EAR CANDY MAG - APRIL 2020

The Cavern Club Floor Plan
Circa 1962
Recreating the floor plan of the original iconic club!
By Ronnie

The response to the original article was overwhelming! I received tons of new photos, some of which will require me to make small changes. So, there will be a corrected version of the floor plan and the poster!

Right: The Beatles at The Cavern

Mention the Cavern Club and most people immediately associate it with The Beatles. The band played there 292 times between 1961-1963. It was ground zero for the start of what would become Beatlemania, and possibly the most famous club in the world! Sadly, the original Cavern was demolished in 1973, but a "new" Cavern presently sits on the same site.

In the summer of 2019, I was re-watching my DVD of the 2011 documentary, "I was there when the Beatles played the Cavern" when I had an idea. As an architect and Beatles fanatic, it bothered me that of all the Beatles' books I've read, I've never seen an accurate, concise floor plan of the original Cavern.

My day job in Architecture (interior remodels) gave me the experience to correct this - as I constantly use photos and field measurements to recreate an accurate floor plan of a project space. So, I set out to make an accurately scaled plan of the original Cavern circa 1962 - a plan that would represent what it looked like before the 1966 renovation and expansion.

There are plenty of photos to be found of just about every area of the original Cavern, so I started doing an internet search, amassing all the Cavern photos I could. In my initial search online, I found a 1972 floor plan of the Cavern that was being auctioned (long since sold). Of course, this was a later plan, which reflected the Cavern expansion/enlargement after 1966.

Right: The floor plan that was auctioned

Here's the description:
Lot 137: Rare 30'' x 22'' Floor Plan of the original Cavern Club of Liverpool. c.1972 by Dishman Woodward & Partners, Architects of Liverpool with accompany letter dated 26th June 1972 signed K.Woodward and invoice for £67.00. Possibly the last drawn plan.

While the plan was only a low-resolution picture, it was a SCALED drawing, and I was able to blow it up the image and insert it into a full-size AutoCAD drawing. Since I have AutoCAD at home, this became my new "project".

Now all I needed was some original data, such as the original dimensions, etc. Luckily, some info is well documented, such as in Mark Lewisohn's "The Beatles Tune In", where a description from the front page of the Echo read: "the cellar, 11 feet below street level, is 58 feet by 39 feet with a stage at one end. The only means of access is a doorway from Mathew Street, then along a passage 3ft 6in wide, through another door 2ft 6 in wide and then down 17 steps."

This at least gave me a starting point to put the 1972 plan to scale. But, there was a mystery- why does this plan look so different from Lewisohn's description of the original Cavern: "There were three arched tunnels at the Cavern. The center was for music and a seated audience; the right had the cloakroom, snack bar and standing room; the left was for standing or dancing. At the far end of the left tunnel, adjacent to the stage, was the tiny band room and the nook from which Bob Wooler played records and made his announcements." There is a hand drawn floor plan in Debbie Greenberg's book, "Cavern Club The Inside Story", which confirms this.

I contacted Debbie Greenberg on the off chance that she might be able to give me some useful information on the Cavern layout. As well as being a regular Cavernite, her father, Alf Geoghegan, bought and reopened the club in July 1966. Luckily, she graciously helped me out, answering my repeated queries, when a new question popped up.

Showing her the 1972 floor plan, she replied: "Your project sounds intriguing. The plan you have of the Cavern is from 1966, after my dad (Alf Geoghegan) and I had carried out all the alterations. In order to re-open the Cavern on 23rd July 1966, after its closure on 28th Feb 1966, we had to adhere to many improvements to satisfy Liverpool Corporation. The centre plan is that of the original Cavern. The staircase to the right led up to a higher level which led to the Top Bar on the ground floor. This was accessed at No 8 Mathew Street. The plan to the left of the Cavern proper was the Mersey Bar. The small room to the left of the stage (marked as Artists) in your plan was the band room; there was only the one band room. Bob Wooler had to enter the band room, where there were two or three steps leading on to the stage. In the band room and to the right of the steps, is where Bob had his turntable and microphone, where he would make his announcements and play records in between the groups performances."

In another message she further explained: "To give you a clearer picture. The plan you have of the Cavern proper was before we renovated the building in 1966. Because there were no main drains in the Cavern, just a cess pit under the toilets, Liverpool Corporation insisted that a new drainage system was put in place. We built new toilets at No 8 Mathew Street on the ground floor with a new drainage system which were connected to the main drains and the existing toilets in the Cavern proper were removed together with the snack bar. The Mersey Bar (No 12, Mathew Street) to the left of the Cavern proper was bricked up until 1969 when we needed more space and opened it up and made it into a bar and restaurant. The store room and artist room on your plan at the far end never existed. Neither did the store room and toilets at the front end of your plan. There was a small kitchen situated halfway down the right hand side of The Mersey Bar. The central block where the kitchen is situated on your plan didn't exist. The main square bar was situated at the back of the Cavern proper, accessed on four sides. Two steps led down to the left into the Mersey Bar. You are right about the stage looking larger than it was; it was smaller than your plan and only protruded as far as the end of the first arches. Mathew Street slopes down from North John Street, hence the different levels of 8, 10 and 12 Mathew Street."

This was great! It helped me use the useful information in the 1972 plan and start creating the 1962 version!

Then, I hit gold when Debbie wrote: "I have the accurate measurements from our friend Dave Backhouse who was the architect for the re-building of the new Cavern. He was able to measure the site of the original Cavern on site after the demolition as the cellar was intact under the rubble on the ground floor. Measurements as follows. Length 72ft. Width 50ft. Height 11ft to top of tunnel. Height to top of arches 6ft 6inches. Width of arches 6ft. Thickness of arches.3ft by 2ft 6inches. 48rows of bricks in roof. 47 rows of bricks in arches. Entrance to Cavern, Length 10ft, width 7ft, height 7ft. 14 steps down to a platform, 4 further steps down to the left into the club. Width of staircase 3ft 6inches. Bannister on left going down. Stage 10ft 6inches by 11 ft. Band room 10ft 6inches by 11 ft. 8 arches either side of centre tunnel."

This was EXACTLY what I needed! With the arch sizes, I could accurately scale my recreation of the original Cavern!

This is when all the pictures would come in - I would study each to verify locations within the plan. I was able to find pictures of all of the crucial areas showing various views and verify the location and size: the stage, the band room, the cloakroom, the snack bar, they entrance with the pay desk, etc. One little tidbit I found in Spencer Leigh's book concerned the chairs: "The central and largest area contained the stage and a few rows of wooden chairs, which had been discarded by a church and Sytner paid £5 for the lot."

Above: Cilla at The Cavern (left) and Cilla at the Zodiac club in Duke Street (right)

I also had to correct an incorrect assumption that there were two cloakrooms. This started because there were two pictures of Cilla Black on the internet, both purported to be at the Cavern. Both pictures have different counters and backgrounds and some claimed that this meant there were two cloakrooms. Debbie was able to help again: "The colour photo of Cilla was taken at the Zodiac club in Duke Street in Liverpool, where she worked as a waitress and not at the Cavern."

Right: The final plan (click for a larger view).

The only mystery were the toilets. I knew where they were located, but did not know the size or layout. I found no photos of the toilets - which is not surprising! However, I did find some descriptions. Lewisohn states: "In terms of sanitation, there were only three toilets and a single urinal, grossly inadequate for large crowds, and while it was assumed these led to mains sewerage, everything went into the ground." In Spencer Leigh's book there is a quote by Ian Harris (along with his father, Harry Harris were employed by Alan Sytner to do some work on the Cavern): "There was already a Gents toilet in there and we had to create one for the Ladies, but this was not a big job as we simply extended the drainpipe from the Gents. We also put a perfume machine in the Ladies. You put in some money and it would squirt perfume at you." Debbie Greenberg added: "The first WC in the corner was the mens toilets. Nigel says there were three urinals, one cubicle and one sink. The ladies, from memory, I think there were three toilets and a sink." So, the toilets on my finished plans are purely conjectural in layout, although the room placements are correct.

In various photos I saw speakers mounted near the ceiling. I was able to verify the amount of speakers by a quote from Tony Crane of the Merseybeats: "You had to use the house PA system because there was no room to put your own system there. There was a 30 watt Vortexion valve (tube) unit, three 12 inch speakers around the place, four Reslo mikes and everybody used them." The location of the 3 speakers can be seen in the photographs, all mounted near the ceiling: one outside the band room, the second outside the cloakroom and the third at the stage tunnel.

Once I incorporated all this information, I finally drew an accurate, to scale floor plan of The Cavern Club. Since the plan was created in AutoCAD, I can also make a 3-D of it at some point.

With the finished plan, I was able to really have some fun and add graphics to the plan. Since I also do graphic design (book covers, CD cover, album covers 45 sleeve covers many for www.apcor.net", I was able to jazz up the plain floor plan.

Finally, I made a 24 x 36 poster of the correct floor plan, complete with pictures. Ill eventually make this available free to anyone who wants one. The final will be a high resolution, print ready pdf. Of course this is a work-in-progress, and can change with additional information/pictures!

Above: Poster of the Original Cavern (click on each image for a larger view)


References:

Interviews with Debbie Greenberg

Books: