing at midnight and the lesser-known act at 10.pm.

Philip Curtis

They chose it because it was the name of the family that had run a school of dancing there for more than a century.

John Anthony Wetherell had come from Durham where he had his school of dancing in the Assembly Rooms in the South Bailey in 1792.

He first opened his school in Sunderland in the Assembly Garth in the East End.

It was from there that he moved up to The Green with his wife, his four daughters and two sons where he carried on his exclusive school of dancing with the help of all the family, also forming an orchestra.

John Anthony Wetherell in 1863.

John Anthony Wetherell in 1863.

After John’s death the school was carried on by his son, also called John Anthony, who gave lessons on the violin.

He was also choirmaster for many years at St. Peters Church which was situated in Green Street.

John Junior died in 1918 and his only child, a daughter who was Elizabeth Thomasine, decided to carry on the school.

She tried, but without much success to teach the more modern dances such as the fox-trot, one-step and the modern waltz which her father had thought much too undignified and would not teach.

One of the neighbours, Mrs Kirton, at that time recalled the school when it was under Elizabeth’s control.

She said: “I well remember as a very small child being taken to look through a small window, unseen, at the marvellous scene in the ballroom of the ladies and gentlemen of the town, in full evening dress with officers of the Army and Navy resplendent in full dress uniform and dancing to the strains of music from the orchestra formed by the Lax family of Sunderland.”

Miss Wetherell carried on teaching until 1932 and then concentrated on letting the rooms which had been greatly modernized.

They were let for private dances, until 1961.

That was when Miss Wetherell retired at the age of 85 to live in St Bede’s Terrace until her death at the age of 92.

The premises on The Green were then leased to the Bailey Organisation, which was allowed to use the name Wetherells for its club.

It was a name which for so many years had held such a high reputation in the dancing world.

But soon it had another reason for its popularity to continue.

The club soon became popular and throughout the 1960s and 70s, it ran cabaret throughout the week which involved many of the top stars of the day.

There were usually two shows on an evening and there was a definite pattern to it.

The top act would appear at midnight and the lesser-known act would go on earlier to give a performance at 10.pm.

On January 1, 1966, a certain Gerry Dorsey was the early act supporting Dickie Arnold and Dottie.

A few months later, Gerry changed his name to Engelbert Humperdinck and became a star.

By October that year, he was topping the bill at La Strada and was the No. 1 in the charts with Please Release Me.

The Bailey Organisation also introduced gambling to the club and for many Wearsiders it was their first introduction to roulette and blackjack.

It felt that Monte Carlo had come to Sunderland.

Who has memories of Wetherells and can tell us more? Which of the famous acts do you remember seeing and what other aspects of the nightclub do you remember the most.

Send your memories, and any photographs you may have of those wonderful times, to us.

We also want to hear from anyone who would love us to feature other aspects of Sunderland’s history. What would you like to see on these pages?

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk.