Sometimes, when you explore old buildings, the least prepossessing places still produce surprises.
Wincobank, round the corner from the huge modern Meadowhall shopping centre, was very much a separate community from both Sheffield and Rotherham until well after the First World War. There were two railway stations, one called ‘Wincobank and Meadow Hall’, the other ‘Meadow Hall and Wincobank’, but electric trams never came near and the bus-service was sparse.
Wincobank people looked for their entertainment to the 550-seat Wincobank Picture Palace, opened in 1914 and operated at least from the 1920s by the Wadsworth family, who also owned the nearby, long-vanished Tinsley Picture Palace.
After the Wincobank Picture Palace closed in February 1959 it was used by a plumbers’ merchant, now operated by the Graham chain [http://www.grahamplumbersmerchant.co.uk/branch-locator/?location=Wincobank].
The outside of the building is in beautiful condition, but in the course of fifty-odd years of industrial use the interior has been heavily beaten up.
The manager, Mick Adams, encouraged me to take a good look round, mainly because the balcony front, installed in 1926 to add a hundred extra seats, is visible and largely intact.
Otherwise, the proscenium has disappeared and all the plasterwork from the walls has been stripped away, though the shallow barrel ceiling with its ventilators remains.
The floor has been levelled and an extra level has been built out from the balcony, but it’s clear that the original raked floor and balcony flooring remain.
I did my best to contrive a series of photographs to illustrate my forthcoming presentation at Sheffield City Libraries, and then Mick mentioned the staircase that his staff don’t use to get upstairs.
He opened a door by the front entrance, to reveal the original staircase to the balcony, now used only for storage, beautifully preserved and tiled in cream, brown and chocolate, with wooden handrails intact.
It was like stepping back into the 1920s.
Mick tells me that under the floor at the entrance there remains a mosaic design with the words ‘Wincobank Picture Palace’.
You never know what you’ll find…