South Shields Local History Group

Under Construction


1 Alhambra Music Hall/New Grand Theatre/Tyne Music Hall, Mill Dam

The Alhambra Music Hall opened on the 3rd April 1866 the proprietor was Frank Hall. The Alhambra was located at the foot of Commercial Road and the end of Coronation Street in Mill Dam.

Alhambra 1866 Shields Gazette

Frank Hall purchased the site from The Pinder Brothers International Circus which featured: acrobats, clowns and horsemanship.

“Witness the great and mighty Pablo Fanque and his highly trained steed Wallett,

The Horse of Science”

Sam Siddall opened the New Alhambra Music Hall on the 20th September 1869.

“It is a large commodious erection of wood.  The building is 97 feet long inside, 46 feet in breadth and 40 feet high to the ceiling…. The hall will be under the management of Mr. Joe Wilson”

Joe Wilson was legendary a Tyneside singer/songwriter of “Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny” fame.

Alhambra 1874

It could hold over 4,000 people but on April 27th, 1878, the Alhambra and Amphitheatre, as it was then called, was destroyed by fire.

It was rebuilt in the same spot and opened as The New Grand Theatre and Cirque of Varieties on September 6th, 1888. It was “138 feet by 40 to 56 feet wide”. The ERA theatrical newspaper reported:

“The opening performance was of the variety concert order, and comprised vocalists, dancers, melodiste, jugglers, &c. It was both good of its kind and highly relished by the patrons. Mr Siddall, however, contemplates performances of a higher class by and by.”

The Theatre can be easily adapted so as to become a Circus ring, and it is not unlikely that horsemanship entertainments will form for the future a portion of the amusements of South Shields.

We may expect also plays, burlesques, and most likely at the fitting time a Pantomime.”

Samuel Broadbent Siddall retired from the New Grand Theatre in 1885 to live in New Zealand where he died in 1889.

It reopened on the 3rd September 1888 as the Tyne Music Hall and Opera House but closed on the opening night when some of the actors fell through the floor!  But in true showbiz fashion the “show went on”.

The land was sold in February 1906 and part of it became the German Sailors’ Home in 1909.  It is now The Quadrant (residential flats) and The Mission to Seafarer’s.

Quadrant – 2022

2 Alexandra Theatre, Wallis Street, near the TSB Bank

The Alexandra Theatre was in Wallis Street just off Barrington Street. It was built in 1824 and was the first purpose built Congregational Church in the town then the Gospel Temperance Hall.

Alexandra 1910s (South Tyneside Libraries STH0003339)

Around the turn of the last century it became a theatre and showed early films showing moving pictures from as early as Edwardian times. It was also known as the Kings Picture House and the Picture Palace.

Alexandra 1930s (South Tyneside Libraries STH0004329)

The Alexandra Theatre was one of the town’s smallest but most unusual theatres and cinemas. Will Glaze, who first visited the theatre with a touring company in 1921 stayed there as manager until its closure in 1940.

The site where the Alexandra once stood is now derelict.

Derelict area – 2022

3 Crown Cinema, Hudson Street, Tyne Dock

This was originally a school built in 1866 for the children of railway men and dock workers.


Alterations were carried out and it opened as the Crown Picture Hall on 31st May 1911 with a mixture of “Pictures and Variety”. Variety acts petered out in the late 1930s and at some stage the cinema was renamed the Crown Picture Palace. The Crown Cinema had 681 seats and had bench seating downstairs for about the first 4 rows. If someone wanted the toilet the whole row had to get up. It closed on 7th May 1959, with “The Young Invaders”, starring James Garner. By August 1961 it had become the Crown Bingo Club which is still operating. Info courtesy David Simpson.

Crown Bingo – 2022

4 Customs House, Mill Dam

The Customs House built in the 1860’s but became derelict in the 1980s.  The Tyne and Wear Development Corporation funded the renovation of the older front building and building a new theatre/cinema at the rear.

Customs House 1994 (Keith Bardwell South Tyneside Libraries STH0006625)

It opened in November 1994 with the Willy Russell play Shirley Valentine.  It is a Grade II listed building and was the first cinema to open in the town in twelve years.

Customs House – 2022

5 Excelsior Picture House, Baring Street

Many people will remember the old tin chapel that became a wood cum log store on the corner of Baring Street and Cleveland Street but few will be aware that it was once a cinema. The Tin Chapel, Baring Street, first opened as a Methodist Chapel in April 1883 and it was used until the new chapel was constructed across the road some 20 years later.

Excelsior 1940 (South Tyneside Libraries STH0011170)

At this point in 1903, it became one of the town’s earliest cinemas, the Excelsior Picture House. A ticket of the day would cost a child under 14 one penny, for which they would also receive a free stick of toffee. It must surely have been the smallest cinema in the town! Later it became the Cleveland Laundry then in 1917, it became the Woodbine Laundry until 1953. It was a firewood store run by the Harrald family from 1953 until at least 1978.

Housing – 2022

6 Grand Electric Theatre, Ocean Road

Grand Electric Theatre stood on the corner of Ocean Road and Pollard Street, and opened in April 1910. It was a majestic building and was the first purpose built cinema in the town. Others predated it as a cinema but were not built specifically as a cinema. It is said to have been the first cinema in South Shields to show talking pictures.

Grand Electric 1914 (South Tyneside Libraries, Cleet, STH0004357)

Sadly, it was destroyed by fire on the 11 March 1932 and therefore tends to be not very well known. The site of the Grand Electric remained undeveloped unit it became a car park for the Savoy which was on the other side of Pollard Street, it is now Ocean Road Community Association.

Ocean Road Community Association – 2022

7 Imperial Cinema, Farnham Road, off Stanhope Road

The Imperial Cinema was designed by architect Avery Grieves and opened before the First World War on 19th January 1912. It was the third purpose-built cinema after the Grand Electric and the Palace. Other cinemas were already in operation but were not purpose built. It presented films and variety acts during its first few years of operation and underwent several changes of management & names. In the 1915 map it was showing as the Lyric Picture Theatre. By 1932 it had been re-named Imperial Picture House and was presenting films only at which time it was equipped with a British Talking Pictures sound system.

Imperial 1980s (South Tyneside Libraries STH0004318)

The Imperial was affectionately known as the “Impey”. The Imperial Picture House was closed on 15th August 1959 with William Holden in “Love is a Many Splendid Thing” and reopened as a Bingo Hall and carried on for many years as such. Today it is no longer and in its place is a care home called The Lodge. Some info contributed by Ken Roe.

8 Old Theatre, Wellington Street, Lawe Top

The first theatre to be built in South Shields was erected in what was then the aristocratic quarter of the town in Wellington Street in 1792 and was probably just called The Theatre. Its seating capacity is not recorded but it was proudly stated that the old house would ‘hold £50’ when ordinarily full.

Old Theatre 1930s (South Tyneside Libraries, Flagg, STH0000101)

It was a successful theatre in its time and a number of famous actors of the day graduated from the Old Theatre. It closed when the grand new Theatre Royal opened in King Street in 1866.

The site of the Old Theatre – 2022

9 Palace Theatre, Frederick Street, Laygate

The Palace Cinema in Frederick Street was an Intermediate Cinema with 1207 seats, smaller than the town’s big 4 super cinemas but larger than the smaller back street cinemas. It was opened as the Palace Theatre on 20th November 1911 making it the towns second purpose-built cinema. It was designed by architects, William Milburn & Thomas Ridley Milburn with an original seating capacity for 1400. It was equipped with a Western Electric sound system in 1930.

Palace Cinema 1930s (South Tyneside Libraries, Frank & Sons)

It closed as a cinema on 30th December 1961 with Frank Sinatra in “Can-Can” leaving just the 4 super cinemas.

Barbers – 2022

10 Palladium, Sunderland Road, Nook

The Palladium Cinema was a purpose built cinema built to serve the new housing estates around the Harton Nook and the second of the town’s Intermediate Cinemas. It was therefore equipped with a Western Electric sound system when it opened on 18th August 1930 with “Elstree Calling” an ‘all talking, singing and dancing film’. Seating was provided on a stadium plan, with a raised stepped section at the rear, rather than a conventional overhanging circle. It was designed by architectural firm J.H. Morton & Son, and originally had 1018 seats later reduced to 995.

Palladium 1940 (South Tyneside Libraries, Flagg, STH0000714)

The Palladium was known locally as the ‘Lid’ possibly the very distinctive smoke extraction vents resembled the handles of a lid. When it first opened, it was used on Sundays as a church, before the Harton Methodist Church was built. A local character was a one armed commissionaire (bouncer) called Peter who had no difficulty throwing recalcitrant children out. It also had a theatre organ by the side of the stage.

The Palladium was closed on 30th July 1960 with Curt Jurgens in “The Blue Angel”. It was one of only 6 cinemas to survive into the 60s and was the first to close.

It is now Farmfoods supermarket.

11 Pavilion, East Cuthbert Street, High Shields (Crossgate roundabout)

The Pavilion Cinema was the town’s third purpose built cinema and also the third Intermediate size cinema. It opened on 4th August 1913 showing “Dante’s Inferno” and served a fairly densely populated area. Location was important for a cinema when, it, like the local pub and corner shop were patronised by the local community.

In its early days, it presented variety acts on its stage and had an orchestra pit. Films were also shown and the silent films would have been accompanied by a pianist thundering out music to suit the storyline. Initially it could seat 947 people and at one stage also went under the name Kino for a while.

In the summer of 1930 it was equipped with a Western Electric sound system after which it just showed films. The orchestra pit was floored over and the front of the stage removed to allow for 124 extra seats to be installed.

Pavillion 1959 (South Tyneside Libraries, Frank Neale, STH0010487)

The Pavilion Cinema was the 4th town cinema to close – on 6th June 1959 with Ronald Colman in “Random Harvest”. The building was demolished and a petrol station built on the site, now it is a tyre centre.

Tyre centre – 2022

12 Picture House, Ocean Road

The Picture House in Ocean Road had a long and interesting history. Built on the site of the old German Cottage Inn which was demolished in 1875.

German Cottage 1860s (South Tyneside Libraries STH0005437)

It was built as a Baptist Church, later an Art Gallery, a drill hall, a skating rink and a shooting gallery. It screened its first films on 7th January 1907 with Downey’s Living Photographs, it also showed variety acts.

Picture House 1928 (South Tyneside Libraries STH0000725)

It closed later in 1907, re-opening as the Cosy Cinema on 24th December 1910 following a redecoration and alterations to the plans of architect Jos W. Wardle. All seating was on a single level. It was equipped with a British Thomson Houston sound system around 1930 and was re-named Picture House. It was taken over by the Newcastle based Essoldo chain in 1947. It was a relatively small cinema with 607 seats and was well known for its back row seats which were ‘doubles’ for courting couples.

The Picture House was closed on 27th February 1960 with Frankie Vaughan in “The Lady is a Square”. It was demolished in November 1962. On the site is now a restaurant called the Indian Brasserie.

Indian Brasserie – 2021

13 Pier Pavilion, Pier Head

Following the destruction of the Queens Theatre in Mile End Road during the bombing raid of 1941, Shields was left without a theatre. In 1948, South Shields Corporation converted an old seaside shelter in Pier Parade into a small community theatre. The Pier Pavilion opened on Whit Monday 1949 and, for the next few years, presented seasons of repertory and concert shows.

Pier Pavillion c1955 (South Tyneside Libraries STH0004345)

It was used mainly for amateur groups then later local societies used the facilities (sparse as they were) but it was mainly the Westovians who hired the theatre.

Run on a shoestring, the Pier Pavilion seemed to be under continuous minor alteration and upgrading but in 1977, the Westovians took a 21 year lease and the theatre was gutted reopening later that year and boasting a rated auditorium, fire curtain and a new foyer with bar and coffee bar and, very importantly, a lighting and sound box.

Today the theatre is known as the Westovian Theatre, Pier Pavilion and is still going strong.

Pier Pavillion – 2022

14 Plaza, Denmark Street, off Anderson Street

The Plaza had a varied life, built in 1889 as the Old Royal Assembly Hall. Significantly, in 1896 it presented the “Animatograph” showing moving pictures for 5 days making it probably the first place to be used as a cinema in the town. By then it had been re-named St. Thomas’s Hall and on Sundays it was used as a Sunday School. By the 6th December 1909 it was screening pictures, with variety acts on the stage which lasted until 1914 when it went over to full time cinema use with 500 seats making it the smallest cinema in the town.

It was wired for sound in and in the late-1930s and was re-named Imperia Cinema. It closed in August 1942 to be renovated reopening in September 1942 as the Plaza Cinema.

Plaza 1958 (South Tyneside Libraries STH0010488)

The Plaza Cinema was the first of the town’s later 12 cinemas to close, on 2nd May 1958 with Audie Murphy in “The Guns of Fort Petticoat”. It would not have been helped with the demolition of the surrounding houses and the proximity of the Gaumont and the Savoy. The building lingered on for a good few years before being demolished. It is the entrance to Buzz Bingo now.

Buzz Bingo – 2022

15 Queen’s Theatre, Mile End Road

The Queen’s Theatre stood on the corner of Mile End Road and Stanhope Street and was one of if not the most magnificent of the town’s large theatres, opening in August 1913. It was a very large theatre which could accommodate a seating audience of 2400 and its stage was 40 ft by 40ft which was sufficiently big to take large touring shows. Because of its status and its links with other theatrical chains, the management was able to engage high-class acts from the British and Continental circuits, including names like Harry Lauder.

Queens 1913 (South Tyneside Libraries STH0004365)

It was built for live variety theatre use, but films were screened as part of the variety programme from its opening. It was equipped with a sound system in 1930 and weeks of feature films were interspersed with weeks of live variety. It operated in this use until 1934 when it went back to live theatre use. It varied its role from theatre to cinema use to a combination of both.

In 1936 was purchased by the Newcastle based Essoldo circuit but sadly it was destroyed by bombs on the night of the 9th of April 1941 after a performance of ‘Old Mother Riley Pays Us A Visit’.

Queens 1941 (South Tyneside Libraries, Flagg, STH0000172)
Queens 1941 (South Tyneside Libraries, Flagg, STH0001073)

Much info and some photos courtesy Mike Todd. You can find out more on his excellent web site:

The new Job Centre stands on the site of the Queen’s now.

Job Centre – 2022

16 Regent, Dean Road, Westoe

The Regent Cinema was opened on 21st October 1935 with Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” with net takings at the box office of £453 11s 5d. Described as ‘South Shields’ Super Luxury Cinema’, it was built for and operated by the independent chain Thompson’s Enterprises Ltd. of Middlesbrough. With 1835 seats, it was the town’s largest cinema and with a formidable number of other picture halls in the town in competition, it was important that this new ‘super cinema’ in Shields should return its investment. It also had a fully equipped stage, with fly tower, which was put to good use over the years.

Regent 1950 Amy (South Tyneside Libraries, Flagg)

On May the 24th 1943 it was severely damaged by a 500kg German bomb but it did survive and was repaired. It was closed on 15th July 1966 with Cliff Richard in “Summer Holiday”. It was immediately converted into a Mecca Bingo Club, which closed on 14th September 2014. It looks likely that the building will survive and will possibly be converted into flats.

Derelict – 2022

17 Royal Assembly Hall/Scala/Gaumont/Focus/Regal, Stanhope Street/Mile End Road

Following the opening of the Royal Hotel in 1890, the owner went on to build a function room on waste ground to the rear in Stanhope Street. It was connected to the Royal Hotel by passages and became known as the Royal Assembly Hall, a sumptuous centre of Victorian and Edwardian society. Built in the Italianate Renaissance style, it incorporated a ballroom and stage for an orchestra, which was adapted for use by touring vaudeville and circus shows.

There were two entrances for the public, one on Ocean Road which crossed the lane via another small bridge, and the other was on Stanhope Street.

The Assembly Hall’s main building was dominated by a tall tower on the corner of Mile End Road and Stanhope Street, and its original rather small arched entrance was just up Stanhope Street. The entrance below the tower that is used today was not constructed until 1938.

In 1920 the building was purchased by Messrs Black and was adapted at great expense for use as a cinema called the Scala.

When it opened as the Scala, it had a most impressive conservatory above the main entrance which was used as a cafe. This does not appear to have lasted long as any views were dashed when a large bill board was placed in front over the main entrance.

It had two entrances, the main one on Ocean Road, the other on Mile End Road which was added in 1938.  Both these entrances led to the auditorium but the Ocean Road entrance was connected to it via small bridge over a back lane.

It was re-named the Gaumont in 1951, and the Ocean Road entrance was closed in 1960 and was converted into retail use.

The Rank Organisation disposed of the Gaumont to the Brent Walker chain of cinemas in 1975 and it was re-named Focus Cinema.

The Focus cinema was then taken over by an independent and was converted into a 3-screen cinema with revised seating capacities for 329, 74 and 74, albeit, the two small screens were video presentations.

Re-named Regal Cinema it opened on the 24th May 1980 but it was a short lived venture as the Regal Cinema and closed on 26th June 1982.

Fortunately, the building survives becoming a bingo club and amusement centre from June 1984. It has since been converted into a nightclub, going through several owners and name changes; The Venue, Masons, Coyote Wild and Vibe. But many of its original decorative features have fortunately been displayed.  It is now called Tinker Smiths.

Tinker Smiths – 2022

18 Savoy/ABC/Savoy, Ocean Road

The Savoy Cinema was located on Ocean Road between Pollard Street and Baring Street. The Savoy opened on 12th December 1938 showing Bing Crosby in “Sing You Sinners” and Vic Oliver in “Meet Mr. Penny”. It had 670 seats in the circle and 1,060 seats in the stalls, totalling 1,730 making it the second largest cinema in the town after the Regent.

Savoy 1938 (CC Ridell)

The Savoy was regarded by locals as being the most stylish cinema in the town. It was built in a magnificent Art Deco style. 


It changed its name to the ABC in 1964.

ABC Minors badge

Memories of the ABC – Les Snaith:

“One thing I remember was that if you were quick, you could sneak in when people left via the toilet exits before the door slammed shut, but you had to make sure you came through the right door. During my last visit there three urchins boldly walked out of the Ladies only to meet the usherette who charged down the aisle shouting ‘Oot, oot, oot’. They turned tail and fled but she didn’t see them out. They waited a few minutes and came back in and pulled a few feet of the fire hose out, turned it on and sprayed the auditorium before fleeing. But the hose got trapped in the door and continued spraying. Happy days!”

ABC 1966 (South Tyneside Libraries STH0010485)

It closed in December 1982 but was re-opened in January 1984 as The Savoy Entertainment Centre. Sadly it closed for the last time on 31st December 1984 and was demolished the following year.  On the site now is the Ocean Road Community Association.

Ocean Road Community Association – 2022

19 Theatre Royal, 14 King Street

The Theatre opened on the 21st of May 1866 to replace the much older ‘Theatre’ in Wellington Street and was for a time the town’s only theatre. The piece selected for the opening night was the comedy, “Extremes”. 

Theatre Royal (Public Domain, Wikipedia)

On entering the theatre the scene must have been fantastic. The front of the gallery and dress circle was painted in French grey, picked out with vermilion and gold. Velvet cushions ran along the top of the dress circle, partially hidden from view by deep lace. The private boxes were painted and the brass work lacquered.

Theatre Royal 1860s (South Tyneside Libraries STH0004351)

The Theatre Royal continued as a live theatre until 1920 when it was closed for alterations to convert it into a cinema. It re-opened in April 1921 and had a salon orchestra and a grand organ to accompany the silent films. However, its time as a cinema was short lived closing just 5 months later.

It returned to live theatre use but finally closed on 18th November 1933, just 7 months after its next door neighbour, the Empire Palace. It was converted into a Marks & Spencer store which itself closed at the end of March 2014.

The Theatre Royal, South Shields ceased as an entertainment venue as long ago as 1933 and nothing but the facade and parts of the exterior appears to remain today, however, the Theatre’s remaining Facade was Grade II Listed in 1983.

20 Thornton’s Theatre of Varieties/Empire Palace/Black’s Regal/Odeon, King Street

Richard Thornton’s Theatre of Varieties opened on 2nd November 1885.  The entrance was in King Street and the main auditorium was in Union Alley, which was accessed by a small bridge over the road.

Opening 1885

It then became the Empire Palace Theatre, this opened on 13th February 1899.  Richard Thornton was again the proprietor

“He has designed a theatre for South Shields equal in every respects to the finest in the country”

“The principle turn of the evening was Eugene Sandow, who is described as the Monarch of Muscle”

1899 Sandow
Eugene Sandow (Wikipedia)

All the top entertainers of the early 1900s appeared at the Empire Palace including: Harry Houdini (1904), Florrie Forde, Little Tich and the legendary Charlie Chaplin as part of Fred Karno’s Comedians performing in “Mumming Birds” and “Jimmy the Fearless” just before sailing to America and worldwide fame.  In 1912 it could hold 2,000 people.

Little Tich
Hary Relph was known as Little Tich, he was 4 feet 6 inches tall (137cm) and a huge star of the music halls.  He was famous for his “Big-Boot Dance”.  The Shields Daily News described as “The Highest Salaried Artiste before the public” he appeared several times at the Empire Palace from 1899 to 1901.

Empire Palace Little Tich
Little Tich – 1900

Harry Houdini
Was a Hungarian-American escape artist and stunt performer and big attraction in the early 1900s.  He starred at the Empire Palace between the 8th to the 13th February 1904 appearing twice nightly.  He even managed to escape from the police cells!!  For more details see Did You Know.

Harry Houdini 1899 (Wikipedia)

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin in The Kid – 1921 (Wikipedia)

Charlie Chaplin possibly appeared twice at the Empire Palace first in the week of 10th May 1909 in the “Smoking Concert”, though this is not guaranteed.

The Smoking Concert -1909

Then in the week of 16th May 1910 he definitely appeared in “Jimmy the Fearless” alongside Stan Laurel. These appearances would have lasted 6 days each, Monday to Saturday.

Jimmy The Fearless – 1910

His appearance was reported on Monday 2nd March 1931 by this article which appeared in the Shields Daily News.

Chaplin’s appearance in Shields remembered in 1931

The article caption reads: This interesting photograph, taken on September 29, 1910, shows Chaplin (extreme left back) with Fred Karno’s “Mumming Birds” Company sailing to America, shortly after playing at the South Shields Empire.  Others are Stan Jefferson (in front of Mr. Chaplin who as Stan Laurel, was screened at the Queen’s Theatre, South Shields, last week …..

Stan Laurel

Stan Laurel was originally called Arthur Stanley Jefferson and was born in Ulverston Cumbria in 1890.  He lived in Dockwray Square, North Shields from 1897 to 1902.  He was a member of Fred Karno’s Comedians.  He played at the Empire Palace, South Shields with Charlie Chaplin in “Jimmy the Fearless” on the week of 16th May 1910.

Stan Laurel – c1920, (Wikipedia)

When Fred Karno’s Comedians sailed to America in 1910 he shared a cabin with Charlie Chaplin and Stan became an understudy to Chaplin.

In 1953 Stan Laurel visited South Shields several times.  In a letter written in 1963 Stan remembered:

“Most all the landmarks have disappeared, everything but the ‘Ha’penny Dodger’, I sailed on her to South Shields every night for a week in ’53, when we played the Sunderland Empire (we lived at the old Grand Hotel in Tynemouth …” (Letters From Stan Laurel)

Florrie Forde
Florrie Forde was an Australian and was one of the most popular stars of the early 20th century music hall.  Her most popular songs were:
“I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside” and “Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy”
She appeared at the Empire from the 14th to the 20th June 1931.

Florrie Forde – 1925, (Wikipedia)

The final stage show “Piccadilly Nights” was on 29th April 1933 and the Empire Theatre was closed.

It then opened as Black’s Regal Cinema on 19th October 1935. This in turn was taken over by the Odeon chain of Theatres Ltd in 1943 and was re-named the Odeon in 1945.

Blacks Regal 1938 (South Tyneside Libraries STH0000510)

The Odeon in King Street was one of the town’s four Super Cinemas seating 1427. The entrance was in King Street but the main auditorium was in Union Alley which was accessed by both a bridge and a tunnel. People remember the entrance and bridge as resembling a ship.

Odeon 1984 (South Tyneside Libraries STH0019377)

It was the first of the big four super cinemas to close on 30th June 1962 with Frank Sinatra in “Lonely are the Brave”. It was converted into a bingo hall and renamed the Top Rank Bingo Club, which in turn lasted only into the 70s. Then it became the Top Rank Billiard and Snooker Hall.

Parking – 2022

The rear site is now a car park to the right of the supermarket Wilko and what used to be the front entrance is Cooplands bakers.

Cooplands Bakery – 2022
Figure – 2022

21 Westoe Picture House, 48 Chichester Road

The Westoe Picture House, opened on 21st February 1911 and was always purely a cinema, despite a few early attempts to introduce variety acts. It seated 749 so wasn’t quite the smallest in the town, but even into the 1950’s, the stalls seating was only on wooden forms (with no carpet!), and the ‘upper circle’ was up 3 stairs. It was always known locally as the ‘Chi’ (after Chichester Road). The Chi was a cinema which in days gone by, children could get in for a jam jar! Memories of the lights being turned on so you couldn’t see the screen if the children misbehaved on a Saturday.

The Westoe was the second post war cinema to close, after the Plaza on 4th April 1959 with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in “Pardners”. It was used by Rediffusion as a workshop and is now a snooker club.

Snooker Club – 2022


British Newspaper Archives

Les Snaith’s Alphabetical List of South Shields Cinemas and Theatres


South Tyneside Libraries

Terry Ford modern photos


Little Tich – Big Boot Dance (1900) – YouTube

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