Kington’s Old Picture House by Roger Curtis
This building is at No. 46 Bridge Street, on the east side towards the town bridge, and is joined on to No. 45, and shares part of the roof space and attics. It has a small forecourt, setting the front well back from the street.
It was originally a Chapel of the Primitive Methodists, opened as such in 1858. Before this, they had a Chapel in Duke Street, (distinct from the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, behind the Burton Hotel).
At a later date it had a gallery built, and regular pews installed. The founder was John Edwards, listed variously as a Wool Merchant, later a skinner, and in its early days, was notable for its well attended Tea Meetings (400 on one occasion), and following the arrival of the Railway, a Sunday School outing to Leominster, well furnished with tea and cakes.
At the end of the Great War, the Chapel was closed, and it was bought, along with next door No. 45.
In 1925, it was opened as a cinema, showing silent films, two per week, with piano accompaniment, featuring early on “The Lost World” and the first of many “Prisoner of Zenda” films, plus at the weekend, Mickey Mouse cartoons.
New owners arrived in 1938, but in 1939, there was initially closure from the war, fortunately brief, as all the evacuees and local military had to be catered for – leading to Sunday performances.
At some stage, a canopy was built over the forecourt, but with competition elsewhere, the Picture House closed in 1958. It became used as an auction house and sale room, and between 1980 and 2005, was used by the local Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation as a “Freedom Hall”.
Subsequently during renovations, a discovery was made in the roof space shared with next door, of a 50 year old short wave radio transmitter aerial, which gave rise to much speculation, as to how such a feature had survived the war, during which they had been banned, and should have been surrendered.
It became linked with a story originating in the early years of World War II, when a traveller in Eardisley, asking for a meal there, was half jokingly offered “Fox Pie”, and it was said that next day, Lord Haw Haw in Germany in a Broadcast, stated that people in England had become so short of food that they had been reduced to eating foxes! This lead to suggestions that there was a spy of sorts locally, but no one was ever discovered as such.
However, another suggestion was that the transmitter was officially retained in that site, as it overlooked the A44 main road between Mid Wales and the Midlands of England, and should an invasion of the country have occurred, from a landing via the Irish Sea, any reports of the troops and armaments involved, could be forwarded from that site – unobserved.
This is not entirely fanciful, as some of us know that pill boxes were built along that coast (some still there) and also, that during the War, Kington Castle, overlooking the Back Brook crossing, had an anti-tank battery installed (no longer there), and may have been part of the same picture. Review: JR
Kington History Society AGM Friday 21st Oct
This years AGM had us saying goodbye to our Chairman for the past 12 years Dr John Rerrie and Mick Turner who has been a member on the committee for as long as anyone could remember. The business of the AGM elected the members wishing to stay on the committee and we asked for any new members to come forward, Alan Stoyel our Vice Chairman is willing to stand in as Chair on a temporary basis, so that leaves us with two vacancies on the committee and a new chairperson to find. If you feel you can apply please contact our secretary Julia Reid for more details.
The reports were read out and all agreed it has been a year of expensive change, with the move from the library into the Museum and having to buy a new modern lap top but hopefully all well worth the effort.
Dr John and the committee thanked Mick Turner for his time on the committee and wished him well. John Potts presented Dr John with a book token and Nancy Wheatland presented him with a bouquet of flowers for his wife.
Once all the business was completed we all enjoyed a Cheese & Wine spread whilst looking at the Kington Times and a super display of locally found clay pipes by John Potts. Everyone was so engrossed in the evening`s agenda that we were all late packing up so apologies to the patient Caretaker, Derrick.
Reminder that subs are due now. Once paid up you will receive your programme card. Also, tickets now on sale for our Xmas social 7-30pm Fri. Dec. 9th £2 each, which includes a finger buffet and a drink of wine/soft drink plus entrance into Vera`s Quiz. There will be a raffle, some mystery objects for you to ponder over and our publications and maps for sale. All welcome. Tickets from our room in the museum or from Nancy Wheatland 01544 230691 or Julia Reid 01544 231663.
Thank you for your support, we are short of members so if you have a friend or neighbour who is free on the 3rd Friday of each month then bring them along. Thank you.
Nancy Wheatland Programme committee
Editor: Vera Harrison