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Matlock: The Cinema House, 1922
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Matlock from the Memorial

Matlock: Hall Lees

Matlock & District Amateur Operatic Society, 1930s

Ernest Bailey's
Speech Day 1951

The large stone built former cinema complex on the corner of Steep Turnpike and Causeway Lane had only just been built when this photograph was taken. The row of shops next door to the cinema were still being fitted out. There's an estate agent's board next to the pavement and a man is at the top of a ladder doing something to the front of the shops building. The cinema was built by the contractors Messrs John William Wildgoose, Ltd. of Matlock and the architects were the Derby firm of Naylor and Sale. It cost close on £20,000 to build and was luxuriously furnished[1].

The Cinema House, where George Woodman was manager in 1925[2], was opened on 18 December 1922[1]. Cinema going had become increasingly popular and Matlock Cinema House was Matlock's second cinema - the Picture Palace on Dale Road had opened about 1916.

The films advertised on the bill boards have helped to date the picture. Although it is difficult to read all the words, the double bill included two films that were came out in 1922. "Skin Deep" was a film directed by Lambert Hillyer that starred, amongst others, Milton Sills and Florence Vidor. The second film was "The Glory of Clementina" which starred Pauline Frederick. The same bill board announces that the Café was open daily during the week from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. and on Sundays between 3 and 7 p.m.

Disaster struck in the early hours of 31st May 1931 when fire destroyed the interior and the roof was ruined, allegedly through someone throwing down a cigarette on the balcony during the previous evening's performance. The manager, Harry Hodgkinson, had locked up at 11.30 p.m. on the Saturday evening and a policeman had passed the building around 2a.m. on Sunday morning; neither noticed anything was wrong. The fire was discovered quite by chance at 3 a.m. by Jack Robinson, an employee, who had returned to the cinema for a pair of shoes that he had accidentally left behind and which he needed for a motor cycle trip to London. He called Matlock Fire Brigade[3]. The members of the Fire Brigade who attended the fire later received a gift of a guinea from the directors of Matlock Cinemas, Ltd., "for such efficient service"[4]. The damage was assessed at about £10,000.The Matlock firm of J. W. Wildgoose and Sons were awarded the contract to rebuild it[5]and it reopened at the beginning of 1932.

The cinema was used for a variety of functions, including Ernest Bailey School's Speech Days. Matlock and District Amateur Operatic Society productions also took place here for many years, though not in the year after the fire. In July 1933 it was announced that the Cinema House would be available for their next production and in 1934, after a two year gap because of the economic situation, the Society returned to the Cinema House[6].

In the early hours of 4th March 1945 German planes fired machine guns over the town for the first time, slightly damaging the cinema house and some shops as well as the church and a number of houses. Matlock was described as a "North Midlands Town" for security reasons, but the newspapers of the day were clearly referring to Matlock[8].

It wasn't until around the New Year of 1955 that Northern Cinemas, by then the cinema's owners, decided to change the name to The Ritz Cinema. The Council were in uproar about the new name. Anything would apparently have been acceptable but definitely NOT The Ritz! Whilst Northern Cinemas couldn't have been over duly bothered by the association, what upset the Council was that the same name had been used by "a fried fish shop" which had been somewhere adjacent to the cinema and which the Council had closed down not long before![7]

Postcard of "The Picture House, Matlock". No 39 Printed by W & K - a Real Photograph.
In the collection of, provided by and © Ken Smith.
Image scanned for this website and information researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 19 December 1922. An application for a cinema licence had been made in early December by Mr. F. C. Lymn, but as the seating was not fixed at the time, the justices adjourned the application pending the completion of the building.

[2] "Kelly's Directory, 1925"

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 1 June 1931

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 20 August 1931

[5] "The Bioscope", 24 June 1931.

[6] The Operatic Society's 1932 production was staged at Matlock Bath's Grand Pavilion -it had a larger stage - and there was no production in 1933. The decision to return to the cinema was made at the Society's 1933 AGM ("Derby Daily Telegraph", 6 July 1933).

[7] "Nottingham Journal", 5 March 1945. German Raiders Over Again. Six Down; North Midlands Damage. The story was also reported in other newspapers including "Birmingham Daily Post", 5 March 1945 and "Derby Daily Telegraph", 5 March 1945. Fifty years after the war had begun (28 August 1989) an article, "The Night 'They' Machine-Gunned Matlock",was published in the "Peak Advertiser", with thanks to the Maureen Smith collection.

[8] With thanks to Colin Goodwyn for the fried fish shop story.