Deeside Cinemas

Peter Wilcock at work in the Alhambra projection room

Alhambra Cinema

51 Chester Road West,

Shotton, CH5 1BY

ALHAMBRA cinema, Shotton.

 

The architect and builder of the ALHAMBRA cinema in Shotton was local business man John Jones. He owned two other local cinemas, the Picture Palace (Shotton) and the Co-operative Hall (Queensferry). With the help of his two sons he boasted that between them they laid 2000 bricks a day while building the Alhambra.

It had a wrap round balcony making viewing difficult by those unfortunate to sit at the extreme sides. The original total capacity was 1200 seats, which was reduced later to 915 seats.

The proscenium width measured 30ft, the depth of stage area was 50ft.  There were six dressing rooms. Stage shows were presented on a regular basis during the Alhambra’s early days.

It closed during 1967.  The building was demolished with a supermarket taking it’s place.

Alhambra-Shotton.-interior drawn by their chief projectionist Peter Wilcock- from memory.

Shotton’s New Theatre

Built by one family. Remarkable achievement. From Cheshire Observer 1922.

alhambra-banner

alhamba-cinema-shotton

During the present housing shortage, we have heard from time to time accounts of men who have built their own cottages or bungalows, but such feats have been eclipsed at Shotton, where a theatre has been built by one man, assisted by his two sons. We refer to the Alhambra a spacious place of entertainment, which is to be opened on Christmas day. This large and substantially built edifice will stand as a permanent monument to the energy and hard work of one man and his two sons. It has been created almost entirely by them.

The man who has this remarkable achievement to his credit is well known in Shotton, where he has resided eleven years. He is Mr John Jones builder and contractor, and his two sons who assisted him are Harold and John. His daughter, May, also has done her part in the work, having sewn all the window curtains and upholstered many of the chairs.

About five years ago Mr Jones conceived the idea of erecting the Alhambra and drew up plans of the proposed building, but was not able to proceed with the work on account of the war. In August 1919 a start was made. A piece of land abutting on Chester Road, Shotton, 175 feet long by 66feet wide was bought. The next thing was to dig out the ground for the foundations, but as the ground was very hard, they did not have to go deep. Reinforced concrete foundations were laid for the hall, which is 97 feet long by 66feet wide. The outer walls are built of ordinary brick, two feet thick, and rise to a height of thirty-four feet. For three weeks Mr Jones employed a labourer, but the latter gave up at the end of that time, and Mr Jones then brought his sons into the work. Speaking of the great assistance they had rendered him, he remarked to an Observer representative the other day, “Talk about work – they are a treat.” The building has a circular roof, supported by steel trusses. These trusses, of which there are nine, are all about two tons in weight, and Mr Jones and his sons alone hoisted them into place. There is a large balcony of concrete supported by steel girders, with seating accommodation there for five hundred people. The well of the hall will hold six hundred people, so, that altogether the theatre will easily contain a gathering of 1,200 people. People can better realise the immensity of the task, which has been performed by the erection of this building when it is known that altogether the material used weighs over 2,500 tons.

All the girders and other steel parts were bought in the raw state, and put together on the premises by Mr Jones. A large lounge has been provided for patrons and there are nine dressing rooms. There are eighteen exits. Mr Jones’s eldest son Harold has done most of the woodwork, which is chiefly mahogany. Even the window frames are of that wood and the front of the circle and boxes are of polished mahogany panels. The stage itself is forty feet by forty feet, with an opening to the auditorium 28feet wide by 24 feet high. It will accommodate the largest company travelling, including The Whip and The Still Alarm. The whole building is lighted by electricity made on the premises by a Cromley crude oil engine, which supplies seven hundred lamps.

A few weeks ago, in order to complete the work in time for the opening on Christmas day, Mr Jones employed a few joiners, but apart from them, there has been no work done outside the family. The first performance will be variety turns. Pictures will also be shown. Mr Jones came to Shotton eleven years ago from Silverdale North Staffs to start in business as a building contractor. After twelve months residence he built the Shotton Picture Palace, which is at present owned by himself and relatives. He is a man who neither smokes or drinks and during the whole of the time he has been engaged on the Alhambra he has not missed a day at work, except when away buying material.

Now, the job having been completed Mr Jones finds himself famous, for the whole country has read of his achievement and marveled at it.

Peter Wilcock…The Reel Entertainer

Peter Wilcock was a long serving Chief Projectionist.

To read about his marvelous contribution to the ALHAMBRA & other Deeside cinemas CLICK on the above picture.

Roger Shone/David A Ellis © chestercinemas.co.uk

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Plaza Cinema

96 Church Street,

Flint, CH6 5AF

Plaza, Church Street, Flint. Opened 26th December 1938

The Plaza cinema in Flint opened on 26th December 1938. Another cinema to be operated by Deeside Enterprises.

Signs of the Zodiac & mythical figures featured both on the plain brick frontage and in the auditorium which had a total capacity of 1,100 seats between the balcony and stalls. There was cove lighting which stepped down the ceiling towards the proscenium, with Holophane lighting.

The opening feature was “We’re Going To Be Rich” starring Gracie Fields.

The Plaza Cinema opened on 26th December 1938 with Gracie Fields in “We’re Going to be Rich”. The exterior was built in grey brick and was rather ‘boxy’ looking. The only relief being three decorated square grilles above the canopy which contained mythical figures.

Like the Plaza in Connah’s Quay, it was taken over by Wedgewood Cinemas in late 1967 which changed the name to the WEDGEWOOD cinema. At the beginning of 1975 the cinema was sold to Mecca who closed it as a cinema on 1st August of that year, turning the building over to a bingo hall.  Ownership eventually transferred to Palace Bingo, and continued up to  closure in 2011.

The former Plaza Cinema is a Grade II Listed.

Click on the button below to read Roger’s review & update-

Roger Shone (c) chestercinemas.co.uk

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Grand Cinema

Church Street,

 Flint.

Grand Cinema, Church Street, Flint. Opened 30th August 1920

The Grand cinema, Church Street, Flint, stood just a few doors away from St. Mary’s Church.

It was opened by former Mayor of Flint, Robert Davies and became part of his local circuit of cinemas.  Opening on Monday 30th August 1920 as a silent cinema, sound was installed in the 1930s.  It closed during the 1960s.

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Hippodrome Cinema

126 High Street,

Connah’s Quay, CH5 4DF

HIPPODROME Cinema, High Street, Connah’s Quay

Arthur Correlli opened the 700 seat Hippodrome Cinema during 1910 by Arthur Correlli.

It operated as a silent cinema until 1930 when the British Acoustic sound system was installed.  By this time the cinema was owned by local businessmen T. Williams, A. Davies, G. Davies and Mr Summerton, who formed the Enterprise Cinema Company.

 

 

HIPPODROME. Connah’s Quay

 

 

 

The surprisingly sleek modern design of the HIPPODROME’S interior

 

As the original frontage was clad in corrugated tin sheeting it was decided around 1935 that a refurbished Art Deco style brick front would replace it.

The small proscenium opening restricted the screen size to just 16’x12′. The original sound system was replaced by Imperial Sound equipment.

The Hippodrome Cinema closed in May 1962. The last film to be shown at the Hippodrome was The Innocents, which starred Deborah Kerr.

The last projectionist at the Hippodrome cinema, Connah’s Quay was Steve Williams. When the Hippodrome cinema closed Mr Williams became a relief projectionist at the Alhambra cinema until that shut down in 1967.  Sometime later the Art Deco brick frontage became unsafe and was demolished. It then  reverted back to sheet cladding on the building which is now used as a furniture retail business.

A recent view of the HIPPODROME site

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Picture Palace

Victoria Road,

Shotton, CH5 1ES

The site of Shotton’s PICTURE PALACE which John Jones closed soon after opening the ALHAMBRA

Shotton’s Picture Palace was an early silent cinema owned by John Jones and it is believed was in operation for just over eleven years from it’s opening in 1911, closing when the Alhambra opened nearby.

Since then the site has been used as an indoor market, dance hall, and bingo social club.

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Plaza Cinema

Station Road,

 Queensferry, CH5

PLAZA Queensferry. Opened December 1936

The Plaza Cinema was initially listed as being in Connah’s Quay, although it is actually located in the Queensferry district. It was built for Deeside Enterprise cinemas costing around £12500. The architect was Sidney Colwyn Foulkes, a well known cinema architect from nearby Colwyn Bay, North Wales. Deeside Enterprise made the Plaza Cinema their head office, running several cinemas from there, including the Park Cinema, Saltney, Chester.

It opened in December 1936 with the film “Rose Marie” starring Jeanette MacDonald. There were left and right staircases leading to a small upstairs lounge. Originally there were two pay-boxes, but in later years only one was used. The foyer floor and staircases were cream terazzo. There were red carpets in the auditorium and the seats were plush red. There were two sets of screen curtains in silver velvet with a gold fringe.

Proscenium width was 25 feet and the lighting was by Holophane Ltd. Outside there were Giro Sign frames with stills from the films. The neon at the top of the building was in blue and red. The first projectionist, later to become manager was a Mr Ivor Bakewell.

Projectionist Ivor Bakewell who later took over as the manager of the Plaza

On 4th March 1955, Cinemascope arrived with the screening of “Lucky Me” starring Doris Day. In December 1967, Wegewood Cinemas chain became the owners and it was soon re-named Wedgewood Cinema. It was sold to Mecca in 1974. Mecca sold to Parker’s leisure in 1981. The last film screened under Mecca was “Gone With The Wind”.

The building closed for a year – re-opening as a part time cinema and bingo hall. Films were screened on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evening. The bingo became known as ‘Palace’ bingo. After a year Parker’s stopped running film and turned it into full time bingo. Later, the hall was run by a Mr Chris Davies as a social club. Finally Graig Holmes ran it as a snooker hall which had closed by 1992. Projection equipment was Kalee 21s, which were saved by a Mr Roger Shone.

The building was demolished to make way for car parking in the 1990’s.

Roger Shone/David A Ellis  © chestercinemas.co.uk

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Empire Cinema

 Flint.

EMPIRE cinema, Flint.

Originally named the Flint Picture Hall.  The opening ceremony was performed by the Mayor, Alderman Major Charles Edward Dyson on  Monday 23rd December 1912.  Soon after this date, former Flint Mayor, Robert Davies purchased it. The Empire was of a basic build, clad in corrugated steel sheets.

Many local people referred to it as “The Ranch” cinema because of the amount of cowboy films it screened.

It showed it’s last film on Saturday 6th April 1957.

After years of dereliction, the building was demolished in 1967.

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Ritz Cinema

Plymouth Street,

 Shotton, CH5 1JB

Ritz Cinema, Plymouth Street, Shotton.

Originally opened as a dance hall, The Ritz cinema opened as a cinema during 1930. It had a small proscenium stage opening of 20′ and held 500 seats.

It closed in July 1957. The building was then used as a furniture retail unit and demolished in 1998.

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