Chester in the 1960s was a time of change. In fact, it was a decade which changed the world not just Chester. But Paul Hurley’s book ‘Chester in the 1960s: Ten Years that Changed a City’, uses photographs to depict how the influx of cars available caused traffic problems for the city. This had to be alleviated by cutting a swath through the city with an inner ring road, which required dozens of old properties to be demolished
Elsewhere, the Cheshire Police headquarters were becoming too small for the growing police requirements, so a new building had to be planned and Chester was thrust into the spotlight in an unfortunate way after Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley stood trial at the city’ Assizes Court.
Generally speaking though, Chester recovered well from the deprivation inflicted on the rest of the country by the Second World War, thanks to the fact that little damage had been done to it.
When it came to entertainment, Liverpool and London may have been the places to be in the Swinging Sixties, but Chester didn’t let its punters down, and here we look back at some of the best entertainment that was around back then.
Quaintways - This nightclub and music venue on Northgate Street stood where Rosies stands today, and was owned and operated by entrepreneur Gordon Vickers, During its 1960s and 1970s heyday, Quaintways hosted huge names such as Fleetwood Mac, Thin Lizzy, Status Quo and The Who. The venue, which featured a busy food hall, ballroom and restauraunt/cafe, was the workplace of Pauline Tilston, a Chester girl who went on to marry John Prescott.
Riverpark Ballroom - Another music venue in 1960s Chester was the Riverpark Ballroom on Union Street. Perhaps it is most well known for being the venue The Beatles played at in August 1962, on the night of John Lennon’s wedding to first wife Cynthia. The band played there at various points that summer, but the place closed in 1963.
The Royalty Theatre - As well as stage performances, variety stars like Ken Dodd, Jimmy Young, Frankie Vaughan and Helen Shapiro all performed at the Royalty on City Road during the 50s and 60s, as did popstars including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Tony Christie and Alma Cogan. Sadly, declining audience numbers in the wake of television, forced it to close in 1966 after 84 years. The site remained until 1986, when Chester City Council’s Conservation Review Study recommended the development of the run-down site. It took 15 years for it to be totally demolished however, and in 2001 it was replaced with two restaurants, 24 luxury apartments and a car park.
Classic Cinema - Previously The Tatler, The Classic first opened for business in December 1936 on Foregate Street. Inside was a winding staircase leading to the balcony lounge and a long auditorium. The cinema presented its own newsreel of local events on 16mm called Chester Today during its run. It closed on December 18 1970 after showing its last seven-day picture M.A.S.H starring Donald Sutherland. The final late night feature was Accident in Blue Jeans. The Classic, and the Swan Hotel next door, later became C&A, then Woolworths and these days, Primark.
Chester Music Hall - In the ancient building at the junction of Northgate and St Werburgh Street where Superdrug is today, once stood The Chester Music Hall Cinema. It showed many films here over the years, but closed in 1961, with the final offering Never on Sunday.
Alma Cogan in Eastgate Street - Singer Alma Cogan was well known in the 50s and 60s and performed at the Royalty Theatre in March 1960. This picture was taken of her on Eastgate Street as she arrived for her performance , asking the way to the venue. Alma died of stomach cancer in 1966 at the age of just 34.