Chester, CH1 3DY
Date Opened – Monday 2nd March 1931.
Total seating capacity- 1,910. (circle 723 seats * stalls 1187 seats)
Architect: William T. Benslyn, F.R.I.B.A., of Birmingham.
Building contractor: Mc Laughlin and Harvey of Highbury.
First General Manager: Fred Rowley.
Date Closed – as a cinema, Saturday 9th December 1961. Building survives.
From Chester Chronicle February 28th 1931.
On Monday (2nd March 1931) the mayor (Mr John Morris), accompanied by several prominent people will officially open Chester’s wonder cinema the Gaumont Palace. It is a cinema beautifully designed to accommodate 2,000 people; the comfort of the patron has been considered all along the line, and this week-end the final touches will be applied to what is a magnificent hall. The new manager (Mr Rowley) invited a “Chronicle” reporter to have a “look round” on Thursday, and he was amazed that the site could have been transformed into a hall of such splendour. The architects and builders have worked splendidly , and now Chester has the most modern and best equipped theatre on the North of England.
The cinema contains plush seating, and in no corner of the hall is it difficult to obtain a comfortable view of the stage. Even those sitting in the cheaper seats – the nearest to the screen – will, from a point of view of comfort, be equal to those people in the gallery. The front seats are set well back from the stage so that there will be no need for craning of necks. This is a decided advantage. The floors are heavily carpeted,and on Thursday Messrs, Richard Jones’s workmen, superintended by Mr. Norman Jones, were busily engaged in laying yards and yards of carpet. The furnishing is as luxurious as that of any hotel. The cafe is oak panelled and affords plenty of room.
An attraction is the organ that has been installed at a cost of £10,000. When I went there I found the organ is in an elevated position, obscuring a full view of the screen. I made enquiries, and found that it works on a lift effect, and that by merely touching a switch the organist can raise or lower himself and the organ. Nothing that should have been done hand been left undone; the ceilings are tastefully coloured; the curtains and carpets are in tone with the rest of the decorations, and it all combines to make the hall what it’s title implies. It is impossible to exaggerate the grandeur, as people will see when it is opened by the Mayor on Monday.
David A Ellis researched article
When I was young (16), I started work as an apprentice at Blaggs next to the Gaumont cinema in 1956. The building was owned by the cinema and had no toilet so we had to use the toilets in the cinema. In those days the Gaumont had a really good dining room upstairs which was open every day, I remember having some good lunches there.
The projection room had two Gaumont Kaylee projectors. Some very good stage shows were put on, I remember seeing Charlie Chester in “Zip goes a Million ” and seeing Lonnie Donigan. In it’s hey day it was a brilliant theatre.
When it was converted into a bowling alley I was appalled to witness the organ console dragged into the foyer and badly damaged, I’m not sure if it was rescued or just dumped but seeing how damaged it was I would be surprised if it would ever be used again. The building was converted by building another structure inside the old. The main ceiling and stage were kept but I expect all this has long since gone.
Located on the first floor by a separate entrance off the main staircase, the Oak restaurant measured 92′ x 22′ and could accommodate 150 diners. A service staircase led to the kitchen area.
The Gaumont’s final film THE MARRIAGE GO ROUND on Saturday 9th December 1961.
If you enjoyed going to the Gaumont, or worked there at anytime,then chestercinemas.co.uk will be pleased to hear from you to share your thoughts.