Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hull Fair 1919

Manders Menagerie on the left, set up beside Bostock & Wombwells at the Hull Fair. These traveling show's must have been magical for folks living at that time before the advent of movies, tv, and mass communication.

But did the Menageries possibly assist in their own demise? When people today whine about tv, movies, video games, etc. being the cause of poor business, you have to wonder if it didn't start along ago and they just weren't aware of it:

On Calder Street, in the ground now occupied by Coopers Yard, our very own
“ Cinema Paradiso “ once stood. It was owned and managed by the Manders family and officially called the “ PALACE “. To every one in the village, though, it was affectionately known as “ Johnny’s “.

The story of how the village cinema came into existence goes much further back. The Manders, who brought “ Hollywood to Lochwinnoch “, were a branch of a travelling circus family whose story is told in “ The Illustrated & Descriptive History of Manders Menageries & Shows “ published under the auspices of the Fairground Society. By the 1830’s James Manders had built up three businesses, the “ Royal Menagerie “, the “ Grand Star Menagerie “, and the “ Royal Waxworks “ all of which toured the UK. A popular exhibit of the latter was a tableau of the Last Supper which was contained in its own box-van. In 1899, moving pictures were added to the waxworks exhibition ; the first showing was at the Newcastle Christmas Fair. The show was then renamed “ Manders Royal Waxworks & Edison’s Electric Animated Pictures “. And the man who introduced this exciting innovation was John Manders; the “ Johnny “ after whom the Palace Cinema would later become affectionately known.

Johnny brought the show to Lochwinnoch after the end of the First World War. The tent, photographed below, was set up in the area now occupied by the War Memorial in Harvey Square and a era of cinematic entertainment for the village began. Johnny, his wife Polly and their sons, Johnny, Jimmy, Tommy and Billy decided to make roots here and end their involvement in the travelling tradition. They built the Palace Cinema on the site in Calder Street in the early 1920’s. The Scottish Screen Archive held in the National Library of Scotland records this as 1923 but Fulton Barclay, employed as a projectionist in the early days and today living in Dalry, suggests that it may well have been earlier than that.

In the era of “ silent movies “ an accomplished pianist was needed to play the film score. The Manders found a musician with the necessary talent here in the village. Mabel Lunney, a Cockney lady married to a local man, was employed to provide the musical accompaniment.

The photograph below shows the original building on Calder Street. The projection room was accessed from within the foyer but stricter fire safety rules resulted in an external staircase access being built. This was the only major change to the cinema.

Sadly the “ Palace “ closed in 1970 and the last film shown was Circus of Horrors.
The site was sold to the local Coal Merchants, George Patterson & Sons and then demolished to make way for the Cooper’s Yard housing development.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin at the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield, a leading authority on travelling cinema.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prof. Toulmin will be the banquet speaker at the 2012 Circus Historical Society convention in Baraboo, WI, starting on June 13. See for more information.