Party time at the Astoria Ballroom
IN this week’s Memory Lane, we take a look back at the Astoria Ballroom, which rocked Rawtenstall with beat nights and star acts during its 34 years on St Mary’s Way.
Our regular nostalgia contributor Peter Fisher has sent us a selection of pictures of the venue and we also have a shot of three Astoria doormen from the 1950s, sent in by George Haworth.
Originally a car showroom owned by John Myerscough & Co and created by brothers John and Noel Myerscough, the Astoria became a renowned music venue, where youngsters from Manchester, Bury, Accrington and across Lancashire headed on Saturday nights.
The Astoria had a dance floor that measured approximately 585 sq ft, able to hold up to 800 dancers at one time.
It was covered in maple wood and hailed ‘one of the finest sprung dance floors in England’.
In 1959 the floor was resprung with more than 6,000 pieces of Canadian maple laid on steel springs, at a cost of £1,000.
The Astoria opened on December 16, 1932 and hosted its first event, the annual ball of the Rawtenstall Royal British Legion.
At the event, the mayor, the late Alderman John Hamer, welcomed the Lancashire cotton queen, Marjorie Knowles.
In the Astoria’s early years, there was dancing almost every night of the week, with modern sessions, an ‘old tyme music’ night, a 50/50 night and the ‘popular’ night on Saturdays.
In the 1940s and 50s, big name bands and vocalists played at the Astoria, including the Joe Loss Orchestra with vocalist Rose Brennan, The Eric Delaney Band, and Dickie Valentine.
In 1959, John Myerscough junior came to the helm and prepared for the beat boom coming in the 1960s. Teenagers flocked to the Astoria for Saturday beat nights, to see bands including The Kinks, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Animals.
On May 22, 1965, The Who, consisting of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend and drummer Keith Moon, played at the venue as part of their UK tour. In 1965, a group called Them played at the Astoria, fronted by singer Van Morrison.
Entry to gigs cost between six and 15 shillings, depending on the status of the band playing that night.
John Myerscough handpicked local bands to play at the venue, including The Hollies, from Manchester, and The Four Pennies, from Blackburn.
On February 7, 1966, the Astoria closed its doors for the final time, still under the ownership of the Myerscough family after 34 years. John moved to Southport and took over Lewis Buckley Entertainments, the agency that had booked many of the star acts into the Astoria during the 1960s.
The building has now been demolished to make way for St Mary’s Way, the A56 Bank Street bypass.
Our first shot of the week (Picture 1) shows the Astoria and Holly Mount. Picture 2 depicts the Astoria and Tup Bridge, while Picture 3 shows the outside of the venue when Ivy Benson and the All Girls Orchestra performed there.
Picture 4 shows attendees gathered for the opening of the Astoria in 1932, while below that, Picture 5 shows the exterior in April 1962.
Finally, we have Picture 6, sent in by George Haworth, showing him (centre) as a doorman at the Astoria in the 1950s, with Bob Chapman (left) and John Chapman (right).
If these pictures bring back memories, please get in touch. Thanks to all our nostalgia contributors.