Monthly Archives: April 2016

Bridlington’s hidden Art Deco gem

Regal Cinema, Bridlington

Regal Cinema, Bridlington

The Cinema Theatre Association is understandably unhappy that Historic England has dismissed the proposal to list the Regal Cinema, Bridlington, for its fine and almost intact Art Deco interior:  http://cinema-theatre.org.uk/our-campaigns/cinemas-at-risk/regal-bridlington-1.  Bingo has kept the place going since films ended in 1971.

Opened on July 28th 1938, the building was designed by Charles Edmund Wilford (1895-1988).  Though the exteriors were different, the interior of the Bridlington Regal was identical to the demolished Regal Cinema, Walton-on-Thames, built at the same date by the same architect for the same owner, Lou Morris.

The façade is dominated by a long, horizontal window which lighted the first-floor café, above four shop units on the ground floor.

The café and the auditorium, which originally seated 1,500 (or 1,489, or 1,355, depending on the source), are distinguished by the ornate Art Deco plasterwork of Eugene Mollo and Michael Egan.

The splay walls on either side of the proscenium figure a filigree pattern of foliage, originally illuminated by concealed lighting, and the geometric shapes at the end of the splays and on the ceiling are decorated with stylised foliage.  The original decorative scheme in silver and gilt was more subtle than the present livelier palette of the bingo club.

The stage is 43 feet wide and deep, with a suite of four dressing rooms, and there was a 3-manual, 6-rank Compton organ which was removed c1968.

The CTA’s Bulletin (January/February 2015) bristles with indignation over the “unclear and unreliable… subjective standard used to adjudge this building” and the “factual errors” in the Historic England rejection of the listing proposal.

Bridlington Borough Council has made a magnificent job of the Spa complex down the road from the Regal.  Let’s hope that imagination, diplomacy and judicious financial management will keep the Regal intact if and when bingo becomes unprofitable.

There is footage of Florence de Jong playing the Regal Compton organ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3Dg3LNYGyw.

A club as well

National Liberal Club, London

National Liberal Club, London

Thanks to a Victorian Society visit to the National Liberal Club [http://www.nlc.org.uk], entertainingly led by Ronald Porter who is a member of both Club and Society, I now more fully understand the context of one of my favourite anecdotes about F E Smith, latterly Lord Birkenhead (1872-1930).

The Club was founded in 1882 “to provide a central meeting-place for Metropolitan and provincial Liberals, where all the comforts of life should be attainable at what are called ‘popular prices’” and opened in 1887.

It was located away from London’s traditional clubland on the corner of Northumberland Avenue and the Thames Embankment.  Nowadays its terrace looks across to the London Eye.

Its architect was Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905), the great proponent of terra-cotta and faience whose style was derisively termed “slaughterhouse Gothic” by his architect contemporaries.

The National Liberal Club is a huge place even after the bulk of the building, including five floors of bedrooms, was sold in 1985 to become the Royal Horseguards Hotel [http://www.guoman.com/en/hotels/united_kingdom/london/the_royal_horseguards/index.html]. It remains one of the largest private club-houses in the world.

It’s a palatial shrine to comfort, conviviality and the principles of Liberalism.  There are, predictably, more pictures and statues of Mr Gladstone than you can shake a stick at, and portraits of every Liberal worthy, not least the Derby artist Ernest Townsend’s 1915 portrait of Winston Churchill, which for a couple of decades was not displayed after the former Tory-turned-Liberal turned Tory again in 1924.

The building is also a shrine to the extravagant but relatively inexpensive decorative possibilities of glazed brick.  Like Waterhouse’s Victoria Building at what is now Liverpool University, the interiors are predominantly brown and beige, warm and comfortable, and particularly suitable for the then new electric light.

The Tory MP F E Smith (later Lord Birkenhead) used to drop in, while walking between his chambers at the Temple and the Houses of Parliament, to use the gentlemen’s lavatory.  He was eventually approached by the club porter and asked if he was a member, to which he famously replied, “Good God! You mean it’s a club as well?”

When you see the lobby of the National Liberal Club, that story suddenly makes more sense.

Runaway tram

Snaefell Mountain Railway no 3 (2014)

Snaefell Mountain Railway no 3 (2014)

By a miracle nobody was killed or injured when the Manx Snaefell Mountain Railway no 3 inexplicably ran down the mountain on Wednesday March 30th:  http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/pictures-runaway-mountain-tram-crash-drama-1-7824668.

Someone must have had a heart-stopping moment when they turned round and found their tram had disappeared.

Fortunately there was no-one on board.

Even more fortunately the tram overturned on the bend before it could reach the road-crossing at the Bungalow. 

A road collision at the Bungalow would certainly have been fatal.  

If instead the tram had continued down the line beyond the Bungalow it would have caused even more destruction, whether somebody had had the presence of mind to set the points to run it into the depot or, worst of all, if it had run on into Laxey, over another main road and into the terminus where there are buildings, crowds of people and possibly other trams.

How an empty, parked tram unexpectedly took off down the steep incline isn’t yet explained, but the restoration of the service within three days indicates confidence that the cause is known and can be certainly avoided in future.  This clip from the Isle of Man News gives more detail:  http://manx.net/tv/mt-tv/watch/77830/tram-crash-update.

There has never before been a runway on the Snaefell Mountain Railway in 120 years of operation, though there was one on the Llandudno funicular Great Orme Railway in 1932.

Certainly no 3 is matchwood.  It can’t be restored in any meaningful sense, though like its companion no 5, destroyed by fire in 1970, it could be replaced by a close facsimile, which may include components from the original.

Update:  News articles about the subsequent analyses of this incident make interesting reading:  http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/isle-of-man-newspapers-wins-freedom-of-information-appeal-over-snaefell-tram-crash-1-8337886 and http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/runaway-tram-had-defective-brakes-1-8337906.

Café for film-lovers

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Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield:  March 26th 2016

Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield: March 26th 2016

Photos:  Scott Hukins [www.scotthukins.co.uk]

The latest improvement to the Abbeydale Picture House was revealed at the most recent film-revival night on Saturday March 26th.

The back of the stalls has been converted to a superb café-bar with a flat timber floor and dado panelling in keeping with the architecture, and painted in a relaxing cream and beige scheme which highlights the plasterwork and echoes the original 1920 decoration.

It’s an unobtrusive addition to the auditorium and a welcome asset to help the building once more earn its keep.

The film-night showed comedy programmes by two of the greatest figures in silent cinema, Buster Keaton in One Week (1920) and The Goat (1921) and the most famous of Harold Lloyd’s many films, Safety Last! (1923), with a live piano accompaniment by the immensely talented Darius Battiwalla [http://www.dariusbattiwalla.com/Darius_Battiwalla/Home.html].

More power to the Abbeydale’s owner, Phil Robins, and the team that runs the film nights, Rob Hughes, Louise Snape and Ismar Badzic.  They’re bringing the Abbeydale back to life and filling it with an appreciative clientele that’s clearly growing by word of mouth.

And now you can wake up and smell the coffee at the Abbeydale, where the café is open on Fridays and Saturdays, 10.00am-5.00pm:  http://picturehouserevival.tumblr.com.