Remembering Wetherells, the Sunderland nightclub where Engelbert Humperdinck and Edison Lighthouse performed live
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.
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.
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.
After John’s death the school was carried on by his son, also called John Anthony, who gave lessons on the violin.
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.
Miss Wetherell carried on teaching until 1932 and then concentrated on letting the rooms for private dances, until 1961.
She 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.
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.
Other stars who appeared there included Edison Lighthouse and Shane Fenton and the Fentones.
Our thanks go to Philip and to find out more about the Antiquarian Society, visit its Facebook page or its website which is at http://www.sunderland-antiquarians.org
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