THEATRES & CINEMAS

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From the Keighley News 29 April 1961 
Keighley Losing a Theatre which many famous woman and men had played. 

The first theatre in Keighley, The Queens Theatre and Opera House, was open on 27 March 1880. It was originated and founded by Abraham Kershaw, who came to Keighley from Huddersfield, and followed the occupation of piano tuner with Barwick and Brothers, who at that time were in the market. 
At the time Keighley stood very low in the estimation of the theatrical profession and performances of the music hall type were the only ones to meet with any success. Legitimate and melodramatic companies generally preformed in the Drill Hall to a very small audience, and few repeated their visit. 
Music-hall entertainment was provided at the Britannia Hall, where soon after his arrival to Keighley Mr. Kershaw became the pianist. He acted in this capacity for many years before, with half a dozen others he joined in establishing a company for supplying the regular supply of entertainments at the Britannia Hall under the title of Grand National Concert Hall Co, Mr. Kershaw acted as manager. 
As the project did not meet with the anticipated success, the other partners withdrew, leaving Mr. Kershaw to carry on alone, which he did with considerable success over the next five or six years. 
PURCHASE OF LAND 
In 1876 he bought 700sq yards of land in Queen Street, planes were prepared by Mr. J B Bailey, and the theatre was opened at Easter 1880. 

Built of wood it had the ceiling divided into panels by ornamental beams, in the centre of each panel was a richly stenciled centre piece, and the theatre was illuminated by starlight's of six burners each. It had side balconies, a dress circle, spacious stage and refreshment rooms. 
The arrival of Keighley's first theatre was not meet with much enthusiasm. The initial performance took the form of a concert at which the principles were Mr. Charles Blagbro, Miss Emilie Norton, Mr Walker Singleton, and Mr. Denbigh Cooper, together with the Leeds Harmonic Union. 
The expenses of this entertainment in printing and salaries amounted to over £15 and to meet this was received £8.3s.6d. The performance of the Taverner's Opera Co. the following week. were "worthy of a larger audience" and as business continued to be bad, the first session came to an abrupt end after just seven weeks. 
POOR RESPONSE 
It was in August that the theatre reopened with a combination company for the first fortnight, which lost £70, and although Mr. Kershaw persisted for a while it became increasingly clear that Keighley people had no wish to be educated up to drama. The visit in May of Mr. Wilson Barrett's Company, which include well known names Y.C. Arnold, Miss Cissie Wood, Mr. John Speakman and Mr. Luigi Lablanche drew ridiculously low receipts of £23.10s.9d. in the week. Yet at Whitsuntide Sam Hague's Minstrels netted £125 in two performances. Mr. Kershaw then let the theatre to Mr. T.R. Nugent, who meet with no greater success. On regaining control Mr. Kershaw unsuccessfully appealed to the guardians in the reduction of the assessment of the building, whereupon he offered it to General Booth, of the Salvation Army. It was eventually used as a place of worship at a rental of £130 for the first year, and £150 for the second. The Army occupied it for two and a half years and after Mr. John Ingham of Bradford had used it as a musical hall for six months, it passed back to Mr. Kershaw early in 1885. That another Mr. Kershaw made another attempt to establish drama in the town, this time with more satisfactory results. When in December 1886, he decided to retire, endeavours were made to form a company to take over the theatre, but although good profits had been made in the previous two seasons the company was never floated. RECONSTRUCTION 
It was in July 1887, that the theatre passed into the control of Mr. Edward Darbey, actor and author of several plays. With the close of the winter season of 1888-9 the building was virtually pulled down and an improved structure erected and opened on August 26 1889. Striking changes where made to the inside and out, and the main purpose was to lower the pit and give direct entrance from the street. The frontage of the building was of stone, and the felted roof was coved by slates. Decorations in the lobby and staircase were of verdantique and jasper marble. The opening performance was by the Hansby Company in "Dorothy" . Even the new building soon became in adequate with the result that the new Queens Theatre, the third and present building was opened on the 3rd of February 1900, by the then Mayor Ald. H.C. Longsden. 
After the opening a concert was given by the Leeds Kentucky Amateur Minstrels in aid of the Keighley and District Patriotic and Hospital Funds. The architect of the new building, which at that time was one of the finest theatres in the North, was Mr. Frank Matcham. 
Mr. Kershaw was responsible for the building of the new theatre, and when his new partner, a Mr. Manning, wanted a less expensive scheme, Mr. Kershaw paid him out and resumed partnership with Mrs. Kershaw. 
After two years Messrs Caron and Granville took over and the theatre was at various times in the next few years owned by George Elphinstone, Carson and Kendal and George S Holmes before it was bought by the late Mr. Francis Laidler in 1913. 

FAMOUS ARTISTS 
Until it's closer the theatre belonged to Yorkshire Theatre Ltd. And many famous artists trod the boards. Charlie Chaplin and Gracie Fields made their early performances there, the former with Fred Karno and the later in "Mr. Tower of London". 
Another who appeared in repertory there before she came a star was Eileen Herlie, while the late Raymond Lovell went via repertory at Keighley to the London Stage, and Brenda De Banzie, who played opposite him in the same company, is now a film star. 
In the old days the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company paid annual visits, there was the O'Mara Opera Company and the Shakespearian companies that were brought by Frank Benson, Henry Baynton, and Forbs Robertson, Sybil Thorndike, Lewis Casson, Phyllis Neilson Terry, Bransby Williams, Sidney Fairbrother and Clemence Dane were amongst the stars to have appeared there. 
Musical plays and comedies were regularly presented by George Edwards, Robert Courtneidge and Macdonald and Young, whilst amongst he stars of the Variety stage were George Chirgwin, Henry Champion, Charles R. Whittle, Jack Pleasants, George Formby, Will Hay, Tommy Handley, Flanagan and Allen, Ted Ray, Max Miller, Dorathy Ward, Albert Whelan, and hundreds more. Among the famous who spoke from stage were General Booth, Salvation Army, and Horatio Bottomley. 
Managers who many people will remember were Jabez Wood, J. Austin Walshaw, Harry Leighton, Capt. Dunbar and William Greene, While for many years Walter Marston was the stage manager before he was succeeded by Earnest Paul, Jack Knowles and Harry Williams.

Keighley Hippodrome - Queens Theater, Town Field Gate. Closed 1956

Taken from, Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers: Still, it was a peculiar kind of worship, since Peg alternately doted on and abandoned the boy according to her own needs. She gave him whatever he wanted when she was there, but then she went off on tour and left him in the care of one of the aunts. Peg and Bill did bring Pete along with them sometimes, but their care of him was still sporadic, not to mention risk-prone. In the midst of a fierce Yorkshire winter, with Peg and Bill appearing in something called The Sideshow and the child being carted back and forth between a chilly rooming house and the Spartan dressing rooms of the Keighley Hippodrome, Pete developed bronchial pneumonia.

Arthur Lloyd, opening night at the Hippodrome  

Some of the people who played at the Hippodrome.
Billie Whitelaw 

Keighley Amateurs - K.A.O.D.S

Syncopating Sandy  did a marathon 24 hour piano playing at Queen’s Theatre, Keighley non stop.
Longest Playing Record AKA Piano Playing… 1959 British Pathé Ltd

Don't Be Shy Girls Taken from arthurlloyd.co.uk: We opened at the Hippodrome Keighley which is now a car park and the show was called Don't Be Shy Girls. The opening chorus started in a black out and the dancers sang whilst lighting up their faces with torches that they held in their hands and then they did a dance routine in full lighting. Keighley was one of the first theatres to dispense with a pit orchestra and we were accompanied by an Hammond organ, piano and drums that sounded a bit thin.
Dave was short of money and it was obvious. We had no scenery, I had to borrow what I could from the theatre which did not have much in the way of stock drapes and scenery, so the show looked to say the least a bit scrappy. We ran for two weeks in Keighley and business was not good.

Peggy Mount in 1944 played her first straight part, in Hindle Wakes at the Hippodrome, Keighley, before joining the Harry Hanson Court Players for three years. Peggy Mounts professional dramatic debut was Monday 13th August 1945 playing Ada in a production of Hindle Wakes at The Hippodrome Keighley. She remained with Harry Hansons Court Players who were regulars at the Hippodrome until her departure in 1947 when it seems she was replaced by Patricia Pilkington.

28th Feb 1889 The death of an actress, Isabella O'GRADY of Macclesfield from the effects of a puncture wound in the chest, received whilst playing in "Eviction" at Keighley's Queen's Theatre.
21st March 1889 A visit of the Manchester Opera Company to the Queen's Theatre, Keighley
1st Dec 1889 Great demonstration of railway servants in the Queen's Theatre, Keighley

Shirley Bassey was bottom of the bill at the Hippodrome Theatre Keighley week commencing 25 April 1955 for 6 nights. She was then 18. The rest of the artistes appearing that week seemed to have slipped into total obscurity such as Jack Storey the Lancashire comic. The Four Graham Brothers the atomic comics  & Bunty St. Clair (staircase dancer) among others. Entrance was 3/6d - 2/9d - 1/9d & 1/- (5p) in the Gods.

An article that appeared in Lytham St.Annes Express 6 September 1962 "Jack Storey commented, "I was a real pleasure to entertain someone from the old music-hall days. I only hope that someone will remember me when I an 76!". Jack Storey played Mother Goose in  Mother Goose at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford 1952/53. Jacks catch phrase was, "Well, yer do, don't yar?"

Roy Dotrice, an actor known for his Tony Award-winning Broadway performance in the revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Dora Bryan, comedy legend.

Alun Owen, best remembered by a wider audience for writing the screenplay of The Beatles' debut feature film A Hard Day's Night.

Albert Modley, variety entertainer and comedian, played many times in pantomime at the Alhambra in Bradford. albertmodley.co.uk

Sybil Thorndike, Dame Agnes Sybil Thorndike, she became better known as an actress on the stage, but first trained as a classical pianist. sybilthorndikescrapbook

Patricia Pilkington, who would later change her name to Patricia Phoenix.

Britannia Hall
 

Built by the New Britannia Lodge of Oddfellows in 1853 


Saturday 9th October 1858. The Great Keighley Shaving Match was held in the Brittannia Hall. 
Professor Carrodus shaving 70 men in 60 minutes, Professor J T Carrodus of High Street shaved seventy men in sixty minutes before a paying audience accompanied by one of his children playing classical pieces on the flute. 
Professor Carrodus' elder son who was nick named "The Swiss Boy" was one of the leading musicians of his day There is a commemorative plaque on the stairs of Keighley library. 
He was orchestra leader at Convent garden for many years.

1870 it became a music hall run by Abraham Kershaw who would later open the Hippodrome. 


It had many uses over time, Salvation Army citadel, dance hall, especially during the wars. Storage & snooker hall.

The following is reproduced from The Era newspaper 2 March 1873. 
It is an advertisement from a musical duo seeking bookings: 
SAM COLEMAN and WILL DIAMOND
The celebrated American Comedians. Immense hit with Colemans new songs and Diamond's Banjo & Bones solos. Always something new. Fresh Weases. 
Theatre of Varieties Stafford March 10th. At liberty March 24th. 
All letters and telegrams for terms address to Maurice de Frece our Agent 1 Murray St Liverpool. 
PS. Keighley on no account.

Insurance Man, an Alan Bennett film, about Franz Kafka as a young man. Scenes were filmed in a tannery in Keighley. 

Keighley used to have  eight cinemas, Russell Street - Market Street - Oxford Hall - Cosy Corner, Low Street. -- Palace, Low Street - Picture House, North Street - Regent, North Street, where the Town Hall Livery Stables used to be. -  The Ritz/ABC Cinema, Alice Street In 1950 these were the prices being charged for admission at the cinemas and theater:  Cosy Corner 5d.  7d. 9d.  1/-. Hippodrome 9d to 3/-. Oxford, stalls 1/- circle 1/3d Saturday:  stalls 1/5d circle 1/9d Palace 1/3d 2/3d Booked seats 1/6d 2/9d Regent 1/3d 2/3d Ritz 1/3d 1/9d 2/3d 2/9d 
ABC / RITZ


The last & largest to be built in the town. It underwent numerous tests for it's fire proof properties. Opened Monday 28th February 1938. The organ as removed in  either 1964 or 1965 and taken to Malsis School. Closed 2nd February 1974. 1976 the Keighley Betting & Gaming Committee granted a licence for a bingo club run by E.M.I. 
cinematreasures.org

 

Cosy (Flea Pit) Low Street. 

Alfred Firth converted Weatherheads Sale room in 1912 into the Cosy Cinema. Sound was installed in 1930. Cinemascope was installed in 1954. Closed 1957

 

The Theatre De Luxe in Market Street was opened by John Watson of Keighley two days before the Cavendish Street enterprise on 8th December 1910. This became the Empire during 1920. reopend in 1921 as the Market Cinema.

Typical cinema interior 

Regent

Regent open in 1920. It was the first cinema to open on a Sunday and the first event was 23rd March 1947. Closed Saturday  5th December 1964, re opened the following Thursday as Star Bingo & Social Club. Closed 1969, left empty for a few years until 1973 when it was once more open for bingo, but closed again. In 1976 E.M.I applied to re open for bingo, but the application as refused due to objections from Oxford & Cavendish. It then became a home decorating centre, then in 1983 opened as Champers nightclub. Closed 1996. Purchased by Honeycomb Leisure who opened it as 101 Club.  

 

Palace Pictures

Russell Street, Palace Pictures, Premier Pictures Palace, Russell Street Cinema.
Opened on the 27th December 1909, closed May 1924. 

Oxford Hall

Situated over a drapers shop, as meant to open July 1911 but there were delays so opened 7th August. Shopkeepers Fred & Clara Simpson formed the Imperial Picture Palace Company. They lived on Malsis Road & made films in their home to show at the cinema. The Hall closed 1914. 
The Hall reopened August 1914, the manager was Mr L Phillips.
1929 fitted with an Harrisons sound system, later replaced by Western Electric.
By 1935 it was under the same management as The Picture House on North Street. Both of these were taken over by the Essoldo group Nov 1954. Closed 13 June 1959. 
Tom Leigton bought it and opened it as a bingo hall in 1961. Badly damaged by fire 20th November 1973 but continued for a few more years & as still operating as a bingo hall in 1995.
 

Picture Palace, Cavendish Street

This eventually became known as the Palace & much later the Cavendish Cinema.

Walter Pallister had also opened the  Picture Palace in Russell Street, he was also responsible for the Picture Palace in Cavendish Street opened 10th December 1910. There was a  fire in 1911. Closed in 1952, reopened 1953 

 

Keighley Picture House

 

Keighley Picture House re opened July 1996 showing the film "Mission Impossible"

itpworld.wordpress - Keighley Picture House