Glenroyal Cinema

Glenroyal Cinema
Briggate, Shipley.

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Glenroyal Cinema masthead
The Shipley Picture House Company (later to become Glenroyal Cinema Company) built this showpiece super-cinema, the 1200-seater Glenroyal in a prime position in Briggate and only a few yards away from the old and now defunct Shipley Picture House. It was the idea of Shack Hyde as this was to become the flagship of his A.S Hyde Circuit and built at a cost of 25,000 GBP with over seventy percent of the work done by local labour and materials supplied by local tradesmen. Click here for a mini-biography of Shack Hyde and an overview of his Companies.

The Exterior
The site of the new Theatre (as it was described by the Company) adjacent to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal presented many difficulties to be overcome by the general contractor Harry Chippindale who was then building houses off West Lane in Baildon. The Foundation Stone was laid in March 1932 by Councillor Clifford Cawthorne, the retiring Chairman of Shipley Urban District Council and a director of the new cinema company.

Laying Foundation Stone of new Glenroyal

Photograph shows Clifford Cawthorne laying the Foundation Stone.
At the back: second left is Shack Hyde; third left Harry Chippindale; sixth left Mrs Edith Hyde.
Extreme right John Woodhead (director); fourth from right at back Ernest Dawson (architect).

The building was designed by the Manchester architect Ernest Dawson, LRIBA, FSI, AMSA, originally from nearby Windhill who also designed and owned the Western Cinema in Park Road, Bradford.
The result was a building of singularly beautiful design yet eminently practical and it still stands in very good condition today. The front elevation is of Rustic Brick and Cream Terra Cotta faience tiling which was illuminated with floodlights. The building bricks and sanitary pipes were made by Wrose Hill Fireclay Co Ltd a mile away in Carr Lane, Windhill with plumbing by Harry Firth of Shipley. The front facade 130 feet long with a wrought iron and glass canopy the full length. This massive frontage also housed five self contained small shop units plus a sweets/tobacco shop to the right of the cinema entrance with access both outside from Briggate and from within the cinema foyer.

Artists impression of new Glenroyal Cinema

What wasn't obvious from the road is that there is a large roomy cellar under the cinema almost down to the level of the Leeds-Liverpool canal which runs at the rear of the building. This extra space provides for storage and the heating boiler. The second floor above the balcony accommodated the spacious projection room, rewind room and stores - quite different to the small cramped conditions of some of the older cinemas.


Art Deco Interior
The entrance hall had gold plastic walls and a Mother-of-Pearl dome ceiling; magnificent Spanish mahogany doors which gave a hint of the beauty to follow within. A "complete shop" managed by a Mrs W. Harrison of Briggate provided sweets/chocolates and tobacco. The paybox had the latest automatic ticket issuing machine.

The wide central stairway lead directly to the balcony foyer magnificently carpeted with thick Wilton carpet specially woven by Firth's of Brighouse for the Glenroyal and having been supplied and fitted by Alfred Linley & Sons of Windhill. For three decades patrons will have been puzzled by the illuminated red and black Buddha statue on the staircase. I can now reveal the Buddha was bought at an auction by Shack Hyde who found it attractive and adopted it as a mascot. It seems that more Buddhas appeared at other cinemas in his expanding circuit - some were on public display and others were in offices.

From the Balcony (or Circle if you prefer) which seated 350 one realised the immensity and beauty of the building and a decorative scheme of green, and gold to "give an impression of space and life which will enable the mind of the patron to relax into a world of pleasurable imagination". Matched by innovative specially designed lighting it would be just too simple to call it art deco. The joint use of open and concealed lighting added considerably to the richness of the decorations. Over four miles of cable and tubing had been used in the lighting installation by Gordon Binns of Shipley. The balcony was of reinforced concrete and steel capable of withstanding 18 tons dead weight placed on its weakest point.

The luxury seats upholstered in Firth's moquette were from Trinity Chair Works of Scarborough. A number of settees to hold two patrons had been installed and "should prove a popular innovation, the additional comfort of these being very marked".

The 30-feet wide proscenium stage accommodating the screen of the (then) latest 4:3 aspect ratio (Academy format) and speakers and was fronted by curtains (drapery) with the latest W.J Furse motorised control and multicoloured lighting by Falk Stadelmann & Co Ltd. A special sound absorbing ceiling was installed and claimed to be the finest in the country which created considerable interest in architectural circles having been designed by the architects and erected by local joiners J. Hobson & Sons of Windhill. The stalls floor has a gradient (rake) of 1 in 12 allowing easy and perfect vision from all parts.

Glenroyal interior, 1932

An unusual feature of the auditorium were five large windows facing south and overlooking Briggate each with internal geared shutters which could be opened to allow "the entire building to be flooded with sunlight when the opportunity occurs". This along with the low-pressure hot water type air heating system and powerful extraction fans ensured "the atmosphere of the Glenroyal will always be clean and healthy".
Heating and ventilating systems were installed by Harry Firth and claimed that . . .

"The foul air of the building is drawn through six ducts, and the incoming air is drawn in and warmed before passing into the general atmosphere".


Projection Room
As this was 1932 and "talkies" were now well established, the Glenroyal was fitted with the American designed Western Electric Sound System The decision to install this system followed a lengthy investigation in which the Directors visited over sixty cinemas to hear various makes of talkie apparatus under working conditions before making their final commitment.

Western Electric 'wide range' soundboxes were fitted to the latest Kalee (from A. Kershaw & Sons of Leeds) rear shutter projectors fitted with high intensity arcs to ensure a brilliantly illuminated picture. The operating box was, in fact, a suite of rooms for rewind, rectifiers etc. at the rear of the auditorium and high above the balcony and was completely isolated from the rest of the building by a 14-inch thick wall and a separate roof. As the nitrate film material in those days was highly flammable there was always the risk of fire but the Glenroyal design ensured no danger of spreading to the main auditorium.
This was indeed the last word in cinema design and one of which Shipley could be proud.


Civic Opening
The "Glen" part of the name comes from Shipley Glen, a local beauty spot. The name was chosen as the result of a local competition to find an appropriate name for this flagship of the A.S Hyde Circuit. It was a cinema which boasted, quite rightly, about the quality of its picture and sound, comfort of its seats (including double "love" seats) and its ventilation.

The opening on Monday 5th September 1932 at 2.30pm was by Councillor Gordon Waddilove, JP, the new incoming Chairman of Shipley Urban District Council followed by the film:

"Emma" - 1932 USA B/W comedy/drama 72 mins.
Starring Marie Dresler, Richard Cromwell and Myrna Loy.
Plus "a laughable comedy" together with a live Jazz Band performance and a soloist.

It was a proud day for Shack Hyde who was also its first manager. The Shipley Times & Express weekly newspaper advertised the Glenroyal as "The Perfect Cinema" which also had the unique "Telephone No 1". Actually that telephone number had been allocated some years earlier to the old Queen's Palace Theatre later to become Shipley Picture House and transferred by Shack Hyde's company to the new Glenroyal when he closed Shipley PH the previous month.

A year later in September 1933 the Glenroyal advertised:

"Our First Birthday - Unique birthday offer . . . each Patron is invited to bring a friend at our expense".

This was long before the 'Two for the Price of One' or 'Buy One Get One Free' selling gimmicks.


Hammond Organ
In 1936 a 2-manual Hammond "Lafleur" electronic organ (supplied by J.R Lafleur & Son of London) was installed centrally in front of the stage. The organ could rise and lower on an a motorised lift and was played initially by a William Lupton Brook Jnr (son of Lupton Brook of the famous Shipley footware emporium) on special occasions. For less important performances a local lady organist Nellie Merrall obliged. The organ continued to be played regularly until the cinema closed.

Wm. Lupton Brook

It was the American Laurens Hammond who invented the Hammond electronic organ in 1935 and his very first Model A was purchased by Henry Ford of Ford Motors and the second by George Gershwin. Unlike pipe organs in churches and cinemas, the Chicago made Hammond organ was electro-mechanical with harmonic tonebar registration capable of producing millions of sounds and effects. J.R. Lafleur & Son (later to taken over by Boosey & Hawkes) imported a small number of Hammond organs in the period 1935 to the outbreak of war in 1939. The first two imported were purchased by Robin "Organ-grinder" Richmond and a later one by the BBC.

With such distinguished support for the revolutionary Hammond organ, it was very forward thinking of Shack Hyde to appreciate the potential of this new invention and to purchase one for his flagship Glenroyal cinema in 1936. Positioned centrally in front and below the proscenium stage, its white wood cabinet case was emphasised further by the construction of a large white casing in rectangular art-deco design like bookends at either side of the organ console and bathed in coloured light. The whole effect made it appear the organist was playing a very much larger instrument. This same concept was also used by Wurlitzer, Compton and Conacher for their pipe organs in other cinemas.


Widescreen Era
In 1953 a "new wide dimension screen" was installed and the seating capacity reduced slightly by removing some front row seats due to the large screen size. On Monday 22nd June 1953 the Glenroyal proudly advertised:

"A Queen is Crowned" - 1953 UK Colour 79 mins.
Documentary coverage of the Coronation of Elizabeth II.
(An American film database quotes the cast list as being . . .
Laurence Olivier as the Narrator
The Queen as herself
Prince Philip as himself . . . . Hmm! really!)
The supporting film was:
"Strange Cargo" - 1940 USA B/W 113 mins.
Starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable.

The advertisement continued . . .

"Flash! For the first time in Yorkshire this film will be
shown on the Giant Panoramic Wonder Screen"

Certainly this was the very first installation of the new generation of wide curved screens in the Bradford/Shipley area and probably in Yorkshire.


Season of 3-Dimension
The Glenroyal was the first cinema in the area (after the Ritz in Bradford) to show 3-Dimensional films - the latest craze from the USA with images appearing to jump out at you. On Sunday 17th January 1954 it advertised:

"The Sensational 3-Dimensional House of Wax - 1953 USA Warnercolor 3D
Starring Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy and Phyllis Kirkman.
Important: This film cannot be seen without special glasses.
These are on sale at the cinema at 6d per pair.
Showing on the New Wide Screen."

This was followed on Sunday 14th March, 1954 with another Warner all action 3-d epic:

"Charge at Feather River" - 1953 USA Warnercolor 95mins 3D
Starring Guy Madison, Frank Lovejoy and Vera Miles.

A month later on Sunday 18th April 1954 it was:

"Fort Ti" - 1953 USA Technicolor 73mins 3D
Starring George Montgomery Joan Vohs and Irving Bacon.
along with:
"Spooks" - 1953 USA B/W 16mins 3D
Staring 3-Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Shemp Howard)
Also in 3-Dimensions for the first time.

The 3-D novelty soon faded as audiences disliked the special glasses. The films were expensive to show as they required two projectors to be run simultaneously in synchronisation; this used extra carbons for the arcs and required an interval for change of reels.


Another new wide screen format "CinemaScope" based on "optically squeezed" images on standard 35mm film and "expanded" by a special anamorphic lens on the projector to provide an exceptionally wide picture. The Glenroyal showed CinemaScope on Sunday 2nd January 1955 with:

"Lucky Me" - 1954 USA Warnercolor 100mins.
Starring Doris Day, Robert Cummings and Phil Silvers.

This was the first musical to be shot in CinemaScope.

Surprisingly, despite being Shipley's No 1 cinema, it was not the first in the town to show CinemaScope films - that honour went to another of Shack Hyde's cinemas, the Prince's Hall which showed "The Robe" two months earlier in November 1954.


The End of Cinema
The Glenroyal closed as a cinema on Saturday 8th December 1962 with the final films:

"The Loudest Whisper" - USA 1961 B/W 107 mins.
Starring Audrey Hepburn, Shirley Maclaine and James Garner.
"Gun Street" - USA 1961 B/W 67 mins.
Starring James Brown, Jean Willes and John Clarke.

The Hammond Lafleur organ was removed and transferred to the nearby Woodend Working Men's Club to be played by the same lady organist Nellie Merrall (known locally as "our Nellie" from Windhill) who had entertained cinemagoers over the years..

The building was now owned by Eckhart's Star Cinemas of Leeds who converted it into the Glen Casino, with manager Vincent Gallagher, for bingo together with "Fast, Exciting, Thrilling legalite Roulette direct from the Continent" opening on Thursday 8th January 1963. Star retained the Glen part of the name though that was later changed to EMI Bingo and Social Club in 1974 and lasted until the premises closed in 1982. A suspended ceiling was put in at front circle level right across to the stage area.

Former Glenroyal Cinema

A new owner re-opened the premises this time as Walkers Bingo and in 1990 the freehold building was bought by King's Leisure and it's still in use today as King's Bingo and Social Club. I'm assured by the proprietor that the upstairs Circle area is left untouched and just as it was when the cinema closed - even the seating is still there making it a time capsule of that 1930's art-deco design of cinema. The current owner tells me there is a lady ghost frequently seen and felt (rush of cold air) hurrying towards the front where the screen used to be. Was this ghost a relic transferred from the old Queen's Palace Theatre (Shipley Picture House) building along with other fittings, I wonder?


Glenroyal in Parliament!
The official reports of debates in Parliament are recorded in Hansard and published by HM Stationary Office. On Monday 16th November 1998 in one such debate, the Honourable Member for Great Grimsby, Austin Mitchell, a former Yorkshire TV presenter and born in Baildon did utter:

"We should therefore decide on the basis of the argument, but the argument has been extremely confusing for someone like me. I always admired the Liberals as men and women of principle - a party of principle - but after admiring them for that for 18 years, it is terrifying to see how cheap they come now. We used to say in the back row of the Glenroyal Cinema in Shipley that some girls were easy and some girls were not. The Liberals are easy: a few crumbs from the table of power, and they will throw away their principles on terrorist legislation, on proportional representation and on open lists. That is cheap."

This might have been a frivolous comment but it is probably the only time that a Shipley (or Bradford) cinema was ever mentioned in the House of Commons and officially recorded in Hansard for posterity. The full report of the debate can be found by clicking here which will lead to the UK Parliamentary website.


Into the 21st Century
During late 2003, the prominent position and the height of the old Glenroyal building had not escaped the attention of mobile phone and communication companies who have just added a tubular steel safety railing on the roof above the former projection room and large antennae masts have appeared.

With so much of the original features of the Glenroyal still in existence it must surely be possible to restore it to its former glory. Such restoration has been done successfully in other much older cinema halls around Yorkshire. All that is needed is someone with the vision and business acumen of the late Shack Hyde to bring back some character, atmosphere and individuality that is sadly lacking from today's multiplex cinemas.

Copyright ©2003, Colin Sutton.
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.


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