Odeon Cinema – Brighton Road Rhyl

Architects

Robert Andrew Bullivant 1910-2001
Harry William Weedon    1887-1970

Robert Bullivant joined the Harry Weedon practice in 1935 and was responsible for the design of the Odeons at Chester, York, Burnley, Exeter and Rhyl. Taken over by Hutchinson in 1969, this cinema was renamed Astra. It was made into a triple screen in 1972 and the stalls were later converted for bingo. It was designated Grade II listed status in 1989. The cinemas closed in 1995 and the building reverted to a single auditorium for bingo.

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So much of our picture house heritage no longer exists, where once a town or city could support several cinemas of varying scale, architectural merit or style, few now remain intact. Happily the Rhyl Odeon has survived from Astra, Apollo to Gala to the stars and beyond.

Playing to perennially packed houses, the people’s palaces accommodated old and young.

Saturday morning matinees  for the boys and girls – making this Great Country of ours a better place to live in.

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If memory serves, in the Odeon auditorium to the left of the screen there was a suitably stylish, numberless clock of six-sided shape. In 1972 the Odeon, by then taken over and renamed Astra Cinema, underwent alterations to become the first three-screen complex in Wales: Astra 1, 2 and 3. By the mid 1980s the Odeon/Astra had been taken over by Apollo and was running as two cinemas plus bingo at first – and bingo only since the present Apollo Cinema Complex opened on the prom.
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George Owen 1985

Colin Jones Rhyl Life

Foyer and auditorium

John Maltby 1937

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Ian Grundy 2008

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Graham Rumble 2016

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An original Odeon Theatre, built for the Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, opened on 30th October 1937 with Flora Robson in “Farewell Again”.

The corner entrance rotunda was lower than the rest of the building and was faced with cream faiance tiles, broken with windows. Behind this was a tower-like feature which contained the main foyer. Seating in the auditorium was provided for 862 in the stalls and 546 in the circle. On each side of the proscenium opening there were large panelled decorative grilles on the splay walls. Lighting in the auditorium was provided by concealed lighting in troughs across the ceiling.

From the 13th October 1969 it was taken over by the Hutchinson Leisure Group and re-named Astra Cinema. They triplexed the cinema from 24th April 1972 with seating for 750 in the former stalls and two mini screens seating 250 and 225 in the former circle. Later, the stalls screen was converted into a bingo club, whilst the two mini cinemas continued on film.

In the late-1980’s the building was taken over by Apollo Leisure UK Ltd. and it was re-named Apollo Cinema. The two mini cinemas were closed in October 1995 and the building was de-tripled into one space again, becoming the Apollo Bingo Club, which remains open today.

From 4th January 1989, the former Odeon Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building.

Cinema Treasures

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Brambell Building – Bangor University

Sited on Deiniol Road Bangor, the 1970’s laboratory building of the University is often cited as the ugliest building in Britain.

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Erchyllbeth y flwyddyn posits Mr Madge.

It was never going to win that many friends in a city of Victorian brick and stone.

The University along with the GPO have dragged Bangor kicking and screaming into the Twentieth Century, dotting the landscape with post war architecture – though try as a I might no record can be found of the Brambell Building’s history or authorship.

Suffice to say that it has survived the slings and arrows of cultural and local vocal criticism and continues to function as a scientific research centre of some standing.

Still standing.

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And as an addendum the adjacent and equally surviving Chemistry Tower seems to have weathered the winters of discontent.

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Rhyl to Wallasey Hovercoach

After Telstar, Rhyl’s residents and visitors have this week been privileged to see another miracle of scientific progress – the Vickers-Armstrong VA-3, which arrived on Sunday to prepare for the first scheduled passenger carrying hovercoach service in the world. 

Strange but true!

It says so here.

The world’s first commercial passenger hovercraft service ran briefly from Rhyl to Moreton beach in 1962, but ended when a storm hit the passenger hovercraft while it was moored, damaging its lifting engines.

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I’m fascinated by hovercrafts, they were for a while the future that we seemed to have been promised, a future that had consistently failed to arrive.

Until even they failed to arrive, or depart for that matter.

I do have a love of doomed hovercraft services – I’ve been to Pegwell Bay.

Youngest passenger was 21 months old Martin Jones, 128, Marsh Road, who travelled with his mother, Mrs Millie Jones, an usherette at the Odeon Cinema: his grandmother Mrs Jean Morris, and Mrs Morris’s 14 year old son, Tony, a pupil of Glyndwr County Secondary School, the first schoolboy to travel on the hovercraft.  Mr Tony Ward of 13, Aquarium street, a popular figure as accordionist on one of the local pleasure boats a few seasons ago, and his 20 year old daughter Rosemary, cashier at the Odeon, who were among the first to book seats at the North Wales Travel Agency, were also among the passengers.

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Mrs Handley was the manageress of the Sports Cafe and got to know all the crew as they had all their meals there, even a farewell party with a cake in the form of a hovercraft.

The Queen and Prince Philip had received an invitation to undertake the trip, but declined perhaps just as well, for on what proved to be the final journey the hovercraft left Wallasey at 1.15 p.m. on September 14th and both engines failed en route.

There has been talk of reviving the service, a service that sadly seems so far to have defied revival.

“It really will be a feather in our cap for Rhyl.”

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Penrhyn Bay – Ranch House Style

There is some far-flung corner for Wales, that is forever California.

As the clippers and steamers left the Mersey Estuary for the New World, cram packed with emigres some centuries ago, would they expect on their return, some centuries later, to find this architectural cultural exchange, located sedately on Penrhyn Bay?

This is a typology with a limited vocabulary, but spoken in a lilt, with an ever so slight, polite Mid-Atlantic drawl.

Lightly clad, stone-faced, light and almost expansive the seaside bungalow.

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Launderette – Welshpool

When walking the streets of Welshpool, one often finds oneself outside.

Outside a launderette.

I paused.

The porch was decorated by the most enchanting mosaic, Vickery and Co.

Hosiers, Hatters and Outfitters.

Politely, ever so politely, I asked the two local lads if they would step aside from their porch perch one moment, I snapped.

And walked on.

Upon my return, nobody was here, I hurriedly occupied the vacant space, with the expansive volume of my incurable curiosity.

Here is what I found.

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WH Smiths – Newtown Powys

Life is full of tiny delights.

Newtown, a town of tiny delights, my journey through Wales by bike took me there.

None more delightful and surprising than the branch of WH Smiths, its exterior adorned with the most beautiful of signs, tiles and lamps.

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Curious, curiously I  explored further, the porch housed a newspaper and magazine stall with further tiled images.

These tiles were made by Carter & Co. at their pottery works in Poole, Dorset in the 1920s. Commissioned by the retailer, they were installed in the entrance ways of a number of its branches. They were intended to advertise the wide selection of books and other items on sale, however their distinctive Art Deco style and the scenes depicted also expose a great deal about society at that time.

In subsequent decades, particularly during periods of refurbishment from the 1960s, many shops lost their decorative panels, either being removed or covered over. Only seven branches of WHSmith are known to have their tile panels intact, with a few surviving in private collections. Many tiles were rescued by WHSmith and these can now be seen in a museum housed in the Newtown branch in Powys. 

Further information

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The staff were typically helpful and accommodating – directing me to the Museum upstairs – just pull the rope to one side.

Go take a look 

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Laundrette – Emlyn West Wales

You could be in the middle of nowhere.

You are in the middle of nowhere.

Though never six feet from a rat, or a mile from a main road.

Moments away from a laundrette.

Imagine my amazement, on arrival in a town straddling the border of the counties of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire in west Wales and lying on the River Teffi.

A launderette.

The heady of mix of interior austerity.

Functionally muted green, grey sky blue, nothing added.

An all too distinctive aroma of who knows what – warm water, soap and humanity?

Wash your dirty linen in public.

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