Shipley Picture House

Shipley Picture House
Briggate, Shipley.

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Prominently sited next to the (now gone) Fleece Hotel (formerly the Fleece Inn and built after the theatre) and close to the junction at Fox Corner (named after the old Fox & Hounds public house) with Otley Road.


Early Theatre History
The Queen's Palace Theatre was built on the site of the former Temperance Coffee Palace from where the Palace part of the name originates. The earlier Coffee Palace was part of the late 19th century middle class temperance movement to curb alcohol consumption by the working class folk. Prior to this it had been the Shipley Primitive Methodist Chapel on the site.

Temperance Coffee Palace

Proprietors of the new theatre were Ben Popplewell who also became involved with the Alfresco Pavilion (concert party theatre) in Frizinghall and Ralph Illingworth previously involved at the St George's Hall in Bradford. Illingworth was to be General Manager.

The local newspaper was quick to point out that the theatre in such experienced hands "ensured the people of Shipley that the Theatre would be conducted on proper and up-to-date lines". It was to have a stalls, circle and gallery with all seats "having an uninterrupted view of the stage, the decorations were of good taste and the Theatre lit by electricity". The proscenium opening was 18 feet wide with a 14 feet deep stage and four dressing rooms.


Theatre Opening
On Monday 21st October 1907 the Queen's Palace Theatre opened with a variety performance with local comedian Fred Casburn topping the bill. The local advertising proclaimed it as . . .

"The Prettiest Theatre in Yorkshire.
Picture Performances on Saturdays at 2.30pm."

These animated pictures were to become a regular feature and later to take over at the theatre. When the Shipley telephone exchange was set up the Queen's Palace was given the phone number "1".

Queen's Palace Theatre

Animated Pictures Popular
By January 1908 the animated pictures were advertised as prominently as the live variety acts on the stage, for example . . .

"Variety and the 'Queenograph' in up-to-date animated pictures.
Picture Matinée every Saturday at 2.30pm.
Every child receives a present."

After a summer closure, it opened again on Monday 3rd August 1908 with . . .
"The Monarch Animated Picture Company
in addition to a Grand Series of Pictures,
have engaged at Great Expense - Colin and Irene,
England's Premier Exponents of Thought Transmission,
Second Sight and Mental Telegraphy etc.
La Belle Rosa - solo instrumentalist".

The following week, Monday 10th August 1908 on stage was . . .

"The Great Indian Box Trick"
Plus a lengthy programme of latest, brightest and best the World produce in Animated Photography.


New Owners - More Pictures
In 1912 Ben Popplewell moved to Scotland and the company he had formed, Central Theatres Ltd, now had Wilberforce Turner as Managing Director and Ralph Illingworth still as General Manager. The company was sold to the newly formed Shipley Picture House Company who installed now equipment to promote more "Pictures and Variety".

In those early days it was "Panto, Plays, Variety plus all the latest Photo-Plays with operator H. Greenwood and Musical Director R.D Chew". As before, the special 'Picture Matinées' continued on Saturday afternoons.


Rebuilding as a Cinema
The Queen's Palace Theatre closed in early 1914 for major rebuilding, enlargement and conversion to a picture house to meet the requirements of the Cinematograph Act. The auditorium was enlarged along with new carpets and decorations plus new seating for 900 persons. The architects and surveyors for the conversion were Empsall & Clarkson, then of 7 Exchange in Bradford.


Reopens as Shipley Picture House
With the entrepreneur Joe Holmes (also involved with the Hippodrome in Bradford and later to pioneer the Baildon Picture House) at the helm, it was to reopen as the Shipley Picture House amidst much local publicity . . .

Reserve your earnings for Monday 13th December 1915 for the Grand Opening of the Shipley Picture House. Absolutely the last word in cinemas. Every degree of Comfort.
Monday/Tueday/Wednesday . . .
Exclusive Masterpiece in Five Acts by Mrs Elizabeth Craik.
"John Halifax Gentleman" - 1915 UK B/W Silent
Starring Fred Paul, Peggy Hyland and Harry Paulo.
Thursday/Friday/Saturday . . .
A baffling mystery in five reels by Fergus Hume.
"The Mystery of a Hansom Cab" - 1915 Uk B/W Silent
Starring A.V Bamble, Milton Rosmer and Fay Temple.
Exclusive to this Theatre.
Augmented by a series of the latest comedies and War News in Animation.
Prices: Circle (reserved) 1/-d, Upper Circle 9d, Stalls 6d and Area 3d.

As this was the second Christmas of the First World War, the Shipley Picture House cheered people's spirits the following week with . . .

Commencing Monday 20th December 1915
Great Xmas Attractions
Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday . . .
Dickens' Popular Unfinished Novel
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" - 1914 USA B/W Silent
A soul-stirring drama in four acts.
Starring Tom Terris, Rodney Hickok and Vinnie Burns.
Thursday/Friday/Saturday . . .
Special Attraction - Exclusive Masterpiece by Famous Players
"Aristocracy" - 1914 USA B/W Silent
A highly interesting Romance of Society.
Starring Tyrone Power Snr, Marguerite Skirwin and Edna Mayo.
Continuous 2.30pm to 10.30pm.
Special Show Xmas Day.

As this during the First World War, a War Tax of a halfpenny to 2d was added to ticket prices. At this time the Shipley Picture House was run in conjunction with the Hippodrome Picture House in Bingley.

Clearly the new management had spared no expense in providing the very best for Shipley people in magnificent surroundings. During 1916 the programmes were continuous in the evenings from 6.30pm to 10.30pm and prices ranged from 3d in the pit area to 1/-d in the circle.

Over the next decade silent films were accompanied by a solitary yet versatile pianist for whom one piece of advertising proclaimed "Our Lady Pianist possesses an individuality for her work" which some said it meant she was "b****y awful"! Whatever the truth she was eventually superseded by the latest Panatrope contraption providing mechanical music in 1927.

The Shipley Times & Express advertised . . .

"Shipley's latest and most up-to-date cinema. A high class House of Entertainment suited for all classes, old and young. Come when you like and go when you like. We make a speciality of a clean and refined entertainment - nothing whatever to effect even the most delicate mind - instructive - educational."


Sound Installed
After a successful run as a silent picture house, the Kinephone sound system was installed in 1928 and the theatre closed in May 1929 with a change of ownership.


A.S Hyde takes control
During the summer closure in 1929 the Shipley Picture House management now included A.S 'Shack" Hyde who had joined Joe Holmes the year before "just for a bit of fun" as he described it in a newspaper interview. Shack Hyde, a local accountant, was now to turn his attention to running a picture house and the start of his cinema career which was to dominate Shipley in the years to come. More details of Shack Hyde and his cinema circuit can be found on the Introduction page or by clicking here.

The closure had enabled Hyde to refurbish the theatre again with renovations, redecoration of the auditorium in cream and gold with the stage proscenium in blue and gold which he hoped would "go towards the comfort and delight of the cinema-goer". Electric lighting was installed by Gordon Binns of Kirkgate, Shipley.

Under Shack Hyde's control the Shipley Picture House reverted back to twice nightly "Kine Variety" performances. Variety acts were booked for the whole week but the film content usually changed on the Thursday. It was expected that the stage acts would change their songs, patter and dance routines on Thursdays to encourage audiences to visit twice in the same week.


Another Grand Reopening
The Shipley Picture House had re-invented itself yet again with another Grand Reopening on Monday 28th October 1929 with . . .

The Bonniest Theatre in Yorkshire
Twice nightly at 6.30pm and 8.30pm.
Matinées Monday & Saturday at 2.30pm.
Kine Variety with special engagement for the whole week of Tony Ward, Premier Variety Instrumentalist in a whirlwind of Melodious Memories and Mollie Bellairs Acrobatic Dancing Soubrette.
Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday . . .
Brigette Helm in a brilliant production
"The Yacht of the Seven Sins" - 1928 Germany B/W Silent
(aka "Die Jacht der sieben Sünden" in Germany)
Starring Brigette Helm and Kurt Gerron.

Thursday/Friday/Saturday . . .
Alf Goddard in a British comedy
"You Know What Sailors Are" - 1928 UK B/W Silent 8-reels
Starring Chili Bouchier, Alfred Goddard and John Longden.
Prices 4d, 6d, 9d, and 1/-d. No extra charge for booking.

It is believed the Shipley Picture House was the first in the area to be licensed to use the Western Electric Sound System installed in 1929 and talkie films enthusiastically advertised, for example in April 1930 . . .

Warner Brothers and Vitaphone all talking and singing success
"Glad Rag Doll" - 1929 USA B/W Sound 70 mins.
Starring Dolores Costello, Ralph Graves and Audrey Ferris.


Although popular the Shipley PH did not last very long and closed in 1932 as Shack Hyde had built his first ultra-modern super-cinema, the Glenroyal, on land almost next door.

Shipley Picture House closed on Wednesday 31st August 1932 with the final film . . .

"A Honeymoon Adventure" - 1932 B/W Sound Crime/drama
Starring Walter Armitage, Margery Binner and Frances Rose Campbell.

Some of the internal fittings and stage lighting which were still relatively new were removed and transferred to the new Glenroyal built and owned by the same company. That unique telephone number of "Shipley 1" was also promptly transferred to the Glenroyal cinema.


Afterlife and Demolition
The old theatre/cinema premises whilst looking very dilapidated externally continued to be used until around 1960 as a Training School for the Shipley Sea Cadet Corps. Part of the premises were later damaged by fire.

Former Shipley Picture House

The buildings including the Fleece Hotel and adjoining shops like Dewhirsts butchers were then demolished to allow widening of Briggate (the main Leeds road) as part of the 1960's re-development of Shipley town centre.

Copyright ©2003, Colin Sutton.
Not to be copied or reproduced without permission.


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