Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi
By Paul Coslett
Discover more about the history of Liverpool?s most famous hotel as a new musical opens at the Playhouse.
The golden days of the Adelphi Hotel are to be celebrated in a special musical for Capital of Culture.
Built in the age of transatlantic liners the Adelphi oozed with the lavish luxury that was normally reserved for those travelling in style across the Atlantic.
Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi at the Liverpool Playhouse follows a love story set in the Adelphi in 1930?s Liverpool.
The current Adelphi is the third incarnation to stand on the site at the foot of Mount Pleasant.
A place of luxury
The first hotel was built on the site of a country home owned by two brothers and honoured them in its name, Adelphi being Greek for brothers.
The original hotel was on the edge of the town and looked out on to a botanic gardens and open countryside.
From the first check-in the Adelphi was renowned as a place of luxury, Charles Dickens who visited in 1842 wrote of the hotels gastronomic delights, I know that the dinner of that day was undeniably perfect.?
The hotel was rebuilt in 1876 and for the final time in 1912 when it was described as ?the world?s most palatial hotel? and the ?triumph of a great enterprise.? A single room cost 5 shillings, a suite was one guinea.
Speaking to BBC Radio Merseyside in 1975, Frank Collins who managed the hotel twice in the post war period recalled the hotel of his childhood, when it was a regular departure point for passengers of Atlantic liners, They were lovely old days when people arrived with all their baggage and we used to ship it down to the ships for them and see them off.?
While the transatlantic passenger trade was the Adelphi?s staple there was one event of the year when the hotel really rocked, the Grand National weekend.
National night at the Adelphi would be talked about wherever racing people met as Frank Collins remembered, The ability to enjoy themselves of the people who came after the National, not mattering whether they?d won or lost.
They came because the National was an occasion and the Adelphi was an institution.
Everybody gathered there, some staying elsewhere because they couldn?t get in as the Adelphi was already full.
They joined up for dinner parties in the evening, had a lot of fun and games, thoroughly enjoyed themselves, got a bit noisy in the small hours of the morning but that was excused because even in the small hours of the morning everybody wasn?t in bed in any case.
Each year they wrote in good time asking for their same accommodation as the last year and came over from Ireland, America, France--all nationalities, all countries to see this wonderful race and we welcomed them and laid everything on for them.
Memories of the Adelphi in the 1930's
Albert Dwerryhouse worked in the Adelphi from 1927 and in 1975 he recalled that, ?The Friday night of the National was the wild night.
?It was a gathering of the flat and the jumping people, and some of them perhaps would never meet during the season, they met here at the Grand National, and that was ?The Night?.
?In the main lounge they averaged 1600 dinners on that night, it was one mad swaying mass.?
Royals at Aintree in 1937
The pre-war years were halcyon days for the Adelphi. Phil Wilmott, the writer of Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi says it was the hotels historic role that made it ideal for a stage production, When I started to think about what story would be good to tell for the Capital of Culture, I thought this would be a perfect place to set a Liverpool story.
Whole families, their whole history has been played out on the dance floor of the Adelphi.
It?s romantic but it?s slightly mysterious, you can tell there have been a lot of secrets here over the years.
So I?ve tried to do a love story that combines that.?
Speaking in 1975 Harry Haycock a former head night porter at the Adelphi spoke of the antics of the guests on Grand National night, ?For many years two parties used to get the big ten foot tables and use them as toboggans down the two staircases, and there used to be a bookmaker at the bottom taking bets on which load of people would win.
?And they?d come down the staircase on these tables and halfway across the ballroom floor.
?They were great people.
?In those days of course, champagne just flowed,? Albert Dwerryhouse remembered.
?In the bar when we opened at five thirty they?d pour in.
?On these race nights we?d have 200 champagne cocktails ready and within a quarter of an hour they were gone, and in those days they were five shillings a glass.
The Adelphi in the infamous 1997 docu-soap.
?I do recall at those wild Grand Nationals very often the bar was so crammed they couldn?t even lift their arms.
?They couldn?t even put the glasses down, all they did was put the glass on the lino and crunch it, and eventually the floor was just one mass of broken glass.?
?I?ve seen 50 young blokes in the front hall all fighting, nobody really hurt, just cracking each other, they all knew each other, and nobody bothered them.
At the end of the function on the Friday, 2 o?clock Saturday morning, every member of staff would go in to the lounge and form a long line and manhandle everything out of the lounge to the back to a huge storeroom because otherwise they?d start to smash things up.
Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi is at the Liverpool Playhouse from 28 June to 19 July, 2008.