Updated 4 Jan 2007

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Wirksworth cinema 1935-1967

    This history of Wirksworth cinema was taken from "A Cinema Miscellany (Part 15)" by Brian Hornsey, ISBN 1901425754, published 2001. Thanks Brian for the information.

Wirksworth cinema building 1935
Wirksworth cinema building 1935
Taken c1905, St John St, Wirksworth with Nether House on the right, which was pulled down in 1935 and replaced by Wirksworth Cinema.
Taken 1952, Wirksworth cinema is showing "A Streetcar named Desire", starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando, seats 1/6d and 2/3d. It closed in 1967.

    A brief look at the cinema history of Wirksworth, Derbyshire

    The Wirksworth cinema story dates back really to the fair-showmen days, when they visited this town. But by around the first war, there were shows given in the Town Hall. They were it seemsat first given on a hand turned projector, with a gas and oxygen lit 'Limelight' lamphouse.

    By 1923 this cinema was listed in the Kinematograph Year Books. Such was the population of the times that three nights weekly were all which were needed to show the current films of the day. A matinee was held each Saturday though. Prices in those early days of the 1920s were from 3d to 1/3d

    Soon by 1925 a Mr J Brown, also of Fullwood Road, Sheffield was noted as owner with a Mr M R Brown as manager, now such was business that shows were given twice nightly. By this time electricity had been fitted, so one assumes a better projector was installed.

    The Bioscope (Trade) Magazine for 18th January 1928 told us that: Wirksworth - A new hall has been added to the many village picture houses opening in North Derbyshire recently, promoters are all Sheffield Exhibitors who have been developing this part of the county, with no small amount of success. They evidently believe it is necessary to speculate to accumulate'

    This seems to relate again to the Town Hall, which must have been closed by the original lessee, and taken by others, for it seems that it may have been r-furnished with seats etc, at this juncture. Soon a sound system by Metropolitan, was installed bringing 'talkies' to Wirksworth, this it seems c.1930. J Brown and Company are still listed as lessees, now prices ranged from 4d up to 1/-.

    Soon though the Town Hall and its lessee, were to have opposition. This came in the shape of Mr William Alton. He formed a company known as Warlton Entertainments (or Walton, both spellings are in press reports) and maybe with a Mr A Marsden, they bought Nether House, an early Victorian town house. This was demolished in late 1934. A cinema, dance hall and shops were then built on the site.

    Wirksworth Cinema, opened on 11th March 1935. British Talking Pictures sound system was installed for the 525 seats. It still had opposition from the Town Hall Cinema, for some years run by at one time Mr (later Councillor) J F Slater.

    Prices at the Wirksworth Cinema, were from 6d up to 1/3d.

    Both cinemas continuedinto the war years, but soon the 'new' cinema was to be on its own, by the end of the hostilities in 1945.

    It seems it was around this period when new projectors were installed and G B Duosonic sound is now listed. Now it seems 465 seats were here, maybe due to damages in the war when things could not be replaced.

    Cinemascope screen was fitted in c1955, and now prices of admission ranged from 1/- up to 2/5d. The Wirksworth Cinema ran then for just around five more years. It was closed in March or April, 1960, it seems Warlton Entertainments had now deemed it un-economic. It was sold by Auction a month or so later, and on failing to be sold it was bought by its former owner William Alton, from sentimental reasons. He was persuaded to lease it to another Supreme Entertainments Co.Ltd. Whose General manager Mr J E Machin read telegrams of congratulation and support, before the cinema was opened by Councillor J F Slater, 'Father' of wirksworth Urban Council. He is reported as stating 'this place should never have been closed'.

    This grand re-opening on Friday Evening 29 July, 1960, with the feature film being 'Never so few', Fank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida.

    It closed again on 1 August 1965, with the film 'Son of Spartacus'. This closure it seems was to give staff a break and refurbishment to take place.

    It re-opened as the Wirksworth Cinema, Candy Shop and Coffee Bar.

    It then ran on and seemingly still losing some patronage, (like all other cinemas in towns of this size), continued until the last advertised film was on 1 April 1967 when "Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD" was shown. It may have run longer, but soon advertising was for 'Silverline Bingo' in these premises.

    Bingo ran for a number of years, but like others it waned and the building became a warehouse.

    Bertram Haworth writes about Nether House:
    Then we come to what I always thought was Wirksworth's best house. This was Nether House, which was a grand, creeper covered, Georgian House which was comparable in size to the opposite house (now the hospital). It had spacious grounds which extended down to the Hannages - good lawns and gardens, which included a peach wall (now the back of Bill Wilde's house in Nether Gardens). It was owned by a Mr.C.E. Bowles who was a scholar of some repute. Alas, the [1914-18] War impoverished them and they had to move to a smaller house on North End. I well remember him presenting me with a prize at WGS called "Our Country's Flowers", and being invited to go with him on a tour round his garden and receive a lecture far above my head. There were stables approached by an archway on to St.John St. and he kept a good staff of servants. He had a young parlour maid, now Mrs. Sam Smith, so you can guess how long ago that was.

    For a while after he left it was a guest house and we used to hold suppers and dances in the big dining room. This house gave distinction to the street. Now, of course, it would be preserved. Then, it was just knocked down and the present cinema was erected. The building (that is) now the Memorial Hall was a club and this flourished until the War came.