DEMOLITION has started at an iconic pop venue of the 1960s that has been at the heart of Northwich for decades.

Northwich Memorial Hall drew crowds in their hundreds in the 1960s and ‘70s when it played host to legendary acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Animals, Tom Jones, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Ben E King and Jimmy Ruffin, among many others.

But now the hall is being knocked down to make way for Memorial Court, a new £13.7 million leisure complex planned by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC).

Gwili Lewis, from Castle, was manager at the hall thoughout its 1960s and ‘70s glory years.

The 92-year-old was present at the start of demolition on Monday and shared some anecdotes from his career there.

“The Beatles came here when their fee was just £15,” he said.

“The last time we wanted them our promoter offered £600 but the said ‘no, not enough’.

“That same night they were at Southend Pier in Essex instead and were paid £900.

“One well-known group once went to Norwich instead of Northwich.”

Clr Tony Lawrenson, CWAC councillor for Rudheath and Witton, shared his stories of being in the audience for some memorable moments.

“If you were in one of the pubs, the Fox or the Penrhyn Arms, from 9.30pm onwards the band used to come round selling tickets half price,” he said.

“I saw The Beatles and the Stones here.

“It was a brilliant atmosphere because you were right up against the stage with them.

“John Lennon actually told me to belt up once because we were shouting for them to do Twist and Shout, which was their number one stage song but they didn’t actually write it.”

Clr Julia Tickridge, fellow CWAC councillor for Rudheath and Witton, said: “The hall was built by public subscription so it’s not just any hall, it really means something.”

Clr Mike Jones, CWAC leader, said: “I’m sure Northwich residents were excited when the memorial hall was built and just listening to Gwili’s fantastic stories underlines how much pleasure it must have given people not long after the post war austerity.

“The new Memorial Court complex will play a similar significant role in the improving fortunes of Northwich, adding wonderful leisure and lifestyle facilities along the riverside, to complement the cinema, shops, cafes planned for Barons Quay, the Hayhurst Marina, Waitrose store and Lion Salt Works heritage visitor attraction and museum.

“It is great to see things are really starting to move in Northwich as we build an exciting new future for the town.”

Memorial Court will include a swimming pool, dance studio, gym and cultural facilities.