Jim Greenhalf traces the history of the building known to many as the Glenroyal, demolished last week after being ravaged by fire
The late Colin Sutton, Bradford cinema historian, left behind on his website an article written in 2003 about the former Shipley cinema building that was demolished after being destroyed by fire on the night of January 17.
It began life as the Shipley Picture House Company, later to become Glenroyal Cinema Company. Colin Sutton described it as a “showpiece super-cinema” all 1,200 seats of it.
He wrote: “The site, 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.”
He was the uncle of Sandra Lonsdale, of Saltaire. Mrs Lonsdale is not alone in looking back with fondness on the Glenroyal.
Frank Senior, 94, first went there as an eight-year-old. “I’d go to Saturday morning matinees and then three or four times a week when I was studying at Shipley technical College,” he said.
Another Shipley resident, Allan Foster, a projectionist at the National Media Museum, said he used to go there when the cinema had been converted into a bingo hall, to look after the Hammond organ, fitted in 1936.
Nevertheless, the fact is that for 60 years or more the Glenroyal building was a functioning feature of central Shipley. It seems appropriate that Colin Sutton’s online history should now serve as its obituary. Here are some excerpts.
“The building was designed by the Manchester architect Ernest Dawson, 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... The front elevation is of Rustic Brick and Cream Terra Cotta faience tiling which was illuminated with floodlights...
“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...
“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...
“The illuminated red-and-black Buddha statue on the staircase was bought at an auction by [the owner] 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, 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’.
“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 more than 60 cinemas to hear various makes of talkie apparatus under working conditions before making their final commitment.
“The opening on Monday, September 5, 1932, at 2.30pm, was by Councillor Gordon Waddilove JP, the incoming chairman of Shipley Urban District Council, followed by the film Emma starring Marie Dresler, Richard Cromwell and Myrna Loy, plus ‘a laughable comedy’ together with a live jazz band performance and a soloist...
“In 1936 a two-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...
“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. Certainly this was the very first installation of the new generation of wide curved screens in the Bradford/Shipley area and probably in Yorkshire.
“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.
“The Glenroyal closed as a cinema on Saturday, December 8, 1962.
“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)...
“The building was now owned by Eckhart’s Star Cinemas of Leeds, who converted it into the Glen Casino, with manager Vincent Gallagher, opening on Thursday, January 8, 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.
“A new owner reopened the premises this time as Walkers Bingo and in 1990 the freehold building was bought by King’s Leisure.”