By the year 1919 cinemas for showing motion pictures were well established throughout the country. It is thought that the Central Hall, Colne, Lancashire, built in 1907, was the first cinema to be built in Britain although photographic pictures which showed movement projected on a screen was available to the general public from 1895. The funeral of Queen Victoria in 1900 was shown in this way. Huge profits were being made by motion pictures by 1919, so much so that famous names in pictures at that time - Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin and D. W. Griffith - teamed up to form their own distributing company which they called 'United Artists'. Their object was to safeguard a share in the huge profits that were being earned by their films. It was in this year that Chaplin, fresh from his greatest success - as the most un-military of soldiers in 'Shoulder Arms' -started work on 'The Kid' with Jackie Coogan.
So it was, at this time, a good investment to build a picture house. There was a need for indoor entertainment for a growing population in Stanley. Local men John Edward Jacques (market gardener), William Lamb (clog-maker), J. Edward Wardle (bookmaker), Albert Denton (estate agent) and W. Wilson (general dealer) formed a limited company to finance the building of Stanley Picture House in Lake Lock. The legal arrangements were conducted by Norman Elliot, a local solicitor. The stamp fees were £6. 15s. 6d. The building was erected by a local bricklayer, T. Hanks, and plaster work by Newtons. It was completed and opened in 1920 with seating capacity for 433 people. Two small shops were built in, one each side of the main entrance. A Fanny Homes sold sweets at one of the shops and the Lamb family sold clogs and other footwear at the other one.
The films, of course, were black & white and silent. An orchestra of local musicians played as the pictures were shown. The music blended almost to perfection with the story being unfolded on the film. Love scenes were accompanied by soft, enduring music which had the audience in a grip of silence. Sadness on the film and the musicians played music which brought tears to ones eyes. The outbursts of violence or other dramatic scenes were accompanied by the clattering of symbols and drums. All this gave the villagers hours of entertainment at a very low price.
One of my earliest memories was the 'Penny Rush'. Each Saturday morning school children were given a film show, the charge being one penny. Some older boys would, if they had extra pocket money, treat their girl friends or, for an extra penny, they would sit in the better seats on the back rows.
The musicians in the early days were Amos Abson piano, W. Balmforth trumpet, who later played as a member of the Queen Mary's orchestra, with E. Abson violin. Silent films continued into the late 1920s.
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