written by local resident, Bonnie Harrington
In a time before the iPhone you’re holding in your hand was even imagined, in a time when horse- drawn carts and trams covered the city, in a time when reality TV didn’t exist, there was cinema.
Right on our High Street, in the centre of our Redfield community, is a whisper of cinematic grandeur. You’d never know, but a wonderfully complete Art Deco cinema is tucked away in a building that was used as a pub for almost 20 years.
There’s a chance to save this iconic building from property developers and turn it back into the beloved social place it once was for everyone.
“Those were the days. The cinema brought people together. There was always a sense of occasion. The grand entrances and attractive décor welcomed everyone who was going to the pictures.”Memories of the Cinema, local resident Keith Garland.
Hollywood Glamour, in Redfield
Over 110 years ago, in 1912, the St George’s Hall Electric Palace was opened. The name itself hints to the glamour and opulence right in the centre of the Redfield community. When people didn’t have electricity in their homes, to have a cinema on their doorsteps was hugely exciting.
The cinema was run by a manager, a projectionist, a ticket girl, and a pianist. Early movies were silent, and black and white, so the pianist filled the cinema with improvised music. 350 seats were available, but benches were often pushed closer together to allow more people to cram in and watch the latest film.
In the late 1920s the original small cinema was transformed. The Pugsley family bought the St George’s Hall Electric Palace (which had previously been a slaughterhouse!) and several neighbouring shops, including a coffin storeroom. The cinema was expanded to 750 seats.
The pianist was upgraded to an orchestra- two violinists, a drummer, a trumpeter, a cellist and a bassist. The most popular films of the day, the romantic adventure ‘Don Juan’ and the World War 1 film ‘Big Parade’, were sell- out shows. Redfield locals could choose their ticket ranging from the cheap seats at a sixpence (6d) each, to the most exclusive seats costing a huge 1 shilling and sixpence (1s.6d).
“Cinema frontage was all lit up and bright, very welcoming. Some people used to rush to the cinema in the afternoon when it opened. Some made straight for the radiator pipes and stayed there till closing time just to keep warm.”Memories of the Cinema, local resident Keith Garland.
The End of an Era
The cinema later found a new owner and a new name; The Granada Cinema. By this time, technology had developed to include film with dialogue and sound. The cinema survived the Second World War undamaged, but things had changed. There were radios and TVs in homes, the economy had been badly affected, and the cinema reminded people of a different time. The cinema closed in 1961. The last film shown was The Alamo, starring John Wayne.
“I am glad I lived through those old years. It was wonderfully vibrant. There were many more people out and about, walking outside – there was nothing much to keep them indoors. There were no TV’s, most had no radio. I loved the cinemas, I used to go three times a week.”Memories of the Cinema, local resident Keith Garland.
Always Serving the People of Redfield
Parts of the cinema, such as the projection box, were sealed shut, and parts were repurposed to become The Granada Social Club and Bingo Hall. The screen and chairs downstairs seating disappeared but upstairs balcony seats and the timeless, glamorous Art Deco frieze remained.
The bingo hall was a welcoming, friendly venue where the community gathered, and everyone knew each other. As the 20th century progressed, another Bingo Hall opened in Barton Hill and St George’s Hall, then tired and run down, could not compete.
In 1998, The Wetherspoons public house chain spent nearly £1Million to turn the site into a pub. They named it St George’s Hall in honour of the original cinema. The auditorium of the cinema was used as a kitchen and storage area, and customers drink in part of the cinema that was the old foyer. This means that the parts of the Art Deco cinema which was hidden away in the early 1960s is still there, intact and waiting for a new chance to serve the public of Redfield.