THE OPENING OF THE TOW BAR INN
For a place that was farm fields within living memory, the former Nethertown military camp has had a remarkably complex history. For the time being, I'm just going to have to make lots of little pages about small aspects of the story- so here's one:
In the Whitehaven News for 12 December 1963 appeared the first advert for "WEST CUMBERLAND'S NEW HAUNT. A free house with a difference opening SATURDAY DECEMBER 21". Its name was the Tow Bar Inn, but its location was a bit of a problem. A front-page news story in the following week's issue of the News explained that, to help people find the Inn, on the outskirts of Nethertown, wooden signs shaped like caravans had been placed along the route from Egremont. The new venue was described as having "ample" car parking.
That first advert made it clear that this was more than just a pub. There was to be dancing on Saturdays, from 7.30 to 11.30, and the opening night would feature "Liverpool's Top Beat Group" Lee Castle and the Barons [the 19 December news item describes them as "from the Liverpool Cavern", and an adjacent but unrelated story makes it clear that the word "Beatlemania" was already very familiar, less than a year after the Fab Four first topped the singles chart].
The Inn had been created by Border Enterprises Ltd. (based at Carlisle) who ran the caravan site- or rather "trailer park". The building, including bar and dance-floor big enough for 200, had been built in just six months- to catch the Christmas trade- from asbestos panels [very good for fire safety...] clad with cedar wood. It was "tastefully" decorated, the colour scheme being based on pink and midnight blue; sensibly it also featured "the very latest oil-fired central heating". The management proposed also to stage cabaret and variety shows, hold Bingo sessions, and form a dancing club. It's clear from their advert in the 9 January 1964 issue of the News that the cabaret/variety idea got off the ground very quickly, in the form of a Sunday membership club- though musical groups seem to have come to dominate Club nights as well within a few months.
The 19 December issue of the News also featured, inevitably, a great big quarter-page advert for the opening night. Admission for the "Grand Opening Attraction" was five shillings before 8pm, but 6s later- and no admissions after 9. Christmas Eve dancing (7.30 to 11.30) was to feature The Stardusters, while "CHRISTMAS NIGHT AND BOXING NIGHT IS PARTY TIME Come Early and Book A Table". Dancing on 28 December featured Lennie And The Silhouettes; New Year's Eve (11pm to 2am) The Meteors- who must have done a good job, for in the 2 January issue of the News they were advertised as returning on 4 January "By Popular Request".