The Kirk

The mid 1960s saw the rise in popularity of nightclubs and bowling alleys, they have both nearly disappeared in the intervening years, there are still some around but not nearly as many as there were. The “Kirk” or the Kirklevington Country Club was one of a number in the Stockton area, other clubs I remember are, The Marimba and The Contessa in Middlesbrough, The La Ronde in Billingham and the best known of all The Fiesta in Norton.

These clubs offered top class entertainment, including many international acts, youngsters from this time were not overly interested in pubs and social or working men’s clubs, beer and bingo were becoming old hat, the dance halls which had been a mainstay of evening entertainment alongside the cinema, were in decline in the 1960s. The “Kirk” was one of two popular clubs in the Yarm area, the other being “Club M” at the Tall Trees Hotel, both of these sites have housing on them now.

The “Bongo Club” deserves a special mention, one of the very first in the area, I know it lost its licence a couple of years ago but I have seen reports that it is in the throes of being reopened, it may already be open. These clubs were very much a part of the industrial north, from Sheffield to Newcastle in the east and Liverpool and Manchester in the west, Batley was particularly well known nationwide.

I have no doubt there are many people who have fond memories of places such as The “Kirk” and have a story or two to tell. My only interest in these clubs is from a social history point of view, I have never been in a nightclub in my life, pubs, cinemas and theatres were part of my social whirl and, yes, I did go ten pin bowling.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

9 thoughts on “The Kirk

  1. I remember going to the Kirk in the 60s to see/hear Long John Baldry.

    And celebrated, after a couple of years drinking, my 18th birthday in the Fiesta with the well known Scottish singer Andy Stewart (how embarrassing!)

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  2. Massive very fond memories of my youth spent in venues like the Kirk, Pharoahs, Bentleys, 21 club, Inn Cognito, Fiesta, Electric Onion etc, which on occasion led to trips further afield to places like Wigan Casino, Cinderella Rockerfellers in Leeds and even one expensive long haul to the south coast to a club called Martines somewhere near Winchester if I remember correctly. From Disco nights to Northern soul specials to Glam Rock nights etc we had everything provided by these great venues.. The culture, lights, music, excitement, camaraderie in these venues made a very dark, industrial dour Teesside that bit more bearable for the teens and young adults of the 1970s.

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  3. Thank you for the stroll down memory lane. The clubs you mentioned were part of my social life in the early sixties. What great times we had at The Kirk, Marimba, Fiesta etc.. Beehive hairdo’s stiletto heels, hooped skirts, we thought we were great. Thank you for making me remember those fun filled carefree years. I now live in Nevada, 80 miles north of Las Vegas, and still think I had the best teen years ever. In good old Teesside ENGLAND. Thanks so Much. Valerie Lofthouse Thompson.

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    • I agree completely with your comments regarding teenage years on Teesside, we spent more time in the Jubilee and Astoria than the Kirk but did go to the Fiesta and Marimba. Are you the Valerie Lofthouse who went to Richard Hind Juniors and lived in Stafford St? because as was in the same class. I was in America last year and visited Bryce and Zion canyons and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Great memories.

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  4. Went to The Kirk every weekend. Loved John McCoy and The Crawdaddies. It was the era when everyone danced to the music instead of standing punching the air with one finger (now, using their Cell Phone lights). Spent a lot of time (and money) at the Fiesta. I was good friends with Les Bennet (Blue Caps) who played Base and, double base in the resident band. Les asked me to stay back when the place closed to meet the group who was currently playing. They would come back when everyone had gone, for a drink. I met The Hollies a couple of times, The Searchers and Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Titch. Great place.

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  5. I loved going to the Kirk. There was a group of us from Stockton, we all were at Billingham Tech, Linda Watson and her boyfriend George, Bill Edwards, Chris Evans, Barbara Cooper (who sadly died some years ago), Christine Jamieson and Christine Crawford to name a few. My dear old Dad used to pick up as many of us as he could in his old Humber Hawk. He would sneak in at the back and stand smiling and waiting for us. I’m sure we saw Jimi Hendrix there but I may have dreamed it. I still have the Real McCoy 1967 single ‘Show me how you milk a cow/I paid for my laughs’ on Fontana. I remember Stockton Grammar boy Bob Stow admiring my long hair and losing interest in me when I told him it was a hairpiece (I had a mod-bob in those days).

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  6. I also used to frequent the Kirk in the early 60’s before I went to teacher training college in London. I remember seeing John McCoy and The Crawdaddies, Alan Price and Long John Baldry to name but a few. Happy days.

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  7. I was introduced to the Kirk by Ken Goodwin who was, like me, a student apprentice at Dorman Long, doing metallurgy at Battersea College in London.

    The top group in the 1963-66 era at the Kirk were the Crawdaddies, who specialised in bringing black American R&B tunes to life using electronic guitars. But their centrepiece was a rendition of “Crawling Up a Hill” one of the first British R&B efforts. It was written by John Mayall, but the Crawdaddies effort was much better than what Mayall did on his recording.

    The Crawdaddies were as good as the Animals, but coming from Teesside rather than Tyneside, they didn’t have anyone in the media behind them. The Crawdaddies did come down to London, at least once, playing at the Students Union at Chelsea College. But they did not set up their equipment properly and sounded quite amateurish. This would be in late 1965 I would guess. But when did this group break up?

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