21. That’s Entertainment


At the start of this period, grandad was recording all the books he had read. He continued to do this until December 1923, recording more than 160 titles in this period. The last of these was noted as “Scarlet Domain” although I have not been able to identify this. He did read many well-known titles including Don Quixote, Westward Ho, Gulliver’s Travels and various books in the Tarzan series. He was also interested in non-fiction books, particularly dictionaries and encyclopaedias.


Also, at the start of this period, he recorded his regular trips to the cinema, particularly to The Star (see Chapter 4). Over time, these visits seemed to reduce but, in part, this  was because he was attending a wider range of cinemas and theatres. During this period, he went to the Portland in Sutton (see box note 1), the Picturedrome  (see box note 2) and the Grand Theatre in Mansfield (see box note 3) and to a number of cinemas in Nottingham including the Elite (see box note 4), Long Row Palace (See box note 5), the Hippodrome, (see box note 6) the   Empire (see box note 7) and King’s (see box note 8).

[1] Opened in 1937, the Portland Theatre in Sutton was re-named the Savoy in 1968. It closed in 1978 and the building was initially converted to be a supermarket. In 1990, it was demolished to build a car park and two small retail units.

[2] Opened in 1920, from 1928 to 1934, the Picturedrome became a billiards hall before becoming the Queen’s Theatre from 1934 to 1939. Since then it has been a dance school, restaurant, social club and night club. It was demolished in 2010 and replaced with a car park.

[3]  Opened in 1906, the Grand Theatre was acquired by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) around 1930 but was only renamed in 1963. It closed in 1997 and the lower part became a snooker hall. In 2013, it was bought by a church.

[4] Opened in 1921, the Elite was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in 1935. It was closed in 1977 and converted into a bingo hall until the early 1990s. It is a grade II listed building and is currently used as a nightclub with some retail and office use.

[5] I think grandad was referring to the Picturehouse in Long Row. This opened in 1912 and it closed in 1930. In 1937, it was converted to a café/restaurant and it is now an amusement arcade. It is a grade II listed building.

[6] The Hippodrome opened in 1906. It was taken over by the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT) chain in 1927, which in 1929, was taken over by Gaumont. It was re-named Gaumont in 1948 and was closed in 1971. It was demolished in 1973 and replaced by an office block.

[7] Adjacent to the Theatre Royal, the Empire variety theatre was opened in 1898. Bioscope films were screened. It closed in 1958 and was demolished in 1969 and the Theatre Royal extended.  

[8] Located in Arnold, the King’s cinema started life as The Empress Picture House. It closed in 1930 and re-opened as the King’s Theatre in 1934. By 1953, it was operating as the New Empress Theatre. It was demolished in 1956.  
Former Grand Theatre in Mansfield when it was the ABC in 1964 – Image licenced for re-use from Inspire
Arena church in Mansfield formerly the Grand cinema © Enchufla Con Clave and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The Elite cinema on the corner of Queen Street and Upper Parliament Street in April 1949 – Image licenced for re-use from Inspire
Former Elite cinema in Nottingham © Stephen Richards and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Picturehouse on Long Row Nottingham circa 1936 © Edward G Kington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
King’s Picture House, which was also known as the Empress, circa 1917 – Image licenced for re-use from Inspire

Other Performances

In addition to going to the cinema, grandad sometimes went to other types of performances including opera (see box note 1), a circus (see box note 2) and several pantomimes. Perhaps one surprising performance that he and grandma went to see, given their staunch religious background, was “The New Splinters” in October 1928 as they appear to have been a drag dance act.

[1] In 1924, grandad saw “The Beggar’s Opera” in Nottingham.  

[2] Grandad saw the circus at Nottingham Hippodrome.

The Regent and Talking Movies

One thing that interested grandad was the arrival of talking movies. From then on, at least initially, he no longer just referred to seeing a movie but to seeing and hearing one! The first “talkie” he saw was “Sunny Side Up”  at the Star in September 1930. A new cinema, the Regent opened in Kirby in October 1930  and the first film he saw (and heard) there was “Gold Diggers of Broadway”. Gerald Lee’s book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: Yesterday Remembered” has a chapter (15) dedicated to “When the Pictures started Talking” from p70. In that, he says that “talkies” arrived in October 1930 with the opening of the Regent. However, according to grandad, he saw (and heard!) his first talkie a month earlier at the Star. Edith Searson, in her book(let) “I Remember” (p62), noted that the Regent was built in 1932 (although other sources suggest 1930) and she highlighted that they offered talking movies. Mark Ashfield also has a chapter focused on the Regent entitled “When the Talkies Came to Town” in his book “Horses, Herbs and a Cockatoo” (from p13) which includes an advert for the cinema from the Free Press in 1938 on p13 and a photograph of the manager and staff on p16..

The Regent cinema under construction – Image licenced for re-use from Inspire. According to the Inspire website, this photo is dated 1932 but the same photo appears in Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee’s book, “Kirkby & District from Old Photographs” (p12) and is dated 1928 .
The Regent cinema in 1932 – Image licenced for re-use from Inspire. This image appears in Mark Ashfield’s book “Horses, Herbs and a Cockatoo” (p18)
The Regent cinema in 1950 – Image licenced for re-use from Inspire. There is another photo of the Regent in that year in Chapter 73
The Regent pub in Kirkby which was formerly the Regent cinema © JThomas and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Kirkby carnival was an important annual event. The first time grandad mentioned this was in 1935 when he referred to it as a four-day (see box) hospital carnival. The carnival of that year is featured in the first chapter of Mark Ashfield’s book “A Carnival Crown and a Roasted Ox” (pp1-8). Grandad was pleased because he won a bike as a prize in a competition. In the 1936 carnival, there was a lorry with family members, including Roy Evans and Bert Cirket “dressed as Indians”. During the carnival that year, grandad took mum (who was two) to see an ox roasting. There is the same picture of this from 1935 in the books “Kirkby & District from Old Photographs” by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee (p17) and “A Carnival Crown and a Roasted Ox” by Mark Ashfield (p7).  There are also some pictures of Kirkby carnival in the inter-war years in “Kirkby & District from Old Photographs” (pp18-19).

Although grandad noted that the 1935 carnival was held over four days, Mark Ashfield says that it was held over five days from 3-7 July. Mark Ashfield also notes that it was the first Kirkby carnival and that it raised £800 for local hospitals.
Carnival 1936
While this photo is not labelled, it was with the one of Carnival 1936 so it may be that this is also a Carnival float

Other entertainment 

The family sometimes had parties, e.g. for 21st birthdays and for Christmas, and picnics. Grandad occasionally noted playing billiards and, in 1922, he played his first game of chess. The next year, he went into Nottingham with his sister Olive and she bought him a chess set. In 1932, he noted attending a whist drive. In 1937, he twice went fishing with a friend Alf, but was disappointed not to catch anything either time. He kept budgies in the aviary he built and, in 1938, they bred. He was interested in cameras and, from 1922, developed films. He also attended the Kirkby wakes

He attended agricultural shows in Derby and Nottingham. In 1928, he attended the Nottingham Homes Exhibition. He attended an exposition in Nottingham in 1938. He visited illuminations in Matlock Bath and Blackpool.
This photo is of mum in some kind of fairground ride circa late 1930s. I don’t know for sure but this could be from Kirkby wakes


One of the activities grandma and grandad particularly enjoyed was boating. They visited a number of places for this including Belper, Hazelford Ferry, Highfields, Matlock and Nottingham. They took grandad’s niece, Olive, and nephews, Roy and Basil, there one at a time in June and July 1927.

Boats at the River Gardens in Belper © Diego Sideburns and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Birds and boats at Highfields lake in Nottingham © John Sutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Postcard of boating stages in the River Gardens in Belper – posted 1910
This image and the one below are of postcards showing boating in Matlock


During this period, grandad and the wider family started to take week-long holidays, mainly to traditional British seaside resorts, including Llandudno, Lytham St Anne’s and  Scarborough. In 1936, grandma and mum went for a week’s holiday to Yarmouth but it appears that grandad did not go. Mum, who was not quite two, did “write” him a card though (see below)! In July 1937, grandma took mum and grandma’s father to Skegness shortly after grandma’s mother had died. Again, grandad did not go but he visited for half a day on one of the days. Other resorts visited by other family members included Blackpool, Bournemouth, Brid[lington] and Mablethorpe.

This image and the one below show a postcard which was “written” by mum to grandad from Yarmouth in 1936 when she was two.
This image and the one below show a card grandad sent to his parents from his and grandma’s holiday in Llandudno in 1927
Dear Mother & Dad
I am writing this card while Ethel is paddling. This morning (Thurs) went to Conway & went in the house on the other side [“The smallest house in Wales”]. My word you talk about a subsidy house. I had to bend, Well Ma we shall not write again this time but hope to leave here on Sat about 1 o’clock & get home about 9 or 10.
Love from Ethel & Gordon