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The Palace Cinema
c1910
c1910

Mr. and Mrs William Hewitt came to Rushden from London in 1889, and started a factory to make boots and shoes.
In about 1896 they were founder members of the Rushden Amateur Dramatic Society and also brought the cinema to Rushden.
In 1910 they moved to Wellingborough, and Mr. Hewitt was co-founder with the late Mr. George Brown of the Palace Theatre Company. The company built cinemas in Wellingborough and in Rushden, both called the Palace.


Staff at the cinema in 1912
Staff of the Palace Cinema.
The boy in the centre is Horace Wills.
July 1912
Frank Wills kept an outdoor beer house at number 25 Alfred Street, facing the rear of the Palace Cinema, and they watched the cinema taking shape in 1910. Frank's son Horace became a "limelight boy" at the cinema and is pictured left, with staff outside the cinema in 1912.

Horace Wills later established himself as a wirless engineer in 1920 and traded at 38 High Street.

Building the Palace cinema
Constructing the Palace stage area in 1910. The wall of the beer house is in the background and the man in a suit,
taking an interest in the proceedings, is Frank Wills.
The Palace cinema opened on September 19th 1910. The main auditorium extended through to Alfred street.

The first programmes consisted of live variety and cinema shows.

Admission prices were 2d, 4d and 6d, with seating for 543 people.

The cinema generated its own electricity using two oil powered engines. “Talkies” were not installed until 1930, when the admission prices were now 6d, 9d, and 1/- in the stalls, 1/3 and 1/6 in the balcony.

The first commissionaire was George Thomas Carr who died at Wellingborough in 1926 from tuberculosis.

A silver painted car with advertising for the Edison Kinetophone

The Rushden Echo, 16th September 1910, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Amusement Hall for Rushden - “The Palace” To Be Opened Next Week - Well-Adapted Building

“The Palace at Rushden, which is now practically completed, is to be opened on Monday next. It has been erected on a portion of the site in High-street and Alfred-street formerly occupied by Messrs. John Cave and Sons, whose factory was destroyed in the great fire. The building adjoins Alfred-street, and entrances are provided therefrom and also from High-street. It is a plain, substantial building, admirably adapted for the purpose for which it has been erected. The promoters are the company who run the King’s Palace at Wellingborough, and the manager will be Mr. William Hewitt. Popular prices are to be charged for admission, the tickets being 2d., 4d., and 6d., each. The balcony is devoted to the sixpence seats, and will be numbered, and they can be reserved at an extra cost of 3d. It is proposed to have two houses nightly – at 7 p.m. and again at nine o’clock.

Description

The Stage, which is at the Alfred-street end of the hall, is exceedingly spacious being about 40 feet wide by 20 feet deep. The front of the stage is picked out in fibrous plaster, moulded. The proscenium is about 24 feet wide. Footlights are provided in front of the stage. The artistes’ dressing-rooms are underneath the stage, and there is a scenery exit from the stage direct into Alfred-street.

The front seats, which, by the way, will be the cheapest, are entered from Alfred-street, the other seats on the ground floor and also the balcony being entered from the High-street by a long covered corridor, with an imposing front. The hall is capable of seating about 700 in all, from 180 to 200 seats being available in the balcony. The front seats are plain stained, the back seats and those in the balcony being plush covered. The flooring is boarded all the way through.

Electric light is supplied throughout by means of the company’s own dynamo, the installation being under the supervision of Mr. Leonard Hewitt. The average height of the roof is about 32 feet, and

The Ventilation

is admirable, there being 13 inlet ventilators besides four outlets in the roof. The interior walls are all coloured in red distemper, with a green cement dado all round.

Three exits are provided at the north-end these emptying themselves into Alfred-street, and two other exits are provided, one at the east and the other at the south end, besides the stage exit. There are two fire-proof staircases from the balcony. The corridor is divided into two – one for entrance and the other for exit. A pay-box is provided at each entrance. The artistes’ dressing-rooms are well fitted up.

The engine, dynamo, and cinematograph machinery are all contained in a fire-proof building outside the main hall.

Contractors &c.

The heating apparatus is the work of Mr. J. E. Smith, of Higham Ferrers, and six radiators are provided, so that the building will be adequately heated. The hall is lighted in the centre by two large brass electric pendants. The scenery has been painted by Mr. G. Clarke Lockett, of Wolverhampton.

Mr. William Packwood, of Newton-road, is the contractor, the architect being Mr. F. E. Preston, of Rushden. The whole of the carpentering has been executed by Messrs. Whittington and Tomlin, of Queen-street, Rushden, and the painting and plumbing work was carried out by Mr. A. T. Nichols.

First-class musical artistes will be engaged from time to time. The artistes enter by Alfred-street and go straight to their dressing rooms and then direct on to the stage, so that the hall doors need never be opened for them.

Chocolates, sweets, &c., will be on sale during the performances, and smoking will be allowed in all parts of the hall.


The Argus, Friday 30th September 1910, transcribed by Kay Collins

“The Palace”–This amusement hall has proved an extraordinary attraction during this Feast week, and on several nights the accommodation has proved inadequate, and many have had to be turned away. The cinematograph pictures have been greatly admired, and the artistes have been very popular. The latter have included Will and Roze, in their Continental acrobatic scena; Valvo, military ventriloquist; and The Arnolds, in their cabinet mystery “Spiritus”. For the coming week an excellent programme had also been arranged. Some very fine pictures will be shown and in addition there will be The Three Veros, vocalists and speciality dancers; Babs Campbell, comedienne, and the great Boutelle, the famous juggler from the Palace, Shaftesbury-avenue, London. Boutelle’s engagement is, of course, an exceptionally important one, his talent being of a remarkable character.

A Poster dated 1939
Palace Accounts for Sep 19th -24th 1910
Sep 19 Total as per Return
12
0
2
  Me & You
4
10
0
Sep 20  
6
15
3
Carr
1
5
0
Sep 21  
5
11
11
Checkers
 
18
0
Sep 22  
7
5
4
Money taken
 
12
0
Sep 23  
5
7
4
Miss Spavin
1
0
0
Sep 24  
21
8
9
Welsh Minstrels
8
0
0
   
 
 
 
Miss Vincent
2
0
0
   
 
 
 
Percy Agutter
2
10
0
   
 
 
 
Stage Hands
 
12
0
   
 
 
 
Desboro
 
7
6
   
 
 
 
Snap (?)
 
6
0
   
 
 
 
Petty Cash
3
3
1
   
 
 
 
Advert Argus
 
3
0
   
 
 
 
Advert Echo
 
4
0
   
 
 
 
Rent
Rates
4
12
6
   
 
 
 
Gas
1
5
0
   
 
 
 
Coal
 
5
0
   
 
 
 
Programmes
 
4
0
   
 
 
 
Daybills
 
10
6
   
 
 
 
Throwaways
 
12
0
   
 
 
 
Cartoons
 
3
0
   
 
 
 
Roll Tickets
 
3
6
   
 
 
 
Piano
 
3
0
   
 
 
 
Petty Cash
3
3
1
   
 
 
 
£
33
9
1
   
 
 
 
Film Hire
6
5
0
   
 
 
 
£
39
14
1
   
 
 
 
Profit
18
14
8
 
£
58
8
9
£
58
8
9
Note: Petty Cash is entered twice

Rushden Echo, 13th November 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis

THE PALACE – management have this week presented two favourite programmes. For the first half of the week, a musical play, “Hans,” met with the usually good reception that is always accorded Mr. Hewitt’s company. This half of the week Lily Denville is appearing as a successful comedienne and dancer. Martinett and Wallace are making a great hit with their musical entertainment. George Porter, the double-voiced comedian, is one of the kings of his profession. The Four Stelmonties, in song, dance, and comedy, are exceptionally fine, as the audience last night can testify. The films include the following:- Dream ship, drama; Miser Murray’s wedding present, drama; Borrowed finery, comedy; Conscientious Caroline, comedy; Canadian logging camp, travel. Next week’s programme includes variety for the first half and films for the second half. Further particulars will be found in our advertisement columns. The Belgian refugees will visit the Palace to-night.

Extract from a longer article 1916:- Mr. Wills, cornet player at the Palace, Rushden, has received an interesting letter from Bandsman Harry Rice, ---- Garrison Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Bandsman Rice, was formerly drummer at the Palace, Rushden, and a member of the Rushden Military Band, was previously in the Rushden Temperance Band.

Rushden Echo, 22nd July 1921, transcribed by Kay Collins

The Place Staff, with their wives and friends, had their outing on Sunday to Leamington in charabancs supplied by Mr. George Robinson, Church-street. Leaving Rushden at 9 o’clock a halt was made at Daventry; then, arriving at Leamington about 12.30, various places were visited, including Warwick. The party proceeded to Mrs. S. Adams, Spencer-street, where a good meat tea was provided, 40 sitting down. After tea a hearty vote of thanks was given to the following gentlemen, who contributed towards the expenses: Mr, Carrington (manager), Mr. Arthur Cave, Mr. W. F. J. Hewitt, and Mr. W. Neville, who kindly gave all the gentlemen cigars. A vote of thanks was given to the following gentlemen, who had all the arrangements in hand: Mr. J. Bird (chairman), Mr. H. Rice (treasurer), Mr. J. A. Coles (secretary). Leaving Leamington at 7.30 another halt was made at Daventry. The party left at 9.45, arriving home about midnight, after having a most enjoyable time.


1960s when the stage was bricked up
The Rushden Echo and Argus, 7th September 1956, transcribed by Jim Hollis

The Palace is closing for the last time
On the Monday before Rushden Feast in 1910, people flocked to Rushden’s first permanent house of entertainment and were enthusiastic as they heard Williams’ Welsh Minstrels and saw a number of short films. The Palace had made local history.

Next month the Palace will cease to be a cinema. The whole site extending from High Street to Alfred Street has been sold and will not be used again for entertainment purposes.

Mr. W. R. Hewitt, a director of the Palace Company, explained that the reason for selling was the burden of entertainment tax and rising costs in general.

Loyal Audiences
He recalled that when the owners built the Ritz Cinema on an adjoining site in 1936 they expected that the Palace would soon close down. It still drew loyal audiences, however, and the war helped to keep it going.

First manager at the Palace was Mr. Hewitt’s father, the late Mr. W. J. F. Hewitt, whose book recording the first week’s takings is still in existence.

The book did not mention the original programme but files of the “Argus” give the story.

“The building, which has accommodation for some 600 or 700 people, has been erected in the centre of the town, adjoining the scene of the great factory fire, and is reached by a covered passage from the High Street. It is well fitted up in every respect, and bids fair to supply a great want in this direction in the town. Two performances are being given each night, and on every occasion this week the attendance has been very large. The cinematograph films, which are very fine, have included the following subjects: Rio de Janeiro, On the Border Line, It Pays to Advertise, The Minstrel, The Hindoo’s Treachery, Hunting Wolves in Russia, Courting the Merry Widow and Distraction of Foolshead. But pictures do not form the whole of the entertainment for Williams’ Welsh Minstrels have appeared in instrumentals and vocal selections with much success, and Mr. Percy Agutter (comedian) and Miss May Vincent (singer of chorus songs) have also delighted the audiences.”

New Shops?
Mr. Hewitt senior had been a pioneer of entertainment in the town and district, and was also connected with local amateur stage societies.

Mr. C. J. Knighton manager of the Palace will transfer to the staff of the Ritz when the Palace closes at the end of October.

It is understood that shops will be built on the High Street frontage of about forty feet, where there is now an entrance and passageway.

Mr. Jim Knight of Rushden in whose name the purchase has been made had no statement to make.

The purchase was negotiated by John L. Wilson and Company.


In 1996 Rushden & District History Society put up a Blue Plaque on the building, in commemoration of the centenary of cinema.

The Palace was opened in September 1910 and closed in November 1956.


Click here for more Blue Plaques


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