MORLEY’S only purpose-built theatre, the New Pavilion, was opened 100 years ago today - November 25 1911, writes Morley historian Ronnie Barraclough.
The building today is an incongruous sight, but it must have been ever more so to the people of Morley in 1911 when they witnessed the first appearance of its pristine and elegant facade in the midst of the then soot-blackened, all-stone neighbourhood.
In March 1911 the local press announced The Coronation New Pavilion Co Ltd was to build a theatre in town, the name was appropriate in the coronation year of King George V.
Architects Howarth and Howarth of Cleckheaton moved rapidly and by May it had its first manager, Mr George Barry, and the site had been prepared sufficiently to arrange the laying of the foundation stone by the Mayor of Morley Ald S Rhodes at 2pm on Saturday, May 27 1911.
It was reported at the time that the theatre was built at a cost of about £6,500 with a seating capacity for 1,500 and the balcony accommodating 340 people. When the theatre first opened the admission prices ranged from 2d to 1/3d.
The Grand Formal Opening took place on Saturday, November 25 1911 with his Worship the Mayor officiating.
On March 1 1913 a fire broke out in the theatre, fortunately it was confined to the stage area as the auditorium had been protected by the fire curtain. Nevertheless, part of the roof collapsed and all the fittings and scenery were destroyed. The theatre closed down for a re-fit although for a while silent films were shown.
The alterations and re-building were completed and the theatre re-opened on Monday, June 16 1913. But then the theatre was faced with increased competition when Morley’s first only purpose-built cinema was opened on Monday, December 1, 1913.
With the advent of the Great War, there was a shortage of stage performers. Also silent films were becoming more popular with the public, so the New Pavilion became a silent cinema from Monday, August 14, 1916, although amateur and professional artistes were booked to perform between films.
It became a theatre again in 1929 and in 1931 became a cinema. A small projection room was built at the rear of the building, which is still there today.
The theatre provided much valued entertainment throughout the Second World War, which helped the people of the town through those hard dark times.
The next event was when cinemascope equipment was installed in 1956 but the Pavilion’s life as a theatre and cinema reached its end when it was closed on Saturday, July 27 1968. It had outlived the Picture House which closed in 1960.
During the years as a cinema from 1931-1968 films were abandoned on the weeks when the Morley Amateur Operatic Society and the Old Morleians Amateur Dramatic Society staged their annual shows and plays. Star Bingo re-opened the building as a bingo hall in 1968 and it was then taken over by Walker’s Bingo in 1984.
It became unoccupied in 1988 and then opened as an After Dark nightclub in 1990, which then closed 13 years later, given an expensive refurbishment and opened as Puccino’s Restaurant and Cafe Bar in 2004.
Unfortunately this handsome building is now disused but hopefully in the not-too-distant future it can once again be put to good use for the benefit of the town and its citizens.