Grand Cinema, Frodsham.

Grand Cinema

Church Street,

Frodsham, WA6


Date opened: November 1923.

Original Owners:  Joseph Gilmour Kydd, L. Pollard and Robert Hamilton.

Architects: Wright and Hamlyn of Warrington.

First General Manager: Tom Fyall.

Last General Manager: James Turner.

Seating Capacity: 480.

Date Closed: Saturday 5th August 1961.

Building demolished: 1961.



The Grand cinema, Church Street, Frodsham.


The Grand cinema, Frodsham was situated by the railway bridge in Church Street. The bridge is next to the station and a slight vibration could be felt in the cinema whenever a train roared over it. The cinema was also near the infant school where a load of kids, including myself were taken to see the 1953 film on the climbing of Everest.

Shares for the Grand were offered by the Frodsham Cinema Company Ltd from the 14th August 1922. The capital was £8000 in £1 shares to acquire a lease of land at Church Street, Frodsham for 999 years at a ground rent of £40 for the first ninety nine years, and £70 there after for the purpose of building a cinema, etc. The building was designed by Warrington architects Wright and Hamlyn, based in Sankey Street. The first directors were Joseph Gilmour Kydd, L. Pollard and Robert Hamilton, who ran several halls, including the Empress Runcorn. Secretary was A J G Aston. Other people connected were P Finnerty, D Harris, S Long and T. Goodhall.

The Grand’s first General Manager

Seating capacity was to be around 700, but in the Kine Yearbooks it is listed as only housing 480. This included a small balcony and if you sat near the back of the balcony the running of the projector could be heard. The projectors, I am told were a pair of Kalee 8s. It was stated at one point that Kalee machines were in over seventy-five percent of cinemas in the UK. In 1950 the Grand installed Kalee Universal carbon arc lamps. From the 19th to the 20th December 1939 the cinema was closed for installation of new sound equipment.

The cinema opened in April 1923.Some sources state November. For a short period the Chapel Lane and Grand cinema were both open, the lessee of the Chapel Lane cinema was Thomas Robert Fyall. He was also the manager. He was from Durham and had been a variety artist. He took over the lease from a Mr Frank Ellis in 1923. Ellis had taken on a five year lease in 1918. Also in 1918 the cinema went continuous. This was from 1st August, with the film ‘Civilisation’. It was continuous from 6.30-10.30 and admission prices were 4d, 8d and a shilling. A Mr G. P. Fenton is listed as the owner in 1921. Owner of the cinema in 1923 was a Mr James Harrell. Fyall staged a number of shows at the Chapel Lane Picture House, often advertising in the Stage magazine. Projectors at the Chapel Lane cinema were the Gaumont type. The stage had a twenty foot opening and was twelve feet deep.

By 1924 the Chapel Lane cinema was closed and Tom Fyall took over as manager of the Grand. He booked the films for the cinema. Before Tom Fyall became the manager, a Mr D Stratton, who had worked at the Scala cinema, Runcorn as manager, went to manage the Grand. This was in July 1923. Before cinema management he had been on the stage as a comedian.

In November 1923 at the Grand, Mr Strattton was made an Indian chief when he was capped with feathers and did a war dance. Mr Stratton became “Chief White Eagle”. The ceremony was performed at the Grand by Chief Red Beaver of Canada. A large audience was present. By December 1923 Mr Stratton had returned to the Scala Runcorn, later moving to the King’s cinema, Runcorn.

In the Bioscope magazine dated 15th August 1928 it says: L Pollard has been appointed chairman of the Frodsham Cinema Company Ltd in place of the late J G Kydd. H Knight is the new vice chairman. Joseph Gilmour Kydd was born on the 5th August 1863 and died on 18th June 1928. The first “Talkie” film, I understand, at the Grand was ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ (1929) with the sound on disc. Shortly after films had the soundtrack on the side of the film. Some recall the sound at the Grand going out of sync when screening sound on disc. This would be caused by the stylus (needle) jumping, which could happen if a door was slammed. In 1928 the Frodsham Carnival was filmed and shown at the Grand.

On the 28th September 1936 the Grand was taken over from Frodsham Cinema Company Ltd by Stanley Grimshaw, who was involved with Byrom Picture Houses Ltd. On the 29th December 1938 the Liverpool Echo reported that negotiations were completed today for the purchase by Mr Philip M. Hanmer, managing director Regent Enterprises Ltd, of the cinema interests held by Mr Stanley Grimshaw in Byrom Picture Houses Ltd, and associated companies. Philip Marsden Hanmer took over on the 2nd January 1939.

The theatres controlled by Byrom Picture Houses Ltd, were the Derbyshire cinema, Gaiety cinema, New Adelphi cinema, Burlington cinema, all of Liverpool; the King’s Picture House, Heswall, the Grand, Frodsham and the Tivoli Buckley. The associated companies controlled the Prince of Wales cinema, Liverpool and the Glynn and Empire cinemas Wrexham.

Films at the Grand were booked by Philip M. Hanmer at 51 North John Street Liverpool. Later he moved to 51A Rodney Street, Liverpool. Shows were three days only on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Friday, Saturday. There was never any Sunday opening. Films would be screened in the evening from 5.30, but there were matinees on Wednesdays at 2.15 and Saturday at 2.15. During the week films would be continuous from 5.30 and there were separate performances on Saturday evenings at 6 and 8.15. Children’s matinees were eventually introduced at 2pm on Saturdays. The kids would be treated to a comedy, a cartoon, a feature, usually a western and a serial. Flash Gordon was one of those, leaving the excited audience wondering how their hero would get out of yet another predicament.

In the 1950s Cinemascope was installed with side masking between the two screen ratios. The stage was thirteen feet deep and the proscenium width twenty-four feet. There were two dressing rooms. In the early days of the Grand stage productions were often staged. The screen was pushed back for these. In 1923 a show called ‘Headlights’ was staged. This was shortly after its opening. One live performance was by a German tenor, who performed in August 1937. Others giving live entertainment included: Norman Langford and his Manx Mascots, appearing in July 1925. Comedian Archie Wallen played at the cinema on a few occasions. Commencing August the 3rd 1925 Marie Danvers Smith appeared with her number one repertoire Company and put on plays for a period of three weeks. They included My Sweetheart and a Double Life. A visit from the RAF band The Rafians took place on the 8th December 1940. The proceeds went to the local Spitfire Fund and the Christmas Comforts Fund for local soldiers. On Sunday July 11th 1944 there was a Grand Concert by the Royal Artillery (Portsmouth) Band. The proceeds went to the Royal Artillery Benevolent Fund. Prices for this were three shillings in the balcony, rear stalls two shillings and threepence and the rest of the stalls one shilling and sixpence.

The orchestra that played at the Grand cinema to accompany the silent films.  Conductor Tom Fyall (cinema manager), Cornet- Fred Ellison, Double Bass- Harry Jones, Cello Charlie Boyers, drums and violin players  unknown.

Tom Fyall entertained on the Grand stage with musicians, Fred Ellison, who played the cornet, Harry Jones, bass player and Charlie Boyers on cello. There was also a drummer and violinist, both unknown. Other entertainers included the Josy Taylor accordion band from Wales and singer Lorna Plummer.

The hall was coloured red and gold. There were windows each side of the auditorium which were covered with curtains. The stage curtains, known as tabs were red with a gold fringe. Seats were red plush and the curtains, Wilton and cork carpet were supplied by Beck and Windibank Ltd, Birmingham. Steps led to the small foyer where there was a paybox on the right and the balcony staircase opposite. Entrance to the stalls was straight ahead. The staircase walls had posters in frames advertising forthcoming attractions. The attraction that was being screened was advertised in still frames on the outside wall. There was no balcony lounge. At the top of the staircase there was a door that took you into the tiny balcony. When the cinema was closed there were concertina gates across the front for added security. Beyond these was a small covered area. In front were red doors leading into the small foyer. Above the small entrance was a small sign stating The Grand. There was a red neon, spelling Grand at the top of the building, just above three windows. During the summer months the entrance doors to the auditorium would be left open and a curtain would be pulled across to block out light.

Tom Fyall had a dance troupe called Tom Fyall’s Dainty Dots. He lived in Frodsham at Tynedale, Kingsway. He left the Grand in 1937 to go and work at the newly opened Regal Rhyl. The Kine Weekly dated 14th December 1939 stated: Transfer of licence of the Grand from J P Scully to F J Baker of Huyton.

For many years one of the operators’ was a woman by the name of Doris Woolham from Red Lane, Frodsham. She joined the cinema in 1940 as an attendant and cleaner, going into the operating box around 1943. The last manager was a James Turner, who had the nick name of Jimmy Pictures. He became manager of the Grand in 1956, having gone there in 1939 as a projectionist. Originally from North Wales he was there when it closed. Other staff members over the years included Annie Beswick, an usherette, Josie Aston, usherette, Mary Kelsey from Marsh Lane, an usherette who also helped in the projection room, Roy Rush, who was an operator, Majorie Maguire (married name), who worked there part time for eight shillings a week and also rewound films in the small rewind room, she said access to the operating box was off the balcony staircase. A Anne Coppack also helped in the projection box. Joyce Eaton was a cashier, Mrs Bolton, manager before James Turner, Pat Finnerty, a doorman or projectionist, John (Jack) Scully a manager, Bill Eaton, a doorman, Cyril Valentine, a projectionist. and James Connolly, a part time projectionist, who by day was a postman.


The last films were ‘Carry on Regardless’ and a Scotland Yard short, the last screening on the 5th August 1961. It then became a bingo hall, which opened on the 8th August 1961, only lasting until the end of September. It then remained empty before demolition. Bingo sessions took place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A report says that on the first night of eyes down there were only one hundred and ten in attendance with a top prize of nineteen guineas. After the first evening there were only around forty trying their luck. James Turner, who lived in Marsh Lane, Frodsham acquired a window cleaning business from a John Willie Percival. James Turner passed away in 1974.

Byrom Picture Houses Ltd put the building up for sale. Demolition work was practically completed by February 1962. The site was untouched until 1964. A supermarket called Mark Down, later Hanbury’s was built on the site. This opened on 30th September 1965. W.H. Smith now occupy the site.


David A Ellis  ©