The Jesters Nightclub
In January last year we discovered that once Mexborough had a
magnificent theatre the exterior being made from Tansley Stone
embellished with the Fleur-de-Leas and eight Flat Greek Columns. The
interior being just as splendid with recumbent cherubs painted on
the ceiling, surrounded by gold gilt baroque plasterwork and
scarlet, velvet plush curtains and swags. This theatre was renown
nationwide for its national and international acts, and although
originally named the Prince of Wales it became known as The
The following month we found that the family who had constructed the
Hippodrome left in 1910, to became prominent players in the creation
of the British Film Industry.
This was a time when Mexborough was at its height, in every respect
you could mention. By the 1970’s Mexborough was still: a forward
thinking town upwardly mobile; and ambitious for its future. Young
people planned what career they wished to enter into and on aiming
for it, by enlarge, succeeded in obtaining occupations in that
vibrancy was reflected in an extensive entertainments industry.
Among other venues there was a casino, cinema, the best dance hall
in the area, and a nightclub, this being ‘The Jesters’.
The Jesters was situated on Manvers Road and had once been a
Territorial Army Drill Hall, constructed and opened in 1938. This
closed in c1968 and stood empty for a while until it was purchased
by Punchbowl Entertainments Ltd., a subsidiary of Mansfield Brewery
Co. Ltd., the intention being to convert it into a lavish nightclub.
Then the work began. Firstly an architect had to be found to design
the new club and after much deliberation P.R. Needham of Mansfield
was chosen. Then a building contractor had to be found to: convert,
extend and greatly improve the run down building and change it into
the superior, sumptuous night club it was intended to be, and G.H.
Smickersgill Ltd., of Wath won the contact.
Gradually the ‘Jesters’ began to take shape and towards the end of
1972 a large, two storey, building began to appear with a central,
double entrance, topped with an impressive double arched steel
canopy. Although not as palatial as the Hippodrome, echoes of the
old theatre could still be seen in the form of the interior design
which was Victoriana.
The cabaret room had a raised stage with extensive, modern lighting,
a large wooden dance floor could be found to its fore surrounded by
sumptuous carpeting and small intimate tables, each with its own
subdued lighting, where, at the touch of a button a waitress, in red
and purple uniform, could bring drinks from the large bar or meals
from the two restaurant kitchens, served on the specially
commissioned pink and white crockery made by the world famous
This area of the cabaret section was overlooked by a balcony where
small dance floors could be found and tiered seating, also with
tables. Off the balcony was a smaller more intimate room with its
own bar. Also on the upper floor was the apartment specially
constructed for the manager. To one side of the cabaret room was an
extensive cocktail bar known as the ‘Gay Nineties Bar’ where drinks
were served by barmaids.
Then lastly, separate to the rest of the nightclub, was an
ultra-modern dance area with Special Effect Lighting, this was a
purpose built Disco. The club, when full, had a seating capacity of
600 and 80 staff were employed to serve the needs of the clientele.
By the middle of November 1972, and a cost of £150,000, all the hard
work came to an end and it was ready to open. The Jesters Nightclub
opened its doors on Monday 13th November 1972. On arrival everyone
received a celebratory glass of Champagne and the ladies, flowers.
The evening began with a presentation by Mr. R.W. Chadburn, then the
resident compere Graham Elliott, of Northampton, introduced the
artistes of the night ‘The Fourmost’, ‘Bev. Randle’, and ‘Mike
Riley’. The night concluded with dancing until 2a.m.
Although the doors of the Jesters were opened to the general public
on Monday, the official opening did not take place until lunchtime
on Tuesday 14th November 1972. The nightclub was officially opened
by Mr. Robin Chadburn, Chairman of Mansfield Brewery Co. Ltd. It was
a grand occasion with many of the dignitaries of South Yorkshire in
attendance. Mr. Chadburn publicly thanked the chairman of Mexborough
UDC, Coun. George Hurst, for all the council’s assistance in getting
the club up and running and went on to also thank our fire service
who instructed everyone on evacuation procedure and fire prevention.
Following the opening ceremony the dignitaries were escorted on a
tour of the cabaret and dining facilities, bars, dance floors and
disco room. The staff were then introduced, to the dignitaries by
Steve Hall the new manager. The afternoon culminated in a buffet
lunch served with drinks, at the bar, by Mary Cawford.
Jesters was open and the work of entertaining the public could
began. Prior to the opening the manager, Steve Hall, had travelled
8,000 miles in search of suitable acts for the nightclub, assessing
their ability to please his audiences by viewing them himself, prior
to booking them. So it was little wonder that some, who appeared at
the Jesters went on to become household names, such as: Jim Bowen;
Rus Abbot; Little and Large; Cannon and Ball; Paul Shane, who
originally appeared as a singer but later became a comedian; the
controversial Bernard Manning; Bobby Knutt, seen lately in Emmerdale;
Duggie Brown; Charlie Williams; Les Dawson; Norman Collier, with his
faulty microphone act; the Krankies; plus the well loved Marti Caine,
who went on to accomplish international fame prior to her untimely
Tommy Joyce, then one of the doormen of the nightclub, tells the
story of how, never having seen their act before, and believing that
Bobby Ball was deliberately bothering Tommy Cannon, threw him out.
These are to mention but a few of the then unknown, but fantastic
acts which appeared.
Then came the ‘Headliners’ which the Jesters’ became renown for, not
just locally but nationwide and audiences travelled from far and
wide to see them. Acts such as: The Faces, as Rod Stewart
simultaneously pursued a solo career it is unsure as to whether he
accompanied them but Ronnie Wood, now with the Rolling Stones, did;
Frank Ifield; Gerry & the Pacemakers; The Drifters; for the children
one Christmas The Wombles came to the Jesters; Ken Dodd, who
appeared on the Thursday of the opening week, Bob Monkhouse; Roy
Castle, known for his T.V. programme ‘The Record Breakers; Acker
Bilk and his
Paramount Jazz Band; Roger Whittaker; Kenny Ball, famous for his
tune ‘Stranger on the Shore’; Ivy Benson’s all Girl Band, famous
during the 2nd WW for playing to the troops and becoming the female
Glen Miller; the American violinist Stephen Grappelli also came to
the nightclub. Stephen Grappelli was not the only American to
appear, as in 1976 a controversial act appeared. This being the Rock
& Pop Star, and friend of Elvis Priestly and Roy Orbison, P.J. Proby.
He had become known, nationwide, while doing a ‘gig’ elsewhere, for
splitting his tight leather trouser on stage and refusing to climb
down, this caused outrage as he was known for not wearing underwear.
It seems that he went down well with the ladies of Mexborough as he
stayed from 8th to 10th April. Many have told us that Shirley Bassey
also appeared there, and it is true that the South Yorkshire Times,
in 1974, carried an article stating that, at the end of the year she
would be touring South Yorkshire but, as the relevant issues are
missing this can not be corroborated.
Televised talent competitions, similar to ‘X Factor’ or ‘Britain’s
Got Talent’, also took place. The first started in August 1974 and
different competitors appeared every night until the grand final on
29th Sept. 1974, when the winning act took the top prize of £5,000.
Then in 1976 it was announced in the media that the manger of the
Jesters Nightclub was to judge acts for inclusion in the incredibly
popular T.V. programme ‘Opportunity Knocks’. Acts were to appear at
the Jesters to enable the public to also judge them and vote on T.V.
at a later date. This must have been one of the first occasions that
voting by telephone took place on British Television, something we
take for granted today.
Many charities also benefited from the popularity of the Jesters as
Charity Nights seem to have been quite numerous. The Jesters did not
just have cabaret acts and wrestling and boxing evenings were also
popular. On 27th Nov. 1974 our own Tommy Joyce, then on the fringes
of being one of the top ten welterweight boxes in the country, was
to fight there. By this time he had been a professional boxer for
four years and had fought thirty-four times, and on this occasion he
was to fight Gerry Salmons who came from Stoke. The fight was
witnessed by Jack Gardener, the former British Heavyweight Champion
and Billy Thompson, a former British & European Lightweight Boxing
Every nightspot has its ‘unwelcome visitor, as they are known in
theatrical circles, and the Jesters was no exception. David Round,
who joined the nightclub as Assistant Manager, but became General
Manager prior to leaving in 1975 to run his own public house tells
us: “we also had a ghost in the Gay 90s Bar, at the bottom of the
club, who was seen by a good number of people and was affectionately
known as ‘The Colonel’, apparently where he was always seen was
where the lorries were backed in and loaded and he was supposedly in
the way of a lorry which ran over and killed him, so he was always
seen in the same place and nowhere else in the club. I personally
never saw him but I can verify that area was always very cool”.
As I have said before, all good things must come to an end. There
are numerous reason given for why such a seemingly successful club,
which was so popular, closed. The first is that young people,
attending the disco, completely ruined the beautiful interior and
the cost of repair outweighed the overheads of keeping it open.
Another reason was just the climate of the time. Headliners were
demanding higher and higher fees, and the seating capacity at the
Jesters, was comparatively low compared to other nightclubs. Put
together with the general public not having enough free income
caused by: a miners strike, the three day week (the winter of
discontent); etc. etc. to spend on luxuries such as evenings out at
expensive nightclubs, resulted in the club not being a viable
proposition and it began to run at a loss.
In April 1977 an article appeared in the South Yorkshire Times
telling of the temporary closure of the night spot, as it was to be
put up for sale at a cost of £100,000. But it went out in customary
Mexborough Fashion, not with a whimper but a bang, consisting of a
huge carnival as a ‘thank you’ to all its loyal customers. It was
officially closed on Saturday 2nd April 1977. It did, for a while,
go through ‘swan song’ and in June 1977 festivities were sparked
nationwide by the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Street parties were held
all over the country and Highwoods was no exception with the club
holding a huge party.
The building then began to fall into decline and by 1981 had become
a haven for ‘glue sniffers’ and drug addicts and on 26th June 1981
it was announced in the South Yorkshire Times that demolition had
David Round says of the Jesters that he has: “such lovely wonderful
memories of the place, the people, and the entertainment, it was
such a really marvellous time in my life”. A sentiment which, I feel
will be echoed by many who went there.
Information obtained from:
Every South Yorkshire Times from 7th October 1972 – 2nd April 1977
also 26th June 1981. Personal Memories of: Frank Blaydes, former
Foreman for G.H. Smickersgill Ltd., of Wath. David Round, former
Assistant Manager and later General Manager of the Jesters. Tommy
Joyce OBE, who was once a Doorman. Souvenir Brochure of the opening
night Monday 13th November 1972. Chronicle of the 20th Century.
Compiled by Longman Chronicle Communications Ltd. Also to everyone
who helped in any way in the writing of this newsletter. Copyright.
This newsletter may not be reproduced, in part or in its entirety
without the permission of J.R. Ashby