Sheffield’s surviving cinemas 1: Darnall Picture Palace

Former Darnall Picture Palace, Staniforth Road, Sheffield

Former Darnall Picture Palace, Staniforth Road, Sheffield

I first explored the surviving cinema buildings in Sheffield for the South Yorkshire Group of the Victorian Society circa 1983.

I’ve been asked to give a presentation at Sheffield City Library, so I decided to do a further survey of what is left of the fifty-odd auditoria that were built in the city up to the start of the Second World War.

One of the most attractive survivals – well cared-for though not intact – is the former Darnall Picture Palace, designed by Walter Gerald Buck and opened in 1913. Because the Darnall Picture Palace isn’t really in Darnall, and there was also a Darnall Cinema, locals called it the Balfour, because it was on the corner of Balfour Road, and by 1931 the proprietors were using that name in their advertising.

After it closed in 1959 the building was used by Clarks of Retford for their dry-cleaning business, and it’s now a quirky carpet showroom, run by a family firm as Balfour Carpets:

The mock-medieval castellated exterior is a landmark on the main road, and the barrel-ceiling interior has particularly fine fibrous plasterwork.

The sides of the proscenium arch remain, with faint traces of gilding, though the top of the arch has disappeared.

There was no overhanging balcony, though in 1920 the auditorium was extended to provide a raised rear section. It’s difficult to discern among the rolls of carpets exactly how this was done.

Ryan Jackson, one of the owners, who showed me round, took me upstairs to the staff room where there remains one of the hatches of the projection suite, still in situ.

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