The Grosvenor Hotel has long been associated with The Hammond School, indeed Miss Hammond used it as her personal mailing address for many years.
When Miss Hammond came to Chester in 1917, she began teaching for Mrs Amy Broom née Webster who was known for her general classes at the Grosvenor Ballroom and vocational classes at Old Bars House.
Mrs Amy Broom had taken over her father’s School of Dancing upon his death in 1872 with her brother and sister. Mr Webster had in turn taken over the school in 1833 upon the death of Monsieur Louis Doré, who had established the Chester dancing school in 1823. (This makes The Hammond the longest continuously running dance school in the country!)
From the 10th of September 1877 Amy and Blanche Webster begin holding general classes in the Grosvenor Hotel Ballroom. This is an association that would continue for the next 100 years.
In 1965 Madeline Chambres, former secretary and friend of Miss Hammond recalled;
‘I should like to put on record that the Hammond School must be one of the oldest dancing schools, continuously carried on – in the country. Miss Hammond came to Chester in 1917 and held children’s ballet classes, unheard of in the provinces at the time. She had been at a London school, and took over the Chester dancing connection from Mrs. Broom, soon after the latter’s marriage. Mrs. Broom taught and was known to three generations in Cheshire as Miss Webster, always taking large classes in the old Grosvenor Hotel Ballroom with her pianist, Miss Evans. She was short, thin, and straight as a poker, dressed in stiff black silk, and beginning each class with “Hold out your frocks and point your ‘toes’ girls”. Previous to this her father taught, playing a fiddle while his daughter demonstrated, and this must take us back at least one hundred years.’
A prospectus from 1931/32. Thank-you Pauline Cooper.
The Grosvenor continued to be a crucial part of the school and would remain the official address of The Hammond until the mid 1950s. The ballroom was where weekly general classes took place. Former student Julian Morgan, née Bamfield, remembers attending these classes in the early 1940s.
‘On Saturday morning I found myself dressed in my best party dress, shoe bag containing pink satin ballet slippers in hand, at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester. Around the edge of the vast ballroom similarly dressed little girls sat with their mothers. On the floor, lines of older girls were being put through their paces. I watched enthralled, and then the floor was empty and I was pushed forward to join my first dancing class. The experienced girls occupied the first three rows, I was right at the back where help was at hand in the form of an older student who was there to guide.
‘How I loved those classes. To music played on a black grand piano we skipped with skipping ropes, waltzed, polkaed, jumped and hopped – you name it, we danced it, and all led by the imposing figure of Irene Hammond. To me she was tall, but I was small then; she was not good looking with protruding teeth and, I think, a wig. I think so because it was sometimes a bit lopsided. Very strict, and always dressed in a dress with a long black skirt which revealed long black knickers when pulled up; she was a wonderful teacher.’
These weekly classes appear to have continued at the Grosvenor Ballroom until the mid to late 1950s, with senior students from The Hammond vocational school, then at Liverpool Rd, assisting. Some time in the early 1960s the Old Ballroom was turned into bedrooms, but classes continued at Talbot Hotel Ballroom, in Park House on Lower Bridge Street.
For nearly 100 years classes were taught in the Grosvenor Ballroom first by Miss Webster, then Miss Hammond and finally Mrs Hassall.