Treasures from the Archives take to the stage!Published Wednesday, 21st January 2015
Rotherham’s theatres and cinemas of yesteryear are the focus of the latest “Treasures from the Archives” exhibition at Clifton Park Museum.
The Archives and Local Studies section has delved into its collections to bring you a selection of records including posters, programmes, photographs and old advertisements relating to the town’s former theatres and cinemas.
On show in the public search room at the museum, the display covers the years 1865 to 1994 and features well-known names such as the Hippodrome, the Regent, Theatre Royal and Empire that have now faded from public memory.
Rotherham’s first purpose-built public theatres are thought to have existed from the last quarter of the nineteenth century when music hall performances and variety theatre shows were very popular with the public. Many of these theatres then began to show early silent film presentations.
Gradually, interest in films increased, as music hall and variety declined, and so several theatres were converted into picture houses or cinemas during 1910s-1930s. The last privately-run theatre in the town centre closed in 1957, before the Council-owned Civic Theatre opened in 1960.
With the introduction of sound into Rotherham cinemas from 1929, cinema-going became an extremely popular activity. Included in this exhibition is a copy of a map of Rotherham town centre dating from 1937 showing the positions of six picture houses in close proximity to each other.
In 1939, Rotherham’s Chief Constable found that large crowds of cinema-goers were congregating in town during the wartime blackout and so ordered these cinemas to stagger their evening opening and closing times. Eventually, interest in attending the cinema also faded, and some cinemas were converted into bingo halls and other uses. Cannon, the last town centre cinema, closed in 1990.
Councillor Dominic Beck, Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration, said: "The fascinating archive documents on display are a reminder of the great popularity of these forms of entertainment, and of the impressive facades and striking architecture of Rotherham’s former theatres, many of which no longer exist.
"Treasures from the Archives continues to be a highly popular attraction for anyone visiting the archives and museum or who is interested in our local heritage."
Among the highlights of the display is Rotherham Civic Theatre visitors’ book, which contains autographs and witty comments written by a vast range of actors, musicians, comedians and children’s entertainers between 1960 and 1994, as well as some distinguished visitors and even an astronaut.
Contributors range from John Betjeman to John Inman, Sooty, Sweep and Soo!
The exhibition opened on Wednesday 21 January and can be viewed at any time during the search room opening hours which are Mon-Tues: closed, Wed-Sat: open 10am-5pm (closed for lunch 1-2pm Saturdays only).
Contact the Archives and Local Studies section for further information: