Bradford - Dudley Hill Picture Palace

Dudley Hill Picture Palace
Tong Street,

Dudley Hill Picture Palace
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This is real gem of what a picture palace should be like and was the inspiration of Walter Goodall who was better known for his thoughtfully designed cinemas in Cleckheaton (Picture Palace and Savoy Picture House), Dewsbury (Pavilion at Ravensthorpe) and Heckmondwike (Picture Palace).

Walter Goodall (1868-1933) and his brother Percy followed this success with their new venture at Dudley Hill in a prime position on the west side of Tong Street between Compton Street and Factory Street and near a busy crossroads (now the outer Ring road) and then in a heavily built-up area densely populated with potential customers.


The Building
Cleckheaton architects Howarth & Howarth had previously worked for the Goodall's and (bear in mind this was 1911) came up with a superior design of red brickwork combined with white faience type decoration of LEFCO 'Marmo' tiles made by the Leeds Fireclay Company.

The stylish frontage was topped by a central pinnacle (now removed) and the name 'Picture Palace'; whilst above the front entrance is the erection date of 1912.


The Interior
The interior featured a raked (sloping) floor, tip-up seats with better quality seats at the rear and in the small balcony. Goodall was quite ahead of his time by instructing his architects to include a sloping floor in all his cinemas. The Goodall's also claimed to be the first to use 'bucket' seats in their cinemas for better comfort. The vaulted ceiling with plaster moulded decoration led to a similarly curved proscenium arch approximately 30 feet wide with a stage depth of about 10 feet. The interior plasterwork was by John Theabold & Sons of nearby Wakefield Road.

The stalls seating of almost 600 was arranged in two blocks with centre and side aisles with the front row 14ft 6inches from the screen. At its opening the first six rows at the front were forms.

The straight fronted circle was unusual in that the projection room was in the middle thus dividing the circle into two parts with five rows of seats each side of projection room - a total of just 88 seats.


The Picture Palace opened its doors on Monday 9th December 1912 by offering "a first class Programme of Pictures" with:

"How's Your Father?" - USA 1912 B/W Silent
(No further details available)
Popular Prices.
Incidental music was provided by a piano and later a small orchestra.

In the early days with A. Crossland as manager, it was two shows nightly with two programme changes each week. By 1926 with A. Ellis as manager, the Picture Palace had changed to once nightly on weekdays and three shows on Saturdays with prices from 4d to 11d.


Sound Arrives
With the arrival of 'talkies' Percy Goodall opted for a unique British system for the Dudley Hill Picture Palace in line with that installed at his other halls - see Location section for details.

Awh logo

It was the AWH sound system named after its electrical engineer inventor, Arthur William Harris (AWH = 'Always Worth Hearing') and eventually installed in over 200 independent cinemas and air force/naval camp cinemas together with the projection rooms of the British Board of Film Censors. Its main claim was quality of both speech and music together with reliability and minimal maintenance. Its full title was 'The AWH Talking Picture Reproducing Apparatus' and could be bought outright rather than leased as with BTH, RCA and Western Electric sound systems.
[ Further details of the AWH system appear in Bioscope magazine No 109 Nov 2008 pp27-32 in an article by Gerald Hooper. ]

The first full length talkie film was shown on Monday 27th October 1930 was . . .

"Such Men are Dangerous" - 1930 USA B/W
(with Western Electric sound recording)
Starring Warner Baxter, Dale Owen and Hedda Hopper.
The company was later known as Goodall's Pictures (1931) Ltd and the seating capacity was listed as 600. Later (date unknown) the Western Electric set was installed and remained, with upgrades, until closure.


Later Years
In the late 1940's following the war it had, like most other cinemas, continuous performances on weekdays and two separate shows on Saturdays. Prices were now from 6d to 1/9d with further increases in the 1950's. CinemaScope was fitted in the proscenium opening without alteration in 1956 and the seating somehow increased to 616 according to kinematograph trade records - usually seating was reduced after the fitting of the larger widescreens.

Percy Goodall's son-in-law A.D Thornton ran the Dudley Hill Picture Palace as its resident manager and in 1963 shortly after the cinema had celebrated its 50th anniversary he was quoted in the local newspaper as saying "The cinema was the first in Bradford to have thermostatically controlled central heating on the new oil fired system". Prices in 1963 were 9d to 2/-.


A.D Thornton continued as Manager until the cinema closed on Saturday 1st April 1967 (April Fool's Day and end of tax year!) with the double feature:

"Thunderbirds are Go" - UK 1966 Technicolor 93 mins
Gerry Anderson's adventure sci-fi.
"Beauty and the Beast" - USA 1962 Technicolor 77 mins
Starring Joyce Taylor, Mark Damon and Eduard Franz.


Bingo then Carpets
The premises were sold to a new owner for use as a Bingo club, but when that ceased the building was unused for a time prompting one Fred Atkinson, Curator of the Beamish Open-Air Museum (in Co Durham), to consider the possibility of dismantling the cinema brick-by-brick and re-erecting at Beamish for further use as a cinema. Sadly the idea did not develop.

Eventually the premises now owned by a Mr Hodgson opened its doors once more to the public but this time leased out as a carpet and now plus a bed showroom trading as 'Cut Price Carpets' and is still operating in 2004. The balcony level has been extended the full length of the former auditorium and into the proscenium area so creating a full new floor for bed displays. The original ceiling and proscenium arch are still evident as is the original raked floor for the former stalls.

Former Dudley Hill PH interior

Despite these two diverse occupancies, the Picture Palace building remains virtually unaltered and is a time capsule of a 1912 vintage picture house and the present occupant tells me that they are quite accustomed to cinema enthusiasts visiting to look around and photograph the building.

Copyright ©2004, Colin Sutton.
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