Saturday, June 15, 2013

Liberty Hall, Washington Street, Northampton

I spent the afternoon exploring Semilong and Kingsthorpe in Northampton and was intrigued by this building. It seemed a little too industrial for a church or a school. My bet was a public baths, but I was not convinced.

When I got home I found its history on the Cinema Treasures site:
The former Liberty Hall is located in Kingsthorpe, to the north of the town centre, at the junction of Washington Street and Lincoln Street. Pictures were shown here as early as 1898, but on a temporary basis. The 1910 Kelly’s Guide to Northampton, lists it as Liberty Hall, secretary: Patrick Flynn. Writing in the August 1975 Cinema Theatre Association Bulletin, Marcus Eavis referred to it as the Kingsthorpe Picture Palace ‘definitely in business before December 1912’. Local sources also note it as Kingsthorpe Electric Palace, with an opening date of 21st October 1912. 
Around 1919 the venue was known as the Gem Cinema, advertised locally as “Little, but Good!”, with F. Haines as proprietor and W. G. Jolley the resident manager. Prices ranged from 3d to 1s with 2 weekly matinees. In 1928 the proprietor and resident manager was C. Goff but the Gem Cinema must have closed shortly after as there are no references to it operating by 1930. 
For many years the former cinema has been used by nearby ice-cream manufacturer E. Gallone Ltd. for servicing their vans, it is often possible to see a number of the familiar yellow and cream vehicles parked either outside or on the ramp inside the premises.
Sure enough, you can see an ice cream van in the picture I took today. And the antique petrol pumps in the yard are worth a mention too.

But I suspect that Liberty Hall had a life before it became a cinema. A church mission hall perhaps? Or does its name point to a connection with the Liberal Party?


david walsh said...

A trade union hall ? There are Liberty Halls elsewhere, esoe. Dublin where it was the HQ of the Irish T&GWU

Jeff said...

There are two worn dedication stones on the front, dated 1887. Neither of them have any religious content, such as "dedicated to the glory of God", which makes me think it was probably not a church hall.

Jeff said...

In addition, I found a section of "Kelly's Directory of Northamptonshire (1898)" which says, "Liberty Hall, erected in 1887, in Washington street, is used for concerts, entertainments &c." Not a lot of information, but as it was written 11 years after the hall was built it seems likely that the hall was always meant for entertainment.

Jonathan Calder said...

Many thanks for your comments, Jeff.