How tea made a Gatsby greater

Dale Alderton at his home, Darley Cliffe Hall, near Barnsley.

Hairdresser, nightclub owner and country house restorer. Catherine Scott meets Dale Alderton.

Dale Alderton was just 24 when he and his partner bought Darley Cliffe Hall.

Dale Alderton with Curtis Gill and Janice lunn a the Gatsby Lounge, Wakefield

“It was a really important place to me,” says Dale. “I would walk past it on my way to school. There was also something so special about it and so when it came on the market we just had to go for it.”

Over the past six years Dale and his partner Andrew Taylor have been renovating the Georgian grade 2 listed building to its former glory.

“It has been a labour of lofe.” admits Dale.

“The pair both owned hair salons before opening the popular Fanny and Bacardi night club in Wakefield seven years ago.

“We both had hairdressing businesses. I started out working for someone in Barnsley and then set up on my own and met my partner who had a hair salon.

“Then a few years ago we decided to organise a Christmas party for all our staff,” explains Dale.

“We hired a venue and put on some drag acts. In the end there were 200 people there and it went so well that I said to Andrew at the end of the evening that we could make a business doing something like this,” says Dale.

“A week later my partner rang me and said he’d found a building we could buy and turn into a club.

“I couldn’t believe it. I said I had only been joking after I’d had couple of drinks, but within a few more weeks we’d signed on the dotted line and set about creating Fanny and Bacardi.”

Now rebranded Club Gatsby after a complete refit this year, Dale and Andrew have given the Wakefield nightclub something of a duel personality.

“On Fridays and Saturdays we are still a nightclub, but then on Sunday’s we go through something of a transformation and create the Gatsby Lounge where we serve silver service traditional afternoon teas.”

Dale has always had a passion for afternoon teas after regularly visiting The Ritz Hotel in London.

“There is something so special about a traditional afternoon tea. I love all the silver, the cutlery and the crockery. The service and all the details, it harps back to a bygone era when things were a lot more gentle.”

It was living in Darley Cliffe Hall which inspired Dale to take his passion for afternoon tea to the next level.

“We had gone to an awful lot of trouble renovating the house and I got the idea that it would be great for other people to see how special it is. It leant itself to serving afternoon teas and so we decided to give it a go.”

Even though he loved afternoon tea, nothing really prepared Dale for how his idea would take off.

“People came from all over the country to visit the house and have afternoon tea,” he said,

“We did it really as a pop up to see how it would go as our plan had been to build an orangery where we would have the afternoon teas.”

But after seven months they had to stop afternoon teas as they needed to turn the home into a business if they were to continue.

“We decided in the end not to do that although we may still go ahead and build the orangery,” says Dale.

“We were planning to refurbish and rebrand Fanny and Bicardi’s and so we decided that it might be a good idea to transfer the afternoon teas over there as they had been doing so well, and so we came up with the idea initially as a bit of a pop up every Sunday.

“The place has been completely refurbished, it feels like a completely different place altogether.”

Rather than Georgian elegance, the Gatsby Lounge is more 1920s’ art deco glamour, but the emphasis, says Dale, is still very much on the luxury and opulence that epitomises the traditional afternoon tea experience that he experienced at The Ritz Hotel.

“We have only been running them for about three weeks but they are proving really popular with people travelling quite a long way to come to the Gatsby Lounge,” he says.

“The majority of people coming are groups of women, but what is interesting is that they are from all generations, from 30 up to 80. Granddaughters are bringing their grandmas. I’m gob smacked at how popular they are actually proving to be.

“People like to dress up and be made to feel special and that’s what we are trying to achieve,

“It is a lot of work turning it from a nightclub on Saturday night into a sliver service venue with white table clothes and afternoon tea ready to open by noon on Sunday, but if I wasn’t going to do it properly then I wasn’t going to do it at all,” says Dale.

“Details are important to me.

“We are open into the afternoon for people to also enjoy a leisurely drink and watch the entertainment..We also developing a function room.”

However, Dale and Andrew have taken the difficult decision to sell Darley Cliffe Hall which is near Barnsley.

“We really enjoyed the process of renovating the house but at the end of the day the house is too big for two people and two giant schnauzer dogs, and lends itself to a wonderful stylish period home ideal for a large family” explains Dale. “Although it was a really hard decision and it is such a special place.

“We need to downsize and are still looking for somewhere but it will be really difficult to leave this place. We have put so much in to it.”

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