Bradford - Electric Palace

Electric Palace
Manningham Lane,

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On the east side of busy Manningham Lane between Springfield Place and Cornwall Road.


The Building and Pre-history
A huge wooden building originally erected in 1908 as a roller skating rink. The rink foundations were laid on Friday October 2nd 1908 and it took only six weeks to complete - quite an achievement.

A single-deck structure with "a floor of 31,000 square feet capable of accommodating 2,000 persons without appreciably obstructing their movements". The floor was of American maple wood and the blocks were octagonal in shape. It opened as a skating rink on Friday 20th November 1908 as the American Roller Rink and was an instant success.

By 1909 is was advertising . . .
"High Class Roller Skating. Three Sessions Daily.
Military Band. Free Instruction
If you would be graceful learn to skate."

Whilst the local press reported . . .
"There is no sign of any abatement of the enthusiasm for rinking which has prevailed in Bradford since the American Roller Rink opened.
. . . there was the usual crowd of devotees, and it was interesting to witness the animated throng as they gracefully glide around the rink to the strains of the military band."

The demand was such that three more roller rinks were built around the city in 1909. These were the Coliseum in Toller Lane, Hippodrome in Barkerend Road and Towers Hall in Manchester Road - all of which became cinemas soon afterwards and for the major part of their lives.


Conversion to Cinema
The Electric Vaudeville Company of Marble Arch, London converted the rink with the press reporting . . .
"New Picture Palace for Bradford - Electric Palace - Exhibition of Bioscope Pictures from London for a short season."

It opened as the Electric Palace on Saturday 17th July 1909 and advertised . . .
"Picture Plays continuous each day from 2.30pm to 10.30pm.
Come and Go as you please - Suitable for young and old alike.
Programme of Gaumont films to be shown will include . . .
The Violin Maker, The Talisman, Saved by the Telegraph,
The Wild West, The Flood, Lunatics in Power.

Pianist - Mr Beage.
Operator - Mr Kingsley.

Admission 3d and 6d.
Tea and Light Refreshments served during the performance.
Illustrated songs are a feature of our programmes."

It was said to be very hot and stuffy inside the wooden building during the summer.

The cinema did not last many weeks and was closed after a small fire.


Roller Rink, Bradford

Back to Skating
The American Roller Rink repaired the fire damage and reopened for skating again on Monday 6th September 1909 . . .
"Managing Directors: C.P Crawford and F.A Wilkins.
Resident Manager: E.V. Tuttle.
3 Sessions Daily. Military Band. Afternoon Teas."


Attempts for more Films
In December 1909, Henry Hibbert - later to become a major player in showing films - considered taking over the rink on a seasonal basis

After another short closure it re-opened as Manningham Roller Rink on Saturday 3rd September 1910 at 10.30am.

Again in 1912 following a major refurbishment the Manningham Roller Rink reopened with an advertising splash . . .
"Grand Opening Night
Saturday 23rd November 1912
600 Skaters - Resurfaced and renovated, redecorated.
String Band directed by Mr Barr."

In 1914 permission to convert the rink into the Alhambra Picture Palace was refused - not surprising as the new Alhambra Theatre was due to open in the same year.

After the war in 1919 a request to convert the rink to 'The Concert Party Theatre' was also refused.


Skating continues
As the other roller skating rinks in the city, Coliseum, Hippodrome and Towers Hall, had all now successfully become cinemas; the Manningham Lane site continued as Bradford's only remaining roller rink.

In 1921 the name was changed to 'The Rolarena' to become a skating and exhibition centre.

Its size and position with good bus services passing the door all made it ideal for huge flower shows, budgie shows and local Ideal Home exhibitions. It was also used for boxing and Freddie Mills, world light heavyweight champion, once fought there.


Fire Disaster
On Wednesday 13th July 1955 in a huge and spectacular fire, the Rolarena was totally destroyed as the fire rapidly swept through the wooden structure. Thick smoke could be seen for miles and damage was also done to nearby houses.

The rink which took six weeks to build ended in a pile of black ash in only 40 minutes and a spectacle that brought crowds out to watch. Fortunately there were no casualties and damage was estimated at over £30,000.

Later the Telegraph & Argus (30 July 1955) reported that W. Lloyd-Worth, general manager of the Rolarena Sports Stadium, was negotiating for a very large hall in the city - but, it seems, nothing further developed.

In 1960 the Mecca Locarno Ballroom was erected on the site. Later it became Caesar's then Pennington's night club.

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May not be copied or reproduced without permission.


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