TRIPS TO THE PICTURES

Page updated 29 September,2007



School visits to the pictures or 'flicks' (i.e. the cinema) in the 1940s and 1950s were very rare events and restricted to seeing films of some literary value e.g. Richard III in 1955 or "current " events e.g. The Dam Busters also of 1955. The reason being, that few people had television (it "arrived" in Yorkshire in about 1952) and so the "pictures" were visited on a regular basis by everyone - everyone, perhaps but Charlie Cass who certainly never mentioned any of his visits.

In those days there were five cinemas in Harrogate:

The Scala, Cambridge St: opened in October,1920, and changed its name to the Gaumont in 1950 and was demolished in 1962 to become a shop (Boots?). The cinema had a cafe on the first floor with windows looking down into Cambridge Street:

the St James, Cambridge St; this was almost adjacent to the entrance to the Lowther Arcade and opposite the main entrance to the Market Hall - a somewhat cold and austere concrete jumble of small traders' stalls:

the Central, Oxford St/lower end of Lowther Arcade: the Central and the St James were private cinemas, not part of a national group. The Central was the first cinema in Harrogate.

the Regal (Associated British Cinemas), Cambridge Rd - see postcard and photo below. It was built on the site of the school of St Peter's Church in the 1930s:

and (still surviving), the Odeon, East Parade ("Oscar Deutch Entertains Our Nation". The Odeon Cinema in Harrogate is one of the few remaining custom-built Odeons. Designed by Harry Weedon and built in 1936 at a cost of 50,000 he cinema opened with the showing of "Where's Sally?" By coincidence, the Odeon in Scarborough also opened in the same year - I don't need to remind you that Charlie was born in Scarborough.)
You can see the Odeon on the Flash Earth web site.

Prior to this there was also The Empire Theatre in Cheltenham Mount - see the web sites of Cinema Treasures, Storylines or the Harrogate Theatres & Halls.

The St James and the Central are described by Malcolm Neesah in a Harrogate Advertiser article of February,2006. On 23 May,2007, another article by Malcom Neesam said that a hundred years ago (i.e. 1907) the newspaper reported "It is interesting to note that animated pictures were now being advertised twice daily, at the St. James' Hall in Cambridge Street, starting at 3pm and 8pm."

The web site of Tony Cheal includes an extract from the Harrogate Herald of 28 Febuary,1917, that was directed to Harrogate soldiers in the First World War:

"To Our Boys On Service
Dear Chaps,
It is Sunday morning, and I am again sitting at my office at the Dictaphone. Outside all is calm and quiet except the monotonous tum-tum of the military drum, for the boys in training are passing. It is milder and clearer than usual and decidedly spring-like. I have recovered from my influenza attack, but am feeling limp. Throughout my seedy period I have steadily pushed on with my work and so neglected nothing. But you know how it is when you do not seem to have enough energy and strength to concentrate your mind. I managed to get to the Picture House in Cambridge Street yesterday afternoon, for I was anxious to see the Battle of Ancre and the Tanks. It was an interesting show. We saw plainly the conditions under which you are working. I think the wet and mud impressed me most, after the cheerfulness which was observable on your faces even when you were labouring under the worst disadvantages. The high-water mark of enthusiasm was reached by the audience when the Yorkshires and the Worcesters came out of the trenches. I think everybody in that audience endeavoured to recognise faces of soldiers they knew. It was a difficult matter, for the dirt which you stand so well seemed to form a mask beyond which we could not penetrate for purposes of identification. I was glad I made the effort to go, but I should not have done so had I not had the encouraging company of my wife and my friend Charlie Knowles. I was glad to see the Picture House quite full, and I understand that at the four performances daily which have taken place during the week, the result has been the same.

Coming back from the show we passed what was once the Prospect stables, in Cambridge Street. Of late is has been and is now a garage. The face of the building seemed to be covered by an immense sign announcing that the "La Scala" Picture House would be built on that site. I understand the establishment is to be of the palatial order, and if the reports speak truly there will be a restaurant in connection with it. At any rate, it is a fine site, and I am glad to see that the company is justified in making this great development. When it will be put in hand I have not heard. The Empire, which you remember, still continues on its successful course, and that little place in Skipton Road, called the "Palace", I understand is likewise doing well.
W H Breare"




Prospect Square: Postcard publisher: Frith: Real Photo: This postcard was purchased in 1985 purporting to be a current view but it is clearly c1960.
The Regal, or in its latter days The ABC, is on the right and an enlarged view is included below; the large windows visible just above the lorry cab were on the rather grand staircase leading up to the Circle seating:

The ABC, or Regal as it was formerly known as, was demolished in 1983 and this photograph shows the work in progress. This cinema, like the Odeon, was an Art Deco period building and it was a great pity that demolition was permitted.

photo by Tony Eden

For more information about Harrogate cinemas see Johnnie Walker's web site, Yorkshire & Humberside Books. A short booklet about Harrogate area cinemas is available for purchase.

photo by David Pugh

The Odeon in mid-2007.




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