Top Storey Club

The Top Storey Club was in Crown Street, Bolton and was opened on Monday, December 19, 1960 by Stanley Wilcox.

The club was on the top two floors of an old mill warehouse building. From the street front, the building had three floors, but the warehouse was built on a slope, so the rear had eight floors looking out onto the River Croal, which at that point ran in a brick-lined channel.

The club was opened by Stanley Wilcox, who rented the building, using the lower floors for his business which was making kitchen furniture.

On Friday, March 24, 1961, Wilcox sold his interest in the nightclub, which occupied the top two floors of the warehouse, to two Manchester businessmen, 31-year-old Dennis Wilson (b. 1930 d. Monday, May 1, 1961, The Top Storey Club, Crown Street, Bolton, Lancashire, England) and 43-year-old Richard Sorrenson (b. 1918 d. Monday, May 1, 1961, The Top Storey Club, Crown Street, Bolton, Lancashire, England).

As for Wilcox he retained the lower floor for his furniture business. Wilson lived at Egerton Road North, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester 21.

The club's manager was Bill Bohannon (b. William Bohannon, 1929 d. Saturday, November 9, 2013).

The club was small, with just a few tables where customers could sit and listen to tape-recorded music and also watch live bands. The maximum capacity of the place was 200.

 On Saturday, April 30, 1961 The Teenage Rebels played at The Top Storey Club.

 The owners of the building heard from an advertisement in The Bolton Evening News of the night club's availability and were concerned the building would be unstable for such use. So, on Monday, May 1, 1961 at 10.35pm, one of the owners, Norman Balshaw went to the club and told Wilson and Sorrenson that the club could not continue and that they must vacate the premises by Saturday, June 24, 1961.

On the night of the fire on Monday, May 1, 1961, the club was quiet as it was a Monday. There were only 20 to 25 people in the club.

At 11pm, only half an hour after the visit of the owner, the club's manager Bohannon smelt smoke. He went down the single wooden staircase, which was the only means access and exit. Upon arriving at the ground floor, he saw smoke coming under the door from leading to the furniture workshop. He kicked the door down and was confronted with a raging inferno, a wall of smoke and flames.

The intensity of the fire prevented him from returning upstairs, but he managed to escape. The inferno quickly spread up the stairs towards the club. As there was no other means of escape. some customers took to jumping from the windows. The windows available were those at the back, where there was an eight-floor drop onto bricks by the river channel.

Sadly, 19 people perished, including the owners/partners Wilson and Sorrenson and Bohannon's first wife Mrs. Shelia Bohannon. Leaving him a widow at only 32 and a single parent to his six-year-old son Barry Bohannon (b. 1955).

 John H Warbug - 20 August 2023

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