Winter Gardens Cinema (Odeon/Astra) Llandudno.

Winter Gardens/Odeon/Astra Cinema.

Winter Gardens/Odeon/Astra Cinema

Gloddaeth Street,

Llandudno, LL30 2DF


Owners:  The Creams (Llandudno) Ltd, Zackry and James Brierley.

Architects:  Arthur S. Hewitt and Ian Rowland James.

Main Building Contractor:  Roland Ashworth of Rhos.

Building Cost:  £70000.

Capacity:  Stalls~1074, Balcony~809. Total: 1883 seats.

Christie 3Manual/8Rank installed by William Hill and Son, together with Norman Beard.

First General Manager:  James Brierley.

Opened:  Monday 25th March 1935.

Officially opened By:  Ella Shields.

Opening Night Gala Concert:  Ella Shields topping the bill.

Sold to Odeon Theatres Ltd on Monday 2nd November 1936.

Closed:  October 1986

Building Demolished 1988.



In 1930 Rochdale-born Zachry Brierley and his brother, James, whose family fortune came from pork pies, acquired the site of a walled market garden known as The Vineyards on the corner of Gloddaeth Avenue and Deganwy Avenue, Llandudno. They owned the Creams Coach Hire Company and needed a new garage, which they built at street level with a car park on the first level above. They quickly discovered that there was little need for the car park venture as there were so few car owners willing to pay for parking.

With an ambitious plan, they commissioned the Llandudno architect Arthur S. Hewitt, assisted by Ian Roland James; an associate of R.I.B.A., to  design an impressive cinema/live venue. However, the brothers soon realised that no insurers would entertain cover for a cinema above a garage, resulting in the garage being turned into a large dance hall. The insurers and the council had no objections once the garage business was removed.

Building commenced in earnest of this large structure that was to become the highest building in town.  With a budget set at just £70000 to construct the venue , the main building contractor was Roland Ashworth of Rhos.James.  James Yates, father of the television personality Jess Yates, was the electrical contractor dealing with the main installation. In later years, Jess Yates, who lived in Llandudno, made frequent appearances as guest organist at the theatre.

An American building worker fell 110′ during the construction, landing in soft cement, he fortunately was un-injured and worked away.

Main staircase

The auditorium

The underwhelming and dull exterior had two high towers that book ended the drab, huge  central block. At the base of these towers was a small entrance to the cinema, with Creams Coaches Booking Office situated at the base of the second tower. A modest canopy placed over just two sets of double doors led cinema goers into a small vestibule where the paybox was located. Immediately to the right was the entrance to the ballroom, whilst ahead was a wide staircase that took patrons up to the first floor which was the foyer that led to the stalls and a further staircase to the balcony level. The reporters from the local press described the auditorium as “massive and symbolic of strength”.  The Art Deco interior, with it rich plasterwork, decorated in shades of gold, silver and apple green was in contrast to the exterior of the building. The splay walls and the deep border surrounding the proscenium were ornate with grill work that concealed both ventilation apertures and the  organ chambers that were on both sides of the proscenium that helped produce a natural stereophonic spread of sound from the Christie organ.

What made an impact was the wonderful colour changes of the concealed Art Deco lighting.

Seating was provided for 1,074 in the stalls and 809 in the balcony. The proscenium was 40 feet wide. The full working stage was 30 feet deep and there were 14 dressing rooms.

At street level the cinema boasted a café and a large ballroom that could accommodate more than 1,200 dancers.

The Winter Gardens opened with a stage concert. Music hall singer and male-impersonator star, Ella Shields, topped the bill on Monday 25th March 1935. Interestingly, just a Fox Movietone newsreel was on the running order, so was the first film shown on the opening night.

Management and staff of the Winter Gardens.

A Christie 3Manual/8Rank organ was installed and was played by Harold Ramsey and resident organist Horace Bagot on the opening night.

Singer and British film star- Gracie Fields gave a live telephone message of good wishes which was relayed to the audience through the sophisticated speaker system at the opening event. There was a connection between the Brierley family and Gracie Fields as their home town was Rochdale, so the brothers used this to their full advantage to gain valuable publicity for the opening.

Odeon Llandudno

1936 Local press advert.

After just 18 months of operation, the Brierley brothers sold the building to Oscar Deutsch, owner of Odeon Theatres Ltd. Whether the brothers were running into financial difficulties, or maybe they were tempted by an offer put forward by Oscar Deutsch. The deal was finalized on 2nd November 1936. It continued to trade as the Winter Gardens until the company rebranded it as an Odeon during 1943. The ballroom was operated separately by James Payne and retained the Winter Gardens name.

Stage shows decreased sharply in favour of films. Except for regular Sunday concerts that were centred around the Christie organ.

The Beatles appeared on stage for  six days from Monday 12th August 1963.

Astra Llandudno

As the Astra cinema in 1971. Showing a little known film, “Unman, Wittering and Zigo”, starring David Hemmings, that had location shots in Llandudno.

Owners of Odeon, the Rank Organisation, sold the building to the independent Hutchinson circuit on 13th October 1969 and it was re-named the Astra cinema.

The new owner, Alan Hutchinson, quickly introduced a Summer only opening (Llandudno being a seaside town) during the early 1970s.

Roy Bentley at the Astra, Llandudno

During the 1970’s the pipe organ was used by members of the North Wales Organ Society whose president, Roy Bentley, long-term manager of the theatre and formerly a Gaumont British theatre organist who often played the Christie at these well supported organ concerts.

Robinson Clever

The Christie organ continued to be used by visiting organists that often included the renowned H. Robinson Cleaver at these specially organised concerts.

Following the death of the owner, Alan Hutchinson, his wife Dorothy, who was now in charge, decided to sell the business that included the Astra Cinema to the Apollo Leisure Group. The building closed during October 1986 and in 1988 the Christie organ was removed from the building and put into storage for possible preservation. Whilst in storage the instrument was destroyed.

The End.

Demolition of the building took place during November 1988. A residential development known as Ormside Grange now stands on the ground that the old Winter Gardens once occupied.

Ormside Grange. whitewith thanks to Roger Shone for additional information and photographs.