Shipley & Baildon Cinemas


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Shipley - Where is it?
Situated on the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal just 3 miles northwest of Bradford and within a few minutes drive to the beautiful and picturesque Shipley Glen and Baildon Moor. In the heyday of cinemas it was an Urban District with its own Council and a prosperous small town with wool textiles and engineering as the main employers. The population in, for example, 1950 was around 32,500 and supported four cinemas.

Adjoining (and, indeed, part of) Shipley to the west is Saltaire - the model village which takes its name from its founder Titus Salt (later Sir Titus Salt, 1803-1876) and the nearby River Aire. Its well planned streets are on the grid system and the unique architecture of its houses built for the employees of Salt's Mill then very much a thriving concern. The village of Saltaire has recently achieved the status of a World Heritage Site and is a popular tourist attraction.

One and a half miles north of Shipley is Baildon rising up the hillside to the open moors. Baildon also had its own Urban District Council and prided itself on its much favoured residential location and picturesque village with a population in 1950 of 10,100 and supporting one cinema.

Nowadays in 2004, Shipley, Saltaire and Baildon are absorbed into the giant sprawling Metropolitan District of Bradford and have largely lost their original individual identities.


Start of Cinema History in Shipley
The cinema history of Shipley, Saltaire and Baildon is all tied together from the very start.

A former Bradford engineer and later licensee of the Malt Shovel public house in Baildon, Sam Wilson (1855-1939) had the brainwave of providing amusements on the local beauty spot of Shipley Glen (on the edge of Baildon Moor) so he built the Glen Tramway in 1895 to convey passengers from Saltaire to the Glen. The tramway still operates today at weekends and Bank Holidays. Wilson also created a spectacular Toboggan Run which came to an abrupt end in 1900 following an accident.

Wilson's interest in the "cinematograph" brought him into contact with Frank Dickinson of Leeds who supplied electrical equipment for travelling fairgrounds. Around 1901 Dickinson demonstrated a Bioscope machine by projecting stills and moving pictures in a large marquee. Sam Wilson was so fascinated that he bought the entire show with tent, screen, seats, Bioscope, slides and films and became known as Wilson's Travelling Cinema touring the surrounding villages.

Wilson also booked the Saltaire Institute (now known as the Victoria Hall) for an indoor showing and tried without success to hire the splendid hall for a season of cinema. Wilson then acquired a site for his marquee cinema adjacent to the Branch Hotel in Bradford Road, Shipley and in 1906 he started a season of concert party entertainment mixed with animated pictures.

This tent enterprise was advertised as "The Shipley Pavilion" and he was joined by one Sidney Carter of New Century Pictures Company. Eventually Wilson left the cinema trade to revert back to his beloved Glen Tramway whilst Sydney Carter expanded his cinema interests by building the Prince's Hall Picture House on the same Bradford Road site.


Early Cinema in Baildon
The first public performance in Baildon of the 'Kinematograph' machine made by J.H Rigg of Leeds can be traced back to 1897 when a local promoter, Walter Bentley, toured with Rigg and his new 'contraption' and gave a performance on Friday 2nd October 1897 in the Tong Park Weslyan Chapel in lower Baildon. Bentley and Rigg were two well known entertainers having previously given about 100 of these 'kinematograph' exhibitions in the Bradford Mechanics Institute and other places. This show at Baildon was to be a turning point in their career for it is recorded that . . .
"one of the films showing the Switchback at Shipley Glen stuck in the apparatus and was fired by the heat. The burning material fell into the bag amongst the other films and ignited these also. Bentley and Rigg at once turned off the gas at the cylinder. Although no further danger the audience was thrown into a state of considerable excitement and a rush was made to the side door. A girl was slightly burnt about the face and some persons received bruises . . . several women fainted. The chapel was not damaged in the slightest."

Following this incident J.H Rigg did not develop his projector any further and he joined the family firm of Rigg's Nurseries and Seedsmen on nearby Shipley Glen. Walter Bentley stayed in the entertainment business and later influenced Ben Popplewell to take over the Queen's Palace Theatre in Shipley to run as a music hall with pictures and variety. It was another twenty years before Baildon was to see projected films again at its new picture house.


The Cinema that never was!
Things might have been different in this history if a proposal for a new picture house had gone ahead in Windhill and less than a mile to the east of Shipley centre for it seems that on 2nd July 1920 the Shipley Times & Express reported under the heading Proposed Picture Hall . . .
"The Highways & Building Committee of the Shipley Urban District Council have before them an application from the architect whose plans for the erection of a Picture House in Leeds Road, Windhill, have been approved. The Committee were of the opinion that the building was a luxury building and that the class of work should not be proceeded with until the houses so urgently required at the present time had been erected and it was decided on the proposition of Councillor F. Fearnley Rhodes to recommend the Council serve notice under the Housing (additional Powers) Act that the Picture House be deferred for six months".
The cinema was never built and nothing further was heard of the plans. Less than two years later, F. Fearnley Rhodes had become Chairman of Shipley UDC and in June 1922 he accompanied the Lord Mayor of Bradford at the opening of the Saltaire Picture House built less than a mile to the west of Shipley town centre. Windhill had thus lost out in the blossoming cinema market.


A.S Hyde Era of Shipley Cinemas
A prominent local man, Arthur Shacklock Hyde (1900-1972) of Baildon, an accountant by profession with Luxton, Hyde & Winfield in Shipley, was to come on to the cinema scene in 1928 by getting involved with Joe Holmes at the Queen's Palace Theatre in Shipley. Hyde was instrumental in bringing silent films to the theatre which had previously only shown animations or film "shorts". In 1929 he took over control of the Queen's Palace "just for fun" as he described it in a newspaper interview.

"Shack" Hyde, as he was widely known, transformed the old theatre into the Shipley Picture House with a Grand Re-Opening in 1929 with twice-nightly "Kine-Variety". He then went on to concentrate on this new business as a director and manager and taking over the Shipley Picture House Company.

Hyde formed or took control of many subsidiary companies as his cinema empire grew culminating in the Glenroyal Cinema Company. All were based in first floor offices in Central Chambers at 21a Briggate, Shipley (now occupied by Henry Smith's, mens outfitters) opposite which he had built his flagship Glenroyal. His cinemas numbered 12 in the late 1940's and early 1950's and were collectively known in the trade as the A.S Hyde Circuit comprising:

  •   Glenroyal, Shipley. (Glenroyal Cinema Co Ltd)A.S Hyde
  •   Pavilion de Luxe, Shipley. (Shipley Pavilion Ltd)
  •   Prince's Hall, Shipley. (P.H Entertainments)
  •   Picture House, Baildon. (Baildon Cinema Co)
  •   Arcadian, Bradford. (Glenroyal Cinema [Bradford] Ltd)
  •   Coliseum, Bradford. (Coliseum Bradford Ltd)
  •   Coronet, Bradford. (Coronet Bradford Ltd)
  •   Elite, Bradford. (C & H Cinemas Ltd)
  •   Glenroyal, Horsforth, Leeds. (Glenroyal Cinema Co Ltd)
  •   Empire, Batley. (Batley Theatre & Opera House Ltd)
  •   Regent, Batley. (Regent Pictures [Batley] Ltd)
  •   Victoria, Burley-in-Wharfedale. (Victoria Burley Ltd)

There is also record of other related companies, eg Shipley Picture House Co (Holdings) Ltd and Glenroyal Cinema (Investments) Ltd.

Shack Hyde was Chairman for four years (1954-58) of the Bradford & District Branch of the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association and a Trustee and Delegate (since 1938) to the Association's General Council along with Tom Armitage and Leonard Kitchen of Hibbert's Pictures. He was also on the Board of Management of the Cinematograph Trade Benevolent Fund and locally he was also a director of Hibbert's Pictures in Bradford and a Governor and Board Chairman of the Sir Titus Salt Hospital in Saltaire.

Keen to be involved in new ventures in the wider cinema scene he and several of his companies invested in the new Monarch Film Productions Ltd run by William Gell, who had earlier formed the Monarch Film Corporation Ltd, so supporting British film production in those crucial post-war years.


Company Diversification
The cinema companies headed by Shack Hyde were supported by prominent local business men, principally they included Clifford Cawthorne of Cawthorne's Yeast, and local Liberal councillor, Herbert Holden a local builder, John Woodhead a wholesale grocer and Gilbert Fell a grocer of Briggate. Whilst Tom Wooding of Baildon, once an estates manager for a building company which built Ferniehurst and Sandal housing estates in Baildon, was the Company Secretary during the 1940's and 1950's. His wife, Marie Wooding, became personal Secretary to Shack Hyde.

In 1946 the cinema group purchased for 12,000GBP Bankfield, a Tudor character house with Elizabethan features built in 1848 to the designs of Andrews & Delauney the Bradford Architects for William Murgatroyd, a former Lord Mayor of Bradford. During the Second World War Bankfield housed evacuees from the South London Gipsy Hill Girls Training College. Hyde converted the house into the Bankfield Hotel at Cottingley under the company name of Bankfield Residential Hotel Company and later selling it to the Thomas Ramsden Brewery of Halifax. Tom Wooding was also the licensee and Company Secretary at the Bankfield Hotel. The hotel, now much enlarged, continues successfully today as part of the Ramada Jarvis national chain. Other members of the Hyde family had shops or business interests in the area and collectively they had a lot of business power in Shipley. Away from Shipley, the cinema group also controlled the Crown Hotel in Horton-in-Ribblesdale following the success of its Bankfield operation.


Building New Cinemas
As well as taking over existing picture houses, Shack Hyde will be remembered for creating three new super-cinemas each in a strategic location and of quite innovative design incorporating the latest features and equipment. The first was his flagship of the group, the Glenroyal in Shipley (1100 seats) in 1932 followed by another also named Glenroyal in New Road Side at Horsforth in 1937 with 900 seats, closed in 1964, converted into a supermarket and now a curtain fabric warehouse. The third (and last) super-cinema was to be the Arcadian at Lidget Green in 1940 (1000 seats) of which there is no longer any trace despite the long theatrical and cinema history of the site.


Second World War
The war was to have a dramatic effect on cinemas (also theatres and dance halls) and notices appeared locally to the effect . . .

"Week commencing Monday 4th September 1939.
In accordance with Home Office instructions,
all Theatres, Cinemas and Dance Halls are
closed until further notice."

The following Saturday, 9th September 1939, the Government lifted the ban and the four Shipley cinemas (Glenroyal, Pavilion de Luxe, Prince's Hall and Saltaire P.H.) began operating again from 2.00pm to 10.00pm. The 10.00pm finish was compulsory in order to comply with blackout regulations. A man had to be posted outside to notify the management of any air-raid warning and there must be sufficient staff to deal with the audiences and evacuation. At the Glenroyal, the car-parking facilities were abandoned.

However in Bradford, the Chief Constable (Mr T. Rawson) stated that football grounds, theatres and cinemas would remain closed as Bradford was "an evacuation area". By Friday 15th September 1939 some Bradford cinemas had re-opened and by the following Monday 18th September all were back in operation. Some cinemas had notices insisting "No patron will be admitted without a gas mask".

Thereafter cinemas enjoyed regular full houses as people looked for some enjoyment to lift the gloom of those literally dark wartime years. The blackout meant no illuminated signs or displays or even spillage of light from inside and, of course, there were no street lights either.


Decline and Fall
By February 1964 ten of the twelve cinemas of the A.S Hyde Circuit had closed and the remaining two (Prince's Hall, Shipley and Elite, Bradford) were now under different (Star Group) ownership.

In a newspaper interview Shack Hyde said: "I think the end has come for the suburban cinema. It is sad but inevitable. Like the rest they have just folded up. I don't intend starting out again. All the main shows are controlled by the big combines these days."

Privately, Hyde was very unhappy about the dominance of J. Arthur Rank and his huge Odeon and Gaumont chains making it difficult for independent exhibitors to rent the best films. The Entertainment Tax which grew out of the War Tax levied during the First World War presented an increasing burden to cinema owners. Shack Hyde fought for years to get the tax withdrawn. There were times when a cinema could make more money from selling ice cream than from the film. Eventually the tax was abolished in 1960 but too late for those cinemas which had closed.

It was obvious that the days of the war-time boom were long past but it was television in the mid/late 1950's which dealt a blow from which the cinema industry never recovered.

The A.S Hyde Circuit had been more successful than many small independent companies and "it was not falling attendances but more a problem that rowdies and hooligans got out of control and it is impossible to control them . . ." continued Hyde. Teddy Boys disrupted performances and became a nuisance outside the cinemas.

This is in sharp contrast to what Shack Hyde said thirty years earlier at the opening of his showpiece Glenroyal in Shipley: "I am anxious that you shall regard the Glenroyal as your cinema and make it a pleasure to attend". How times had changed. An exciting era of local cinemas had come to an end.

Of all the people involved, the most prominent name on the local cinema scene was always that of Shack Hyde who clearly was an astute businessman and very forward thinking. Even now in 2004 his name is still quoted as part of the region's cinema history. Whilst his cinemas dominated Shipley and Baildon, they did each offer a different choice and character for the cinemagoer. Only the Saltaire PH/Gaumont offered a real alternative as part of a national chain.

There is still much interest in these long gone picture houses and maybe these notes based on documented and reported facts will help readers jog their memories and recall many happy anecdotal stories of their visits to these palaces of cinematic entertainment.

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


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