The magnificent panelling of Olympic fittings at the Towers is made up of 21 panels from the A La Carte Restaurant which are installed in the drawing room and a large section of corridor panelling installed in the hall way. From the moment you enter the house, you are surrounded by beautiful woodwork that was created by the same craftsmen at the same time as that of the Titanic. It can be said with certainty that the panels present in The Towers today are as close to being identical as those that were seen and admired by the Titanic's first class passengers as anything in existance today.
The magnificent panelling at the The Towers came to be following the Olympic's sale for scrap in 1935. After her sale by the Cunard-White Star Line, she was sold onto the Sheffield steel firm of Thomas Ward and Company for breaking. The steel from the Olympic would have been melted down and sold onto the various foundries and then made into structural steelwork or material for new ships. Before breaking began, Thomas Ward & Co. instructed the London auctioneers to sell the ship's entire contents over ten days in 4456 lots. Following the auction, a very large section of the ship's beautiful woodwork and furniture had been unsold including, fortuitously, a section of the A La Carte Restaurant that is now to be found at the Towers. The Titanic's idential A La Carte Restaurant played hosted to a dinner party in honour of Captain Smith hosted by the Widener family and attended by some of the ship's most famous passengers on the fateful night of 14 April 1912.
The Towers is a mansion house built in 1874 in the French Gothic Style and is Grade II listed by English Heritage. The owner of the house in the 1930s was John Henry Gourley who was a prominent local businessman of his day. He was cited in the London Gazette in 1937 as being "the managing director of a limited company". The Towers is also located a short distance from the site of one of the Thomas Ward's directors former homes. Also in spring 1936, the installation of spectacular chandeliers from the Olympic's First Class Lounge and panels from the Second Class Library at the Cutler's Hall in Sheffield city centre was reported in the local press. It is likely that Mr Gourley was notified of the availability of fittings from the Olympic by his connections in local business in Sheffield which at the time was a thriving steel making city.
A purchase is recorded in the Olympic 's shipbreaking record on 25 May 1936 of '490 square feet Walnut and Gilt Carved Panelling' purchased for £36, 15 shillings, '3 panels with Mirror Panels 2'10" x 7' for £8 5 shillings and '576 square feet polished and painted oak panelling with 80' beading' for £28 16 shillings. The total weight of the panelling is recorded as being about two tons. This is thought to describe the panelling that was purchased and installed at The Towers and can still be seen and admired today. The total purchase price of £73 and 16 shillings is equivalent to about £4,500 today.
It is entirely appropriate that these beautiful panels should be used to make the surroundings of events that pay homage to the greatness and grandeur of the Olympic and her legendary sister ship the Titanic and Mark & Ann look forward to welcoming you to their home to celebrate the greatness of the Olympic and Titanic.
We gratefully acknowledge the research of Stuart Lythgoe in establishing the history of the Olympic Room.