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The People's Palace

Mike Wilson, Local Author and Historian

The People's Palace, Bridlington

These paragraphs were gleaned from local newspapers of the time.

A company has been founded to buy the Rosendale Estate, on the road between Burlington and The Quay, on February 1, 1896. The share capital is £10,000, with 800 6% preference shares of £5 each and 6,000 ordinary shares at £1. The People's Palace should accommodate three to four thousand people, and have a frontage of 200 feet. Mr William Morgan was the first M.D. The architect was Mr Earnshaw.

Six bids had been made for building the Palace, between £10,000 and £8,600. These were considered too costly, so revised plans were retendered. The directors then accepted Mr Bailey's tender of £7,095.

During May 1896, the directors of People' s Palace Co. Ltd. met and learned the opening was scheduled for July 6. Four thousand people attended the opening,

Mr Padley was appointed chairman for 12 months on April 23, 1897. Palace shares were offered for sale and 55 6% preference shares were sold for £6 2s. 6d.

At the first annual general meeting on November 26, 1897, the chairman said the season had not been a good one for the company. When the weather was fine, the visitors and trippers rushed down to the harbour. If the company wanted a dividend they had to "pray for bad weather." If people wanted to listen to music, they would go to the Spa where a good band was established and not to the Palace to hear a "tinpot band."

A dividend on six per cent was declared on preference shares, five per cent on ordinary shares.

There was a similar dividend at the second annual general meeting on November 22, 1897.

The first Gilchrist lecture at the People' s Palace took place on September 26, 1901, while on February 26, 1903, Madam Sarah Grand gave a lecture.

Sarah Grand had married Lieut. Col. McFall when she was 16, and was widowed in 1898. She used her pen-name for her first novel, Ideala, but was more well known for The Heavenly Twins, written in 1893. She also wrote Winged Victory and Variety and was a supporter of the women' s movement at the time. She was three times mayoress of Bath and died in 1943. For a time Sarah Grand had lived in Bridlington.

In 1904, the People's Palace had financial problems. The council rejected an offer for the company of £18,000, and it was also offered at auction but was withdrawn at £13,500. Then, in April 1905, the council decided by ten votes to nine to offer £13,500 for the People's Palace, but the mayor
decided not to proceed further with the negotiations for the purchase of the company for the town.

On May 26, 1911, a legal notice appeared in the local press asking all persons having a claim against the liquidator of the company to send particulars to Mr Kitchingman at The Aquarium, Scarborough. The previous Friday, a demonstration was held of the Minimax fire extinguisher at the Palace.

By October 1911, Bridlington & District Conservative & Unionist Co. Ltd. had purchased the Palace for £3,500. The argument was that "unless the Palace was at once secured by Bridlington people it was likely to pass into the hands of strangers."

Between 1911 and 1913, the Palace' s fortunes changed. The Palace became a cinema, and it was reported that Mr J. Austin had spared no expense in transforming the People's Palace into the Palace Picture House. Carpeting and curtaining by Harry Davis made the place attractive and
comfortable for three to four hundred people.

For Whitsuntide 1913, the film Kathleen Mavourneen, a drama of Irish life, went down well with visitors.

In June the same year, the new Conservative Club opened. They had bought the Palace buildings for £7.000, and the picture house was let to Mr Austin at £230 for ten years. The local paper said: "The council never made a bigger blunder than letting this opportunity slip."

The new premises contained the central hall, formerly the Palace ballroom, capable of seating 1,500 people. There was also a large billiards room and a games room. The Ladies' Club was completely separate from the rest of the building. Outside was a tennis court and a large bowling green.

At the official opening, there were many speeches made by those on the committee, etc.

October saw the Picture Palace showing a film depicting the removal of an abdominal growth during an operation in a Russian hospital. The local paper said: "It was a gruesome picture yet illustrative of the amazing skill of the surgeon."

A report during 1931 stated that the Palace Picture House, the oldest established entertainment hall in the town, was as enterprising as ever. Improvements were to be made and Mr Pococke, manager, said the young lady attendants looked charming in their Royal Scottish tartan kilts.

Notes in the local paper of January 1940 stated that the Palace "had been a cinema since 1913 and before that a theatre. Mr Pococke, manager, came in 1930 and introduced sound in the cinema."

There must have been some problems because by May 1940 it was reported that the Palace was opened again. It had been taken over by Mr A. Spinks and was now known as Palace Theatre.

July 1940 saw the announcement: "The Picture Palace is closed until further notice." Bomb damage was evident in the 50s and the author assumes this was the reason it was closed.

The colour photographs show the disappearance of the last trace of the People's Palace. The elaborate archway had been a feature of Prospect Street for many years but during 1995 the buildings were declared unsafe. These photographs were taken on 31st March, 1996, as the site was being demolished. The Georgian Cafe, Pattisons the florist, The Carpet Centre and Bridlington Stationers moved to other properties in the town and the whole area was added to the car park.

The lettering "Exchange Hall" comprised of metal letters and became part of the salvage. However, a single letter "E" became the property of Mike Wilson, the author of this piece. Unfortunately this has been lost over time.