Glimpses of Bygone Northampton Our ever-growing set of mini-histories
OUR LATEST BOOK NOW available Bioscopes & Hippographs
BIOSCOPES & HIPPOGRAPHS Cinemas in Northampton
A comprehensive survey of Northampton's picture palaces, with facts and memories, and a complete A - Z detailed listing of the town's cinemas. Fully illustrated price £5 post & packing £1.20 per copy (2 copies = £1.60)
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excerpt: " The earliest recorded reference to “Animated Photographs” being shown in Northampton occurs in November 1897, when the Velograph Syndicate gave a presentation at the Town Hall on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – 8, 9 and 10. Although this was billed as a “Special Return Visit”, the previous event was not mentioned in the press, and no hand bills survive. One of the films featured was “The Diamond Jubilee in its Entirety. Her Majesty the Queen at the State Garden Party: (the finest living picture ever taken of Her Majesty, and the exclusive right of which is owned by The Velograph).” A copy of this production, made on 28 June 1897, still exists in the National Film Archive, it shows the Queen’s guests, including Lord Salisbury, awaiting the arrival of Her Majesty, and then the Queen alighting from her carriage. In the interval between films the humour was provided by Joseph Blascheck (the Australian Monologue Entertainer), and the musical interlude by Edith Vivian (the favourite London soprano from the Royal Albert Hall). Seats could be booked at Messrs. Abel & Sons, ranging from 6d to 3s. Doors opened at 7.30, and the performance commenced at 8 o’clock, with carriages at 10.30 p.m.
Bioscopes & Hippographs follows the story pf cinema in Northampton from this first screening, through the course of the 20th century, coming right up to the present day with Lings Forum and the Vue.
Northampton Chronicle & Echo 21 May 2012 article by Anna Brosnan
‘SWEET or salted? With butter? For 5p extra, you could get a large Coke with that!” Those words, repeated at least 100 times a day, ran through my head, in my dreams, when I worked as a student at the old Virgin Cinema at Sixfields.
Go back further and I also remember the former Cannon cinema in Northampton. I never worked there, but I recall as a small child being very excited at the release of the film Ghostbusters and joining a huge winding queue which wrapped itself around the corner, up into The Mounts. I can still feel my tears as I left the queue with my friend to quickly visit an art shop down the road, asking my brother to hold my place. On return, a rather bullish man wouldn’t let me back into the line and I missed out on seeing the film as it sold out.
Many Northamptonians will have fond memories of the various town cinemas which came into their lives and then departed, sometimes making way for a new movie showing firm and sometimes for a completely different venue.
In the movie going heyday, during the 30s, there were as many as 13 cinemas in Northampton alone. And it is the town’s nostalgia for its old cinemas which has prompted the latest book by the Northampton Heritage Hunters.
Bioscopes and Hippographs, a project which has been led by Heritage Hunters member Chris Glazebrook, includes a history about some of the Northampton’s best loved cinemas of the past, together with people’s memories of them.
Chris, who lives in Abington, said: “I thought it was worth recording the history of the cinemas in the town and nothing had been published previously. Some of the buildings still remain. We have the Picturedrome which is 100 years old this year and there is the Jesus Centre which used to be the Savoy and the ABC, in Abington Square. The other one remaining is the Essoldo in Grove Road. The earliest ones included what became the Plaza, starting in 1910. It is still called the Plaza today, but is big luxury flats.”
The craze of going to the cinema really reached a peak when the “talkies” came in, according to Chris.
He said: “In the talkie era there were 13 cinemas in Northampton, around the town. You couldn’t get the TV in those days, but you had the theatres. There was the Opera House (the Royal Theatre as it is now) and the New Theatre in Abington Street. When the talkies came in, the New Theatre transformed into a cinema for 12 months but then transferred back into providing live entertainment. It was a novelty for people when cinema first came in.”
The new book took significant research on Chris’s part as he spent every day over the course of a month going through microfilm editions of newspapers at Northampton’s Central Library, dating from 1898 onwards.
Chris said: “In 1901 there was a film shown in Northampton at the town hall by Thomas Edison Productions which went into the town and filmed the Northampton Fire Brigade training and the Mansfield employees leaving work.”
Before the ‘talkies’ came in, being a staff member at a cinema was a very involved role. Chris said: “They used to have the pianist playing the music for the films and they would do the sound effects too. In the book I mention about the Battle of Waterloo film which was filmed in Irthlingborough in 1913. When it was shown at the Picturedrome, they had to make the sound effects of a canon.”
Throughout history, Northampton’s cinemas were also used for other purposes. Many people will know that The Beatles were just one of the major bands to play at the ABC during the 1960s, after the New Theatre closed down.
Going back even further, Chris also discovered that suffragette Christabel Pankhurst also held a meeting of the Women’s Suffrage movement at the Majestic in Gold Street on February 16, 1912.
Val Knowles, chairman of the Northampton Heritage Hunters, is just one of the contributors who has shared her cinema memories in the new book. She said: “A a child, I remember my grandfather was a news vendor selling the Chronicle & Echo. We used to go to the cinema on Good Friday as they sold no newspapers on Good Friday. We lived in Lady’s Lane, so it was very close to the Savoy. I can also remember going to the cinema to see the first 3D film, which was about cowboys.”
Learn, Toil & Worship see our complete booklist on the Books page
_Northampton Chronicle & Echo 19 September 2011
MEMORIES of some of
Northampton’s best known schools, churches and places of work have been
recorded as part of a new book looking back at the town’s past.
Learn, Toil and Worship is the third
book by Northampton Heritage Hunters and focuses on research and
memories of sites such as the former Northampton bus station, Boughton
School and Baxters Butchers.
The work was penned by a range of the
group’s members and work has already begun on the Heritage Hunters’
fourth book which is set to be entitled Leisure and Pleasure.
about the newly published book, chairman Val Knowles said: “Learn, Toil
and Worship is really a journey through life in Northampton, you go to
school when you are young, go to work and go to church, even if only for
a funeral or a wedding.”
Included within the book is a chapter
written by Val about the charity Orange, Brown, Green and Blue Coat
schools in Northampton, a colour scheme which seemed to draw distinction
between the different classes and backgrounds of the children.
explained that the Orange Coat School was for the very poor children
and the Blue Coat was for those who were from families with trades.
of the original frontage of the former Blue Coat School site in Bridge
Street, most recently taken up by the White Orchid Thai restaurant, can
still be seen in the form of two little statues above the main windows.
The research project was close to Val’s heart as her own grandfather Charles Montague Leach was a former student there.
said: “I had a photo of my grandfather at the Blue Coat School and that
was in 1904 and I thought I must find out more about it. The building
is still there with its original statues from the 18th century.
Green Coat School and the Brown Coat School amalgamated to be the Blue
Coat School. The Orange Coat School was at the bottom of Wood Street and
that later amalgamated with the Blue Coat. The Blue Coat School was
where my grandfather went.
“The Blue Coat started in the 18th century and went through to 1921.
think the landowners who endowed it were very much that they wanted the
same education for people. They put money aside for school uniforms for
children and made sure they did manage to get an education.”
her chapter she recorded the original rules and orders of the Blue Coat
School, written by the trustees of the church charities in 1847.
said: “No boy could enter the school unless they lived in the borough,
were under 10, were able to read fluently, were acquainted with the
catechism, and knew the rules of arithmetic.
“They had to remain
there until 13 and were required to be regular and punctual in their
attendance and tidy in their person and apparel (suspension if they were
Val said: “My grandfather did not talk about the Blue Coat
School and he died when I was 15 but I didn’t think to ask back then.”
timely entry in the book – given the current discussion over the
proposed redevelopment of the current Fishmarket site into a new bus
interchange – was made by former United Counties employee Linda Kemp.
wrote a chapter on the United Counties Omnibus Company and included a
description of the old bus station in Derngate which was used by
passengers wanting to take journeys beyond the borough of Northampton.
In her chapter she wrote: “The station was very busy but dark and gloomy and the interior was filled by a slight fog of fumes.
cafe was a very popular meeting place and was always full of country
ladies waiting for the village buses to take them home. “Wednesday and Saturday market days were the busiest.”
continued: “I worked for the company for a while in the 1990s in the
office at the bus station, answering queries about routes times, fares
etc and also complaints and lost property.
“The strangest lost
property item I ever had was a schoolboy who, after a music lesson, left
a cello on the bus. I have never been able to understand how he could
get home before realising he had not got it with him.”
can be purchased at the cost of £3. To order a copy, ring Northampton
402661. The Northampton Heritage Hunters meet every Friday morning
between 10am and midday at Alliston Gardens Youth and Community Centre