The Carnegie Library and Penistone Town Hall

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The Town Hall
We all know it as Penistone's great hall of entertainment but did you know Penistone once had two competing cinemas; that our Town Hall (now 'Paramount') has two beautiful stained glass ceiling panels; that it has a ghost; that the Proscenium Arch carries the Penistone Coat of Arms; that it has a sprung floor for dancing; that the Good Friday flour ceremony was held on the Town Hall steps, or that the balcony was out of use for many years? It's all in here, somewhere. I hope.

cinema after faceliftThis page is mostly focussed on Penistone Town Hall, our town's centrepiece hall of entertainment, described upon its opening in 1914 as "Penistone's Coliseum" and "A magnet for miles around" which started as a rival to the earlier 'Assembly Hall Cinema' near St Mary's Street. We also take a look at the Carnegie Library, which later became the Berneslai office (for social housing). It is now an outpost of BMBC support to the Ward Alliance. The 'new' library replaced it on the High Street in 1966. We also look at other parts of the building and the older entertainment centres of Penistone.

The Town Hall was not always the leading entertainment place in Penistone. A former gas products showroom (off St Mary's Street) was used as an 'Assembly Hall' for public meetings and concerts. Perhaps the equivalent in later decades would have been the Drill Hall, which was later converted into the sports centre. Penistone's very first cinema opened as the 'Assembly Hall Cinema' (exact date unknown) and operated sporadically until it caught fire in 1923.

From its earliest days, the Town Hall would soon became the go-to place for meetings and entertainment as the other places mostly dropped away. It has been described as having 'opened as an assembly hall' but perhaps to emphasise it replacing a rival with that name, although it had been designed as a theatre from the start, with a stage and proscenium arch. It was to be a theatre in the widest sense; for film, thespian, comedy shows, concerts or variety shows. Also with a sprung floor for dance events. This was much more than just an 'assembly hall', although it did serve that function too and there was a clause somewhere which required it to be made available for that function if needed. This graphic was from the 1915 Penistone Almanac:

Penistone Town Hall Opening

Having started as a theatre in 1914, the Town Hall gained new role as a part-time cinema from November 1915. As you read on, you will discover some fascinating history of Penistone Town Hall and some of its unexpected uses. It all started with the Carnegie Library in 1913. Enjoy!

Barnsley 'Relocates' Penistone Town Hall
But first a quick note about the name. We now call it the Paramount but it was always called 'Penistone Town Hall' from when it opened in 1914 and for most of the last century, as you can see in the adverts from Penistone almanacs. There can be no doubt that the Town Hall name featured in concert programmes and newspaper articles over the years. It was called 'Penistone Town Hall Cinema' in council minutes and other official documents. For a time, the name changed to the 'Metro Cinema' but its function always stayed the same, as our town's central hall of entertainment.

In many, and perhaps most, other cases and especially in the USA, the name of 'Town Hall' is synonymous with 'Administrative Centre.' Yet, apart from the Council Chamber next door where PTC meetings are held, our local council is administered from Church Street. Penistone is very proud to share with Huddersfield and others a long tradition of its using public hall for entertainment. Our Town Hall has all of the functions of a village hall but on a much grander scale. However, Barnsley Council currently pulls the strings and it has re-drawn its maps to a convention which is not ours. It now shows the 'Town Hall' name on part of the building which was built the year before, meaning either the Council Chamber or the former Carnegie Library.

To my patient and possibly sceptical reader, you may readily confirm all of the above by leafing through Penistone Almanacks in Penistone Library, in old newspaper clips or online at the Penistone Archive. 'If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing reight.'

The Carnegie Free Library and Penistone Town Hall
The availability of books has always been one of the best and cheapest ways for ordinary people to educate themselves. Towards the end of the 19th century, a movement started in the UK to promote book-reading and self-education. This led to the gradual establishment of public libraries throughout the land. Although reading takes many forms in the modern age and libraries have additional activities and services, they are still among the most important public buildings of any town as a resource of learning, entertainment through book-reading and local history preservation.

Penistone Library can be traced back to a Reading Room in the 1880s but the actual 'Carnegie Free Library' building did not open on Shrewsbury Road until 1913. It had been purchased partly by public subscription from Penistone area residents (on the rates) and partly by a generous grant of money from Mr Andrew Carnegie. This was in the days of Penistone Urban District Council.

Andrew Carnegie was a great Scottish-American steel magnate with the classic rags-to-riches life story. He was born in Dunfermline in 1835 in modest circumstances. The Carnegie family moved to America to seek out a better way of life in 1848. After several jobs, the hard-working Andrew settled on the Pittsburgh railway and invested in various heavy industries as he made his way forward in the world. By 1870, he had co-founded his first steel company then, in 1901, the banker John Pierpont Morgan bought out the Carnegie Steel company for $480m and Carnegie became one of the richest men in the world and turned to philanthropy. His philosophy was that the rich had a moral obligation to promote the welfare and happiness of the common man. (See Andrew Carnegie's history and listen to Andrew Carnegie talking).

He donated church organs and, perhaps of more interest to Penistone people, he funded free libraries throughout the world, to improve public education. Mr Carnegie seldom receives the recognition that he so richly deserves, when you consider what benefits book-reading and the free exchange of ideas can confer upon any forward-looking population and particularly at a time when the education system had often been very basic. Mr Carnegie was a great enabler and, along with so many others, our town has much to thank him for, although it also took the will of the local population to allow the Library and Town Hall to happen. Mr Carnegie died 1919 in Massachusetts, USA.

One hopes that a Penistone road might one day be named after him in recognition of his work. It is not clear whether Carnegie had been approached by local officials or if he had discovered Penistone through his steel connections, but his contribution seeded these results:

What a huge improvement to our town to spin off from the Library? The new Town Hall elevated the status of our town and acted as an attraction to visitors for miles around. We must not overlook the self-esteem it would have conferred to a small town which was little more than a village at the time. We already had the railway, a busy livestock and retail market and now a grand multi-function hall. Penistone was riding high.

You will notice the Penistone/Clarel coat of arms displayed prominently on plans. It can be found in the centre on the proscenium arch (currently obscured by curtains) and it is elegantly carved into the tall Chairman's chair of the Council Chamber next door. An identically decorated chair can be found near the East Window inside Penistone church, engraved with '1915' above the coat of arms and 'Penistone Union' below it. As a matter of interest, Penistone Town Council agreed in Sept. 2014 to (re-)employ the Penistone coat of arms on its official documents, as we see on the council noticeboards.

Town Hall Building

A Busy Building
The Paramount is well-used and (in normal times) there is some activity there every day but it might not be obvious that other parts of the building are also in use. Students of Sheffield University had been asked by Barnsley Council (BMBC) to do a public survey to determine demand and to see if the building as a whole could be converted to allow more public use, perhaps with a second cinema or cafe. As briefed by Barnsley Council, they believed that most the building was unused or dormant.

However, the building is not unused or dormant. Taking 2017 as an example, Penistone Town Council, PTC sub-committees, Penistone Area Council (BMBC councillors), Penistone Ward Alliance and other meetings take place each month in the Council Chamber. The first committee of the Penistone Armed Forces celebrations also took place in the Council Chamber (irreverently accompanied by fish and chips). They students held public consultation events and created an entertaining animation film of their ideas. In spite of a few errors, they put a lot of effort into the exercise but little more was heard about it.

After the Carnegie Library closed and moved to the High Street, the top offices were taken over by BMBC to support Berneslai Homes social housing. Then that moved away to Barnsley and the offices were taken by BMBC staff in support of the Ward Alliance, accessed from an entrance around the top. The Masonic Hall has continued in regular use since 1914, accessed from the door nearest the Paramount steps. Barnsley Council does not know much about Penistone's Town Hall building.

The postal address of the whole building is 'The Town Hall' but it is in several separate sections. Looking at the sketch above, left to right: The Town Hall proper, Pengeston Lodge Masonic Hall (set back and above), Council Chamber with some minor rooms and toilets and the Carnegie Free Library at the top end. Further around the top end is the old red-brick former Caretaker's House.

Grand Opening of 'Penistone Town Hall and Council Rooms', 1914
A grand ceremony was led by Alderman E Woodhead, JP, of Huddersfield. We were closer to places like Huddersfield and Holmfirth in those days. On rising to declare the hall open, he declared he hoped that " ... the building would be a kind of 'Open sesame' to all that was good for the town."

On the platform were: local council vice-chairman Mr E Wood 'in the chair'; the Mayor of Huddersfield, Alderman Blamires, JP; Alderman JP Hinchliffe, JP, of Denby Dale; Mr H Hinchliffe, CC, of Bullhouse Hall and Dr ACJ Wilson, JP. Local councillors attending were: EL Ferrall; G Knight; WH Topham; TE Denison with other Council members in audience. It is not entirely clear whether the event was open to the general public but, being a grand new public facility, one might have expected it to have been. The cost of the public hall and adjuncts came to about £3,004 and a further £1,009 for the adjoining Council offices, etc.

Dr ACJ Wilson, JP, had taken a keen interest in the scheme from the beginning and gave a most interesting history of the premises. The architect for the Town Hall was Mr Henry R Collins and he presented Alderman E Woodhead with a beautiful gold key at the ceremony, bearing the inscription: 'Penistone Council Offices and Town Hall opened on October' - The year must also have been inscribed but it was omitted from the Penistone Almanack report of 1915. On the centenary ceremony event of 2014, Cllr Steve Marsh wondered if it might be returned to Penistone at some point.

A new Masonic Lodge was also opened in 1914, adjacent to the Town Hall. The Pengeston Masonic Lodge No. 6933 was established in 1874 before moving to its new location (also Wharnecliffe Lodge). The Pengeston Lodge still uses its own variant of the Penistone coat-of-Arms (see right). Looking at the plan below, the Masonic Hall is not shown but is situated in the central part above of Rates Office, Surveyor's Office and Clerk's Office. From the outside, it is the higher roof.

The Town Hall and Library Plan
This plan below is from the Neville Roebuck Collection, which is the core of Penistone Historic Archives,. A lintel above the former Library door is inscribed with 'Carnegie Free Library.' Stained glass monograms in the doors are marked 'AC' for Andrew Carnegie. (Details from Penistone Almanacks, drawings from Penistone Archive). From the start, the name of 'Town Hall' was always applied to the main hall rather than the 'Council Rooms' and Library part of the building.

Plan of Building

The original capacity on the plans was 500 but it was otherwise said to be 550 not including the balcony. The current Fire Safety capacity is 360. A large wooden-framed clock used to face the audience on right side wall by the stage, similar to one at the old Spring Vale school. It was replaced by a digital clock on the left of the stage. The ceiling has two beautiful stained glass panels which had been covered up for many years, later to be painted black to make them opaque. It is possible that nobody in living memory has seen them in their full glory but there are plans to LED back-light them to bring them back to life and to dim them with the house lights.

History Timeline
This section compiles developments in the old Public Library, the 'new' Public Library, Council Offices, Masonic Hall, the 'Assembly Rooms Cinema', Penistone Town Hall and related matters. Many of the details are drawn from local almanacs, web sources and a wonderful pamphlet, 'The History of Penistone Cinemas' (in plain blue covers), by Stuart R Smith, using research by Clifford Shaw. Look in the Local History section of Penistone Library, centre isle near the desk.

Public Libraries Act:

The Public Libraries Act 1850 (13 & 14 Vict. c.65) was an Act of Parliament which first gave local boroughs the power to establish free public libraries. It established the principle of free Public Libraries which could provide facilities for self-improvement through books and reading for all classes. There had also been a fear that they might become centres of agitation by politically-motivated people and that they would lead to an increase in taxation. The Act was updated several times in the years following.

The 1870 - 80s
Technical Advances

Penistone Mug from Hallmark Card ShopThe first photographic analysis of motion was captured by the British photographer, Eadward Muybridge (Wiki - formerly Edward James Muggeridge), in 1872. He had emigrated to the USA as a young man. He used 24 side-by-side cameras using glass plates and triggered sequentially to make instantaneous photographs of a galloping horse. The railroad magnate, Leland Stanford, had hired him to prove that all four legs of a horse were at times off the ground simultaneously. This he demonstrated at the Royal Institution in 1882.

The professional photographer, William Friese-Greene (BFI biography) of Bristol, invented a moving picture camera (Patent no. 10131) which he used for the first time on 15th November 1889, recording the comings and goings of London's Hyde Park. He was a prolific inventor and even patented an early red/green colour film process in 1905, called the Biocolour. He made his fortune in the field of printing but spent everything on his inventions and ended up dying in poverty.

Although several inventors had attempted to create incandescent light bulbs, the London inventor Joseph Wilson Swan (Wiki) was first to demonstrate reliable light bulbs to an audience of 700 in February 1879, months before the prolific American inventor, Thomas Alva Edison (Wiki), was able to demonstrate light bulbs that did not quickly burn out. It would appear that Edison and Swan were both doing similar work at the same time but Swan demonstrated his first and developed a method to prevent the bulb glass from blackening. Swan's house was the first in the world to be lit by electric light and it was powered by a hydro-electric generator from a nearby river. History tends to credit the more famous Edison with the invention of the light bulb but there is a prejudicial culture of 'not invented here' in a certain land and that filters through to the written history. Edison was a good inventor and a shrewd businessman who would employ other inventors but he was also highly litigious and quick to oppose his rivals.

The American inventor, George Eastman (Wiki), was making plate film from around 1880. By 1885, he perfected the first transparent roll film for photography, which was a major breakthrough with long lasting effects. His business amassed a great fortune under the Kodak name, although 'Eastman-Kodak' later appeared on some products. Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman of the same family (and she was a photographer). The roll film opened the way for Edison to improve his Kinetoscope to show moving pictures to one person at a time in 1891, displaying moving pictures in the style of a 'peep show' or 'What the Butler Saw.' Edison's requirement for perforations to be added on both edges of the 35mm films became the moving picture film standard which continues even to this day. Some digitally-edited films are still copied to film which would have been recognisable to Eastwood and Edison.

As always, Edison grabbed the limelight but the UK also had its inventors. Having discovered that Edison's Kinetoscope patent did not apply in England, the London scientific instrument-maker, Robert W Paul (BFI biography), made his own version of the Edison Kinetoscope and exported machines to all over the world. He also invented a cine camera. The difficulty of projecting an image on to a screen for a theatre audience was the next challenge. In February 1895, Paul demonstrated a clear 7ft square moving picture being projected from a 40ft long piece of film. Others followed Paul's progress and the Anglo-American film producer and distributor, Charles Urban, projected moving pictures at theatres using what he called the Bioscope.

Film as we know it was now the new technology of the day, using hand/clockwork or motor-driven cameras at a rate of about 20 frames per second. The standard later became 24 frames per second, as it still is, which might explain why the very old films appear to be speeded up. Modern-day 'films' stay with the 24 fps standard, no matter by which method they may be 'filmed' or even the original frame rate. The experts claim that 24 fps is the 'cinematic' framerate and looks right because it is the established standard.

The Third Annual Entertainment, in the Assembly Room.
See also 1906 and 1907 below for entertainments in the Assembly Rooms.

Assembly Room Penistone
25th February 1878
Third Annual Dramatic Entertainment
By the Members of Penistone Grammar School Institute - Programme
Overture - Biltcliff's String Band

"Parliamentary Debate on the Admission of Ladies to the Gallery of the House of Commons"
(* Various MPs played by local people)
Members Supporting the Ministry (* in brief, and played by): W Uncles, F Moore, J Walshaw, W Goodall and FU Laycock.
Members of the Opposition - (* the players): WA Valber, H Rolling, JH Wood and C Kaye.

Recitation "Mary Queen of Scots" - by FU Laycock;
Piccolo - played by Thomas Baxter

"A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing" (Historic, domestic drama by T Taylor Esq., set in Taunton, 1685), A Story of the Monmouth Rebellion.
Played by: H Rolling, R Walber, J Walshaw, WA Walber, F Moore, C Kaye, W Vernon, W Uncles, FU Laycock, Maud Lewis and F Brownhill.
Director and Manager - Mr T Jackson; Stage Manager - F Brownhill

Poster printed by 'John Wood, Printer by atmospheric gas power, Market Place, Penistone.'

Early 1880s
Penistone Reading Room

A reading room was established through the efforts of John Ness Dransfield, location unknown. This is anecdotal but supposedly supported by newspaper clippings in Penistone Historic Archives. At a time when the value of education became prominent, a good reading habit was equated with learning and good schooling. By 1900 there were 295 public libraries in Britain. 

Silent Pictures Begin

In France, the Lumière Brothers invented the Cinématographe. Superior to Edison's Kinetograph for one person at a time, moving images could now be projected on to a screen for more people to view. Now the world could move on from lantern slides. Many short moving picture films would be made by Bamforth's of Holmfirth from 1898 - 1900 and later, see 1903 below. Forget Hollywood. Until 1913, it had not yet been invented but Yorkshire was now on the map.

Unknown Date - The 'Assembly Rooms'
A building located adjacent to the Great Central Railways Goods Depot (near the current St Mary's Street roundabout). Known also as 'Unwin's Rooms' it was to become the 'Assembly Rooms Cinema' or 'Penistone Picture Palace' and served as the main centre of entertainment. Penistone Town Hall was not even 'a twinkling of the eye' at this time.

The Assembly Room had been a gas appliances showroom in the early days of Penistone's gas supply (gasworks nearby, off Talbot Road, aka 'Gashouse Lane'). There was no electricity supply around in those days, as Mr Tesla was still experimenting with that in the USA while Mr Edison was trying to drive him out of business. Back to the story.

The Assembly Room name suggests a meeting place for such as election hustings or union meetings but it was also used for dances and concerts, such as the Hunt Ball, the Batchelor's Ball and fund-raisers for local churches and (perhaps ironically given the Town hall history) the Carnegie Library fund. The church school on Church street was another venue for dances. These notes are from an 1878 poster, very much abridged here.

'New Road' Land Built Up

That heading demands an explanation, but it is relevant. The old Grammar School was demolished this year and new buildings would be constructed on the Kirk Flatts site which required cellars to be gug out. This would produce a lot of soil to be deposited elsewhere. The Bradleys of Penistone Rose and Crown were farmers and cartage contracters who were contracted to take away the soil and move it to the side of New Road, as Shrewsbury Road was then called. The soil was used to bring the level of the field up to the road level. The land would later be used as the site for the Carnegie Library, Council Rooms and the Town Hall.

Decision to Build a Library
- Public Meeting, Monday 29th September 1902.
The first official suggestion to apply to the steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie of Skibo Castle, for money to build a public Free Library building in Penistone.

A public meeting in the Girls' National School was held to consider if Mr Andrew Carnegie's offer of £1,000 for a Public Free Library in Penistone should be accepted. The following resolution was proposed by Dr ACJ Wilson JP CC and seconded by Mr GAB Lockley. It was accepted unanimously: "We, the inhabitants of Penistone, in public meeting assembled, thank Mr Carnegie for his generous offer, and pledge ourselves to use our utmost efforts to raise the necessary £500 in order to take advantage of such offer." ('Penistone Reflections' gives Thursday 29/9/1904 but this date comes from the 1904 Almanack. See the note below the next item).

Adoption of Libraries Act in Penistone - 24th October 1902.
On this date, the first 'Conversazione' was held in St John's School (the current Community Centre) to consider raising £500 for the Free Library Scheme. A poll was taken to decide if the Public Free Libraries Act 1892 ought to be adopted by Penistone. A 'Conversazione' is 'a scholarly social gathering held for discussion of literature and the arts'. Details from 1904 Penistone Almanack, referring to 1902. Note that 'Penistone Reflections' gives the date as 29th September 1904 but, as it was published in the 1904 Almanack, presumably compiled the year before or early in the year, the meeting must have occurred before publication.

Raising Funds

Local fund-raising towards the new public building started around this time. Mr Carnegie's grant was agreed but on condition that Penistone adopt the Free Libraries Act and put £500 towards the costs of building. Reference to 'The Free Libraries Act' refers to 'The Public Libraries Act' which started in 1850 (13 & 14 Vict c.65) but was amended several times (See History of the Act). Local rates added 1d per pound towards the build, as this was the maximum rate which could be under the Act.

13th March 1903.
A 'Social' was held in Penistone Wesleyan Schoolroom to raise money towards the Free Library Fund. This was in a rear room at the old St Paul's chapel, used for a Sunday School within living memory before its demolition in the 1970s (replaced by St Andrews Church). On 19th March 1903, Councillor Derry of Sheffield and Mr Samuel Smith, chief librarian of Sheffield Free Libraries addressed the public in St John's School on the subject of free libraries.

October 1903.
'Animated Pictures' were shown in the 'Assembly Rooms Cinema' by showman Harry Bamforth of Holmfirth. It was a sporadic event, with Jasper Redfearn following in 1905. Bamforth's of Holmfirth had made many short films 1898 - 1900 and later 1913 - 1915, having started with lantern slides for display in Electric Picture Palaces and travelling shows. Bamforths later became well-known for their saucy seaside postcards.

November 1903
Léon Gaumont demonstrated his first sound film to Société de Photographie in Paris. Even before this, in 1899, an experimental three-colour system had been patented and projected by Edward Raymond Turner, who died suddenly in 1903. This was a time of continuing innovation and experimentation in moving pictures.

'Acis and Galatea'
(Concert) - Weds 14th November 1906, 7.30pm, in the Assembly Rooms.
'Acis and Galatea' by Handel has been regarded as the pinnacle of pastoral opera in England. This was performed by an un-named Augmented Band and Chorus. The principals were: Mrs Dorothea Hemmings, LRAM, Soprano (Sheffield); Mr Alfred Clegg, Tenor (Dewsbury), and Mr Hugh Ashton, Baritone (of the Manchester Concerts). The pink poster had 'Doors open at 6.45pm' and 'Carriages at 10pm' but did not show the price of admission. From Mrs D Crossland's collection.

A 'High-Class Concert'
- Weds, 20th November 1907, 7.30pm, in the Assembly Rooms.
A concert by Penistone and District Choral Society, with: Glees, Part Songs, Madrigals, etc., by the Society's Chorus.

Site Chosen for Penistone Library
Penistone Urban District Council had been trying for many years to find a portion of land somewhere in Penistone to put up a public building. Sheffield Shrewsbury Hospital Trust offered a site in Shrewsbury Road for the new public building on condition that the local council adopt it as a public road. (From Penistone History Group archives). On approaching the Local Government Board, Penistone Urban Council was told that they could not build the public building without themselves first acquiring the powers of a Parish Council, which being only a formality, they did (date uncertain).

Cinema Legislation
Around 1908 there had been several cinema fires resulting in loss of life and these led to pressure to regulate the industry more firmly. The Cinematograph Act 1909 (9 Edw.7 c.30 and see updates) brought cinemas under local authority control in an effort to increase fire safety and it gave local authorities the power of inspection. Licencing became mandatory because of safety concerns and for emergency egress. Films of the era used a highly-combustible cellulose nitrate base which, under the great heat generated in projector lamp housings, was easily ignited and could set theatres ablaze. Early cinemas were highly susceptible to fires. Films were now required to be projected from a fire-proof chamber. Stricter building regulations were generally introduced for public entertainment halls.

As the Act did not regulate the content of films, local authorities set their own rules. Films which were acceptable in some areas might not be considered unsuitable in others. Indirectly, the Act led to the eventual formation of the British Board of Film Censors, later re-named as the British Board of Film Classification. According to BBFC History, 'Statutory powers on film remains with local councils, which may overrule any of the BBFC’s decisions upon appeal.'

Assembly Rooms Cinema Licence
- 28th December 1911.
It is not clear exactly when the 'Assembly Rooms Cinema' was built and opened. A small pamphlet 'Cinema in Penistone' by Clifford Shaw remarks that there had not been any publicity for its opening as a cinema. It might be interesting to discover why. And when. The lessees were JT Hawthorne and GF King at this time, who also had cinemas in Holmfirth, Skelmanthorpe, Slaithwaite and Ossett. This suggests that they were already well-established; that they operated in rotation and that films might be shown perhaps only once or twice a week at each venue. They would later sell their business to Mr and Mrs Moses Rawson, who kept it until the fire of 1924.

The cinema acquired its cinema licence this year but it is likely that it had shown films here long before the licence became a requirement by law. The licence had been imposed this year by the Cinematograph Act 1909 and could be acquired upon complying with the regulations to operate as a cinema. This was, of course, the silent film era and around the time that the movie industry was developing in the USA. With the Great War around the corner, USA film production increased and would soon outstrip other sources and come to dominate film output for many years to come.

In the modern age, you can still find the old Assembly Rooms Cinema building near St Mary's Street roundabout. Walk towards Julie's Cafe and, on the right, the tall building was the former Railway Station before it moved and there had been a second building (now demolished) as an Engine Shed. On your left, you can see a long red-brick building with what looks like port-hole windows. That is the former Assembly Rooms Cinema and you can make out the shape of a projection room at the far end.

Carnegie Library Plans

Plans for the Carnegie Free Library were submitted by Mr HB Collins of Barnsley to Andrew Carnegie for approval. An additional scheme to add the Town Hall and other rooms for council use was also discussed at the time.

Funding a Public Hall - 5th November 1913.
An application to borrow money Mr. E Leonard, P.A.S.I., Local Government Board Inspector, held an inquiry at Penistone into the application of the Urban District Council for power to borrow £3,500 for the erection of a Public Hall and Council Offices in Shrewsbury Road.

Plans for the new Public Hall
- 18th March 1913.
Tenders accepted for building Penistone Town Hall and Council Offices as follows:- Mason and brickwork, Mr. MH Mellor, Penistone, £1,885 10s.; joinery, Messrs. J Hawley & Sons, Penistone, £1,260; plumber, Mr. F Tinker, Penistone, £368 5s.; plasterers, Messrs. G Beard & Sons, Penistone, £227 2s. 5d.; painters, Messrs. A Bagnall & Sons, Ltd., Shipley, Bradford, £60 8s.; total £3,801 5s. 5d.

Plans and Loan Approved - 26th May 1913.
The Local Government Board approved plans and tenders for the new Town Hall and Council Offices next door to it (with an attached Masonic Hall) and gave their sanction to a loan of £4,100. Here is a clipping from page 11 of the 1914 Penistone Almanac, which would have been compiled in 1913. As always, the distinction between 'Town Hall' and 'Council Offices' was very clear.

Loan Approved for Town hall buildings, 1913

Penistone Free Library Opened - Saturday 21st June 1913.
The Carnegie Free Library and Reading Room was completed on Shrewsbury Road, built partly from public subscription (on the rates referred to above) and with a £1,300 contribution from Andrew Carnegie, which had been increased from the original £1,000. Eleven years after it had been first proposed, it was officially opened by the Earl of Wharncliffe. Opening hours were:

Before Shrewsbury Road had been adopted and improved, the rather narrow Church Street had been the main through road. 1913 was the start of construction of Penistone Town Hall, the adjacent Committee Rooms (Council Chamber) and Penistone Masonic Hall, built on to the lower part of the new Carnegie Free Library.

Penistone's "Coliseum" Begins
- 31st October 1914.
MasonicPenistone Town Hall, Masonic Hall, Council Chamber and Meeting Room was completed this year as a continuation of the Carnegie Free Library. The opening ceremony was performed by Alderman E Woodhead, JP, of Huddersfield (see full details below). The cost of the public hall and adjuncts totalled about £3,004 and the Council offices (Council Chamber), etc., an additional £1,009.

As this was at the beginning of the Great War, the Town Hall also became a venue for fund-raising activities, such as dances. A concert on Saturday, 28th November raised £30 in aid of the 'Relief of Belgian Refugees Fund'. Artistes were: conjuror Mr WF Gilbert of Chester and humorist Mr Harry Lawton of Wolverhampton (Penistone Almanack, 1916). In a different style, a children's concert from Spring Vale Council School was a great success in December. The programme of operettas were 'The Toy Shop' performed by the infants and 'A Royal Jester' by the elder scholars.

The new Town Hall had other uses too. On 9th December 1914, the first inquest was held there. This was for the death of 82 year old Mrs Charlotte Mitchell of Spring Vale, who died as a result of a fall.

Renewed Assembly Rooms Cinema Efforts
- January 1915.
With a rival cinema about to start up in the Town Hall, the Assembly Rooms Cinema needed to try harder to gain customers with a renewed advertising campaign. The Assembly Rooms Cinema had been advertising as 'Penistone Picture House' at this time but the name never really caught on. Its film schedule had always sporadic, although the onset of the Great War would have had its effect. Nightly performances in the Assembly Rooms Cinema started at 8pm, with Saturday performances at 2.30pm, 6.45pm and 9pm. The programme would have a main film (not more than about ten minutes) and a Pathé News or comedy feature or serial. Films would be changed on Mondays and Thursdays. Tickets were 3d, 4d and 6d.

One wonders how they stretched out the showings, with the films being so short, but we could make a guess here. We must remember that these were all silent films and would have been accompanied by piano, so performances might have included more than films, perhaps with music sessions and a sing-along. An interesting factoid turned up after the local dance school teacher Betty Chappelle died in 2020; that her father Matthew had played piano for Penistone pictures. It wasn't clear which picture house he played for. After about five months, the films stopped again but would later return. Mr Will Parfett was billed as Manager for 1913-14. When the Town Hall started with its own film showings in November, Mr Parfett deserted the sinking ship and joined them instead. According to the blue booklet, nothing more was heard about the Assembly Rooms Cinema until 1917.

Steelworkers' Meeting - 20th March 1915.
A mass meeting of steelworkers took place in the Town Hall, addressed by Mr M Humberstone and various union leaders. This was in the time of Cammel-Laird steelworks on Green Road, which later became David Brown's (1936).

Town Hall Licenced for Films - August 1915.
The Town Hall was let to Mr Joseph Owen Jesson after the Council licenced the Town Hall for 'Cinematographic entertainments', conditional on its availability as a Town Hall for other local events and public meetings (which still pertains) and the first projectionist was Mr T Lee. Of course, early films had no sound-track in those days but there would have been musical accompaniment by Mrs May Bust on piano (a detail from Penistone Mayor's speech of 2014).

The first 'high-class concert and pictures' event was held on Friday 20th November 1915, described in the Penistone Almanack (see graphic below). According to a historical account at the BBC, which has several inaccuracies, 'The two opening shows in 1915 raised over £20 for wounded soldiers in the Penistone, Thurlstone and District Nursing Association'. See the BBC page.

The balcony was deemed to be not up to safety standards by the West Riding CC licencing authority and remained off-limits to the audience, which could number 550 in the stalls, until it was altered in 1924, at the expense of Penistone council. The regulations were because of a high incidence of cinema fires as a result of the highly flammable films of the day illuminated by very hot lamps. The balcony audience would have required a good fire exit.

Films Start in the Town Hall - First programmed film showing on 22nd November 1915
The Town Hall's function as a central place of entertainment would now be extended to include the showing of films. A grand launch event took place (see the graphic below). The existing 'Penistone Picture House' (aka 'Assembly Rooms Cinema') now faced direct competition from the council-backed Town Hall Cinema, with two regular film screenings each week. The first year rental for showing films was £526 and included the use of a piano. They were all silent films in those days and a piano was essential. It would be many decades before a cinema organ would be fitted to Penistone Town Hall; much later than the talkies.

What we don't know is whether the projector and screen equipment were permanent fixtures or just set up as needed for the film showings. Tickets prices were 3d and 9d (In modern money, a shilling or 12d = 5p). From the 1916 Penistone Almanack, an entry referring to 20th - 21st November 1915:

November 1915 - Penistone Almanack.

Soldiers Recruited in the Town Hall
As the Great War gathered pace, Penistone Town Hall was also used to recruit more soldiers as Headquarters of the Holmfirth Parliamentary Division Recruiting Committee, 'For men attesting under Lord Derby's scheme for the war.'

The 'Derby Scheme' used door-to-door visits encouraging men to 'attest' or promise to serve if called upon, with a promise that bachelors would be called to serve before married men. The 'Derby Scheme' was insufficient for recruiting enough cannon fodder and single men aged 18 to 41 were conscripted from January 1916. This was still not enough and married men were also conscripted in May 1916.


Return of the Assembly Rooms Cinema

The Great War was drawing towards its end. Advertisements for film performances in 'Penistone Picture House' restarted during the Spring and Summer of this year. The manager was Miss Beatrice Harris. Tickets were: 4d, 5d and 8d, which now included an entertainment tax. Film serials running at the time were:

Assembly Rooms Cinema Refurbishment
- 26th May 1919.
After the renovation, the Assembly Rooms Cinema re-opened with Moses Rawson as Manager. Following the upheaval and losses of the Great War, the opening show had been to raise money for a Penistone War Memorial to be erected outside Penistone Church (see 1924) and it included a variety act. A free children's matinee was shown at 5pm the same day. This cinema continued (possibly sporadically) for another four years until its demise in 1923.

Bulging Gable Requires Work
A bulge appeared in the gable end of the Town Hall and repairs were called for. The local council also chose to have work done to bring the balcony up to the WRCC's safety requirements at the same time, so that it could be brought back into use. Capacity was 550 seats, which excluded the balcony. The hall was also redecorated. Reconstruction and enlargement started in July 1924 with H Slater as architect, costing a total of £1,200, but with the lessees paying towards it.

Demise of The Assembly Rooms Cinema
- Thursday 12th July.
Competition between Penistone's two picture palaces came to an end this year. 'Penistone Picture House' met its untimely end when fire gutted the building, leaving only the walls remaining. The last film shown was 'Love at the Wheel' (1921). According to IMDB, it was a film about a sacked foreman who set up his own car business and won a race. The players were: Victor Humfries, Pauline Johnson, Leslie Steward, Annette Benson, Arthur Claremont, Clare Greet, A. Harding Steerman and May Price. The building appeared to be unused in the latter half of the 20th century until it was taken over for car repairs.

Town Hall Building Work - Balcony ('Circle') Made Safe at Last

The gable end of the Town Hall had developed a noticeable bulge in 1922 and building work was started to remedy this. It made sense to improve the Balcony gallery area at the same time to comply with the WRCC's safety standards and, at last, to actually allow an audience make use of it. Always referred to as 'the Circle' on Town Hall programmes, it was deemed unsafe for ten years and out of bounds to the public. The architect to improve the building was Mr H Slater and the cost of all the work came to £1,200.

It had been a busy year in Penistone, if you take a look at the History Timeline for 1924. The church clock was replaced this year and a second face fitted to overlook Shrewsbury Road for the first time. Also, the new Penistone War Memorial was unveiled this year, engraved with the fallen of the Great War. The Penistone Almanack of 1925 has the following item, referring to 14th July 1924.

July 1924 additions

'Grand Popular Concert' (first of a series) - 7.30pm, Weds 5th November 1924.
From the start, Penistone Town Hall had been a theatre and dance hall, then a film theatre from 1915. Penistone and District Musical Society performed 'The May Queen' by Sterndale Bennet. Conductor was Mr A Harley. Artistes: Miss Ida Bloor, Soprano, Mr Joseph Green, Tenor, Mr Ernest Platts, Bass, Mr Melvyn Roebuck at the Piano. (This item from Mrs M Marsh's collection).

Public Assemblies
Meetings were being held in the Town Hall as a public assembly hall. Random examples from Penistone Almanacs are: The 70th Annual Parochial Gathering, Wednesday 7th January 1925. A little later, Mr George Lansbury, Labour MP, spoke to the masses there on the subject of 'Nationalisation of Mines', Sunday 1st February 1925, in connection with the formation of the Penistone Branch of the Labour Party.

Cinematograph Films Act 1927

Advert for Town HallThe 1927 Act (see Parliament) was designed to halt the decline of the British film industry, at a time of declining British film audiences. It was trying to counter Hollywood's perceived economic and cultural dominance by promoting similar business practices among British studios, distributors and cinema chains for the limited time of ten years.

The 1927 Act made it compulsory for every film renter trading in Great Britain to provide a quota of British films, to increase yearly from 7.5% in the year ending March 31st 1929, up to 20% by 1938. Exhibitors were also required to show a quota of British films, starting from 5% in 1928 and increasing to 20% by 1936. It was generally regarded as a failure. Cinematograph films entering Great Britain were subject to import duties: raw stock (blank film) one-third of a penny per linear foot; positive film, 1d per foot; negative, 5d per foot.

Until 1929, most films had been silent and most were from America. European countries were increasing their output, however, with the arrival of talking films and this provided an opportunity for British producers to regain lost ground. As an example of film output around 1930, taking an annual production of 1350 feature films, 750 would be produced in America, 200 in Germany, 140 in Great Britain, 130 in Russia, 60 in France and 70 in all other countries.

Technical - The Talkies?
Many people believe that the first 'talkie' film had been the 'The Jazz Singer' (1927). Yet several inventions to synchronise sound to moving pictures had preceded it perhaps three decades earlier, with such as the Synchroscope, Chronophone and Cameraphone. Most of them did not have the funding or resources to be commercially viable and many gifted inventors ended up in debt or subject to ruthless patent litigation by those who were better-established and who had the money to risk in court.

'The Jazz Singer' was regarded as the first feature-length 'talkie' film to be distributed in 1927 but was not shown in Penistone at the time. The film used the Vitaphone system with four gramophone discs for 'Sound on Disc' and very similar to a French system nearly thirty years before. It was silent with captions for the most part except for the songs and some ad-libbing. None-the-less, it was hugely popular at the time in America (where the history is written) and caught the public imagination as the technological breakthrough which would herald the demise of silent film. Al Jolson's first words to be heard in the film were: "You ain't heard nothing yet".

The Vitaphone disc system had a limited recording time and was subject to synchronisation problems if a disc was damaged or nudged in the projection room. A better method had been invented long before Vitaphone using an optical 'Sound on Film' track, which allowed perfect lip-synchronisation but did not have the financial backing to succeed until much later. Then it became the standard until digital methods appeared in modern times.

In the 1900s, Léon Gaumont's Chronophone had projected film on to the big screen and he used the French equivalent of the phonograph and two large horns to amplify the sound. There was no electronic amplification in those days. Even before that, around 1895, Thomas Edison played music on his cylinder phonograph with a continuous film loop in his Kinetophone. It was a coin-operated machine for one person at a time. Kinetophone Parlours were set up across America and even in London's Oxford Street. The 1920s were the early days of radio ('Wireless' in those days) and its improving technology was useful for the development of cinema, with microphones, amplifying valves, loudspeakers, photocells and other developments available and becoming increasingly affordable. The expanding electricity supply in the UK played no small part in the process of invention and take up. Further UK Cinema History can be found at the British Cinema History site.

Glen Cinema Fire Disaster
- 31st December.
Even after various changes to the law for fire safety in cinemas, 71 children died in the Glen Cinema fire disaster in Paisley, Scotland. Around 900 children had gone to Glen Cinema to see the new cowboy film 'The Dude Desperado', as their mums cleaned up at home ready for the New Year. A film reel caught fire, filling the hall with black smoke. The children panicked and stampeded to get out, leading to 69 being crushed and 40 injured. The final death toll was 71. Ironically, the projectionist managed to extinguish the fire.

The Nitrocellulose film of the day had been highly flammable and the cause of the fire. People (mostly children) rushed the exits, only to find that they either opened inwards or were locked to prevent unauthorised entry. The cinema has been inspected that same day by the local fire service and pronounced safe. This had been the worst cinema disaster in UK history. After this the tragedy, picture house inspections became compulsory and the Cinematograph Act 1909 was amended so that emergency exits opened outwards and had push bars for a rapid egress.

The 1930s
Advert for filmsPenistone cinema projectors at this time were two British Thomson Houston (BTH), Type A, with carbon arcs and 20 minute reels (see the Regal Group site). BTH was a large engineering and heavy machinery company which made a wide range of products including steam turbines, electric motors, power generation equipment, Mazda radio valves, a two-valve wireless, aircraft parts, naval parts, cinema sound and cinema projection equipment. In 1937, Frank Whittle's Power Jets company built the world's first prototype jet engine at the BTH works in Rugby but BTH also made domestic appliances under the Hotpoint name and BTH film projectors, which were installed in Penistone's Town Hall Cinema. See Grace's Guide.

Talkies Arrive in Penistone

Fifteen years after he had started showing films in the Town Hall, Mr Jesson continued with a six-year lease to show films, at a rental of £300 a year for the first three years and by negotiation afterwards.

'Sunny Side Up' was the first talkie film shown in Penistone, with a run time of just over two hours. It was made by Fox Film Corporation and premiered 3rd October 1929 at the Gaiety Theatre in New York City. It laid claim to being the first original musical talkie for the silver screen. Up to this year, films at Penistone had been silent except for a piano accompaniment. The title song from the film will be familiar to many people, as in '(Keep Your) Sunny Side Up'. On the poster: 'William Fox Presents Sunny Side Up. The screen's first all-talking, singing, dancing musical comedy (etc.)'

The film starred Janet Gaynor as Molly Carr (who sang and danced to the title song) and Charles Farrell as Jack Cromwell. They had been the top screen couple in the early 1930s and were romantically involved with each other at the time of the film. They were making the transition from silent to talkie films with some success. She was barely 5ft tall, while he was 6ft 2in but they had a noticeable chemistry between them.

Janet Gaynor had appeared in many films in the 1920s and 1930s (mostly uncredited) but was aware of her vocal short-comings and arranged to avoid musicals in future. She had all but retired but appeared in 'The Love Boat' TV series in 1981. Charles Farell is best remembered for his teaming with Janet Gaynor in twelve screen romances between 1927 and 1934. He retired in the late 1940s but made an appearance in the popular US TV series 'My Little Margie' (1952).

Technical Advances:
This was a Fox Movietone film, which used a variable-density optical soundtrack based on the 1920s Phonofilm system developed by American inventor Lee deForest, rather than the variable-width optical soundtrack which became the standard for later years. In fact, either type could be played back on the same projector, provided the frames per second were similar. This 'Sound on Film' method ensured accurate lip sync, unlike the Vitaphone system used in 'The Jazz Singer' which played the soundtrack from four special gramophone records which could easily 'jump a groove' and lose synchronisation.

Most of the film was black and white except for one sequence, 'Turn up the Heat', which was coloured using a tinting process and called 'Multicolor'. This was rather an erotic sequence with Eskimo girls dancing as the temperature rose and igloos melted, to be replaced by palm trees and skimpy clothes. Unfortunately, that appears to have been lost and can only be found in black and white now. Camera techniques were evolving at this time from the static angles of the silent era and this film used such as tracking crane shots to make it more interesting and immersive. See Wikipedia and IMDb.

At this time, Penistone's cinema had BTH projectors. Then as now, the film changed on Thursdays but sometimes the films were not being shown when the hall was used for theatrical or other purposes. Each year had a regular theatrical booking by Penistone and District Amateur Operatic Society, which was the forerunner of the current Penistone Centre Stage. Films were usually advertised in the Penistone district news.


The Town Hall was renovated again and more comfortable seating was fitted.

1939 - 1945
The War Years:

Films were not shown in the Town Hall during the War years of 1939 to 1945 but Friday night dances continued and were popular, along with band concerts and fund-raising efforts such as the 'Salute a Soldier' week shown below. Penistone Operatic Society returned to the stage in 1947.

Penistone Urban District 'Salute a Soldier' Week - Friday 7th July to Saturday 15th July 1944.
A big event during the Second World War. A leaflet from Charles J Gillis, implored the public to buy National Savings Certificates towards a target of £50,000, to help the war effort.

People of Penistone,

A year ago I appealed to you on the occasion of 'Wings for Victory' week when you so generously invested monies well above the target figure of £50,000. Once again Penistone Urban District is called upon for a major effort and with military operations proceeding on unprecedented scale I ask the people of Penistone to lend every ounce of support during 'Salute a Soldier' week, July 8th - 15th.

(Signed) Charles J. Gillis, Chairman, Penistone U.D.C.

The message had not included the date of the Friday Town Hall dance, for some reason. As an aside, the leaflet referred to the Council Chamber as distinct from the Town Hall. Further evidence (if ever it that was still needed) that 'Town Hall' was synonymous with the now-called Paramount theatre hall. The 6d souvenir programme included a list of 'Names of Members of HM Forces resident in Penistone Urban District on enlistment' and shorter lists of the Missing (two from Thurlstone), Prisoners and deceased.

Official Selling Centres, open during the week for buying the certificates and stamps, were:

'Entertainments' for 'Salute a Soldier' week in July 1944:

Town Hall Concert

Tickets for these concerts were sold by: O Lockwood, R Proud, EB Broadbent, Mrs Eyre, T Lee, AE Savile, Mrs Jubb, W Harrison, T Wadsworth, JH Wood and W Chapelle. Someone might find names such as these interesting for genealogy purposes.

Sunday Openings

A public meeting was held to consider allowing the use of the Town Hall on Sundays. At the time, Sundays were sacrosanct as the quiet 'day of rest' with no shops open. The majority said 'No' and this remained the situation until 1961. Also in the late 1940s, the UK Government had become again concerned about Hollywood's domination of the film industry and a lack of finance for British film production. It altered the quota system accordingly. American film producers were able to circumvent the rules to some extent by having studios in the UK.

The 1950s:
Radio had always been very popular from the mid-1920s and was reaching a peak but a single BBC television channel was now becoming established for news and entertainment. TV had actually started in the London area in 1936 but closed down in 1939 for the war. TV was seen as an increasing threat to cinemas, especially when ITV started in 1955 to give a choice of two channels. The writing was on the wall. The film industry started to decline and needed to innovate to survive. By 1958, eight million UK households had television licences and many of the British film studios were being closed or sold to broadcasters.

Technical Advances

Following quickly on the success of the 'Cinerama' wide-screen format (not in Penistone), 'CinemaScope' was invented this year using special anamorphic lenses on cameras to distort (squash) wide pictures into the standard film frames. The projector would also need an anamorphic lens to undo the distortion and project the film as wide-screen, with a theoretical maximum aspect ratio of 2.66:1 (nearly 2½ units wide to every unit of height). The first CinemaScope film was the religious epic, 'The Robe', which was a huge box office success. All things considered, CinemaScope was a great breakthrough and eventually every cinema would have anamorphic lenses ready for each of the usual pair of projectors.

In contrast to CinemaScope, its forerunner Cinerama had required three synchronised projectors to throw images on to a curved screen, which limited its widespread implementation to just a few cinemas in the UK. The 'sweet spot' best viewing area in the auditorium was also somewhat limited. The three images had a slight overlap, producing a slightly brighter band down about a third of the way on each side of the screen. I remember watching a Cinerama film in Huddersfield. The fixed angle of each taking lens prevented the use of zoom lenses, although it must be said that, even to this day, prime lenses have always been preferred to zooms in the film industry.

The 1960s:
The Town Hall had a 'sprung floor' for dancing, which is currently wedged up. Local council workers had to remove the rows of seats before each dance night and re-fit them afterwards. Cinema was generally in decline during this decade as television and later colour tv was assuming a greater part of people's lives. BBC 2 started its colour service from 2nd December, 1967. Many cinemas closed during this period but Penistone had soldiered on.

End of an Era

Late this year, and after 45 years, Mr Jesson ended his lease to show films in the Town Hall, after objecting to the use of the hall for a pantomime. It is likely that it conflicted with, or reduced, his film showings rather than any objections he might have had about the production. Film audiences had been declining at the time and Mr Jesson was reluctantly making way for other entertainments such as the very popular dances, which must have required plenty of down time to remove and replace the seats. The pantomime could have been 'the last straw.'

Sunday Films
- 4th June.
CinemaFilms had been not shown on Sundays until authorised on 7th May this year. From 4th June, Mr George L Edwards took over from Mr Jesson as lessee. He was also manager of the Theatre Royal in Manchester and he employed Rodney Byrne as Penistone Town Hall Cinema Manager. The opening week showed the black and white film 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' (See IMDb). What you might call a 'kitchen sink' drama, starring Albert Finney, who was still acting up to 2018 in such as the Bourne films. The Town Hall was also redecorated this year. Bingo started on Friday and Saturday afternoons from 25th November 1961 and proved to be popular.

Film showings in the Town Hall appeared to be sliding into disarray and the programming of films became erratic. Adverts stopped being shown from July. Financial difficulties appeared to be behind the malaise and a writ was served to recover arrears of £312. Ouch.

Re-opened under PUDC
- 8th May.
Penistone Urban District Council (PUDC) took over the management of the Town Hall Cinema and it re-opened on 8th May 1963, with films being shown on Saturdays, Mondays and Tuesdays and children's 2.30pm Saturday matinees with a programme of cartoons. Better films were now being shown under the PUDC management and trade picked up. Mid-week bingo re-started mid-week but lasted only a few weeks. Mr A Hinchliffe was taken on as part-time manager. He resigned in 1967, mostly because of the controversial showing of 'Fanny Hill', which had the reputation of being obscene.

1966 PlaqueNew Library
- 30th March.
Penistone Carnegie Library went on the move from the Carnegie Library on Shrewsbury Road to the High Street. A new, purpose-built building was constructed next to the old St Paul's chapel (now St Andrews' Church). The old Reading Room (for daily newspapers and journals) persisted for perhaps a year or two longer in a small building behind the Town Hall, thence into obscurity and oblivion.

It has been speculated that the Reading Room had to be retained, possibly to retain a Library presence close to the original site and perhaps fulfil some sort of contractual obligation to Andrew Carnegie's original grant towards the old library in Penistone. The new Library was officially opened by County Councillor S Palmer of the WRCC.

Saturday Film Matinees
Children's Saturday matinees in the Town Hall were very popular around this time, with a programme of cartoons in the 'Saturday Club', and starting (from memory) at around 2pm. They came to an abrupt end amidst what was said to be an acrimonious dispute between its compére ('Uncle' somebody) and management. There was talk of a children's Christmas fund that the nippers had paid into but which would never be paid out. The matinees never restarted.

Part-time manager of Penistone Town Hall Cinema, Mr A Hinchliffe, resigned this year mostly because of the controversial showing of 'Fanny Hill', which had the reputation of being obscene.

Mr F Herton takes over as part-time manager of Penistone Town Hall Cinema.

Some talk was doing the rounds about the Town Hall being closed down. This would not be the only time this happened.

Conquest by BMBC
Penistone's assets were appropriated by (or possibly gifted to) Barnsley MB Council under the 'Local Government Reorganisation' Act of 1972, which came into force this year. Barnsley took control over our Town Hall and quickly raised the hire fee for various organisations which held functions there, making it prohibitively expensive and many of them simply dropped out. Around this time, the popular dance nights also came to an end. This might have been partly because control over the necessary manpower to remove and replace the seating had moved to Barnsley. The sprung dance floor was chocked up for perhaps the last time.

Former Sheffield University technician, Mr Steve Tales, was taken on as part-time Cinema Manager. He would later become the full-time Cinema Manager in 1978, responsible for all aspects of the running of the Town Hall Cinema, except for being licencees of the bar (corrected around 1989/1990).

With the changes to local government, Penistone Town Council and other Parish Councils were now reduced to 'advisory' status and would often (usually?) be ignored by the senior council. After the local government changes, old documents and other archive materials stored in the building were sent to Barnsley Council archives, which the late Councillor George Punt had described as "A shambles." Cllr Punt had been tasked with tracking down the deeds to the buildings, to legally establish its original ownership status to the sceptical Barnsley Council of its day. Unfortunately, the deeds were not found. One explanation was that there had been a fire in the archives but local people were (and continued to be) somewhat unimpressed.

Hospitality Room - Operating under BMBC Catering Services, alcoholic drinks from the bar were initially only available for dance nights. That would later be extended to '18' film nights.

Steve Goes Full Time - Having being appointed Part-time Cinema Manager in 1974, Steve Tales was now made Full-Time. Steve was a great enthusiast of all things 'cinema.'

New Projectors
These were changed to two Gaumont Kalee, Type 20, for improved efficiency and reliability (see the Regal Group site). Of course, projectors were fitted in pairs to facilitate a smooth transition as the reels were changed over. The projectionist was more than a button-pusher in those days. It is likely (to be confirmed) that they were fitted with the Kalee Varamorph lens, which had three magnification settings to accommodate different aspect ratios. These were: 1.38 for Rank's Anamorphic VistaVision, 1.5 for Paramount's Anamorphic VistaVision and 2 for CinemaScope and others. It had not been unusual for the film to break down and the audience reaction was always the same - foot stamping. You can download the Kalee Projector manual (pdf) from Film-Tech (under the Warehouse section).

New Spooler
- A double-sided 'Cinemeccanica' spooling tower was added to the Paramount projection box equipment to speed up the rewinding of films.

Advert for Town HallThe BBC Gets it Wrong!
According to the BBC, the film projector had been powered by carbon arc lamps until this year. The BBC page has other gnawing inaccuracies:

It's not just the BBC, there has often been confusion about the earlier 'Assembly Hall Cinema' near St Mary's Street. At one time, Penistone had two cinemas. Yes, Penistone Town Hall was used at times as a Public Assembly Hall but was never 'Converted from an Assembly Hall' as some sources (especially Barnsley Council) insist. The history and usage of Penistone Town Hall is well-established and well-known locally, without any 'help' from Barnsley or elsewhere.

New Manager

Steve Tales appointed as Cinema Manager and was to continue for more than two decades. It was usual at the time for two films to be shown, with a second feature short first film (lasting perhaps half an hour), which might typically have been Pathé News or something from the RAF, British Railways or something industrial. After an interval and the ice cream trolley, the main film would be shown. When the programme was reduced to just the main feature without an interval, they lost sales and income.

Intermission Troubles
Steve re-introduced the intermission into each film but the Society of Film Distributors (SFD) discovered this and threatened to stop providing films unless he ended the intermissions. Once again, Penistone had became newsworthy, but this time in a 'David and Goliath' story with the SFD as the baddy Goliath. The local community was happy with the intermissions. Radio Sheffield's Roger Kilner broke the news and the story reached national TV and newspapers. It was even included in The Big Issue. With the overwhelming support of the public and media for the 'David', the SFD backed down and intermissions were restored. See also 1999.

Early 1980s
The Communications Hub
(The CB Evening)
This was a time when CB Radio was reaching its peak of popularity and a special evening of CB films was arranged by the Manager Steve Tales, who himself had been an enthusiast. 'Convoy' had been a popular film at the time and had helped to spark off the CB phenomenon in the UK. Unfortunately, the evening did not attract many 'Breakers'. During the interval, an audience member with a portable CB radio struck up a conversation with 'Road Runner', a hillside farmer in his tractor and working in the fields. The manager must have been listening in, as he unexpectedly piped the conversation through the PA system, to everyone's delight (and possible embarrassment).

Penistone Town Hall Cinema re-decorated once again.

Cinema Metro Ticketnot clickable

Scrap metal dealer Leslie Taylor went out of business when the old Assembly Room Cinema which he had been using on Stottercliff Road was put up for sale.

Metro - An Unloved Name

Under the control of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, the (largely unloved) name of 'The Metro' was imposed upon the former Penistone Town Hall Cinema, presumably to reflect the 'Metropolitan' part of their own name (they were in charge and wanted us to know it). Control over booking the films moved from Brian Megson in Barnsley to the Penistone Cinema Manager of the time, Steve Tales. Under its new 'The Metro' name, the first film shown was James Bond in 'The Living Daylights' with Timothy Dalton in the starring role.

The theatre also received new permanent seating this year, ending the era of dances for all time. The 'sprung floor' with large steel springs had been designed from the beginning for dancing events but, with the demise of the dances, the springs were chocked up by wooden wedges to make the floor more stable and the seating would stay put. The nearby Community Centre became the new venue for discos and dances.

New Hospitality Room

In November, a bar licence was granted and the side room converted into a cosy relaxation area for before performances and during intermissions. At first, alcoholic drinks had only be available on dance nights but this would now be extended to film nights. The Cinema Manager became the licensee. Barnsley MB Council's Catering Services had previously managed the food and drink side of the operation. A good range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks became available. The foyer continued to supply the usual pop, sweets and the traditional popcorn. At first, alcoholic drinks were only available for '18' films but this was extended later.

BuffetBuffet Organist at play

It's Ours Again
- And another Refurbishment
The Metro Cinema reverted to local control under Penistone Town Council from 2nd April this year, under a 25-year lease from BMBC, who had appropriated Penistone's assets under the Local Government Re-organisation of the seventies. The next lease renewal would be due around 2018. New seats were fitted throughout the theatre at around this time. As before, every second seat had a small ashtray attached. Indoor smoking was still legal and quite normal during film performances, right up to the turn of the century. This often led to a hazy fug in the hall which showed up in the projection beam. 'Secondary smoking' had not yet been invented. This was banned in July 2007 when a new law made it illegal to smoke in all public enclosed areas and workplaces.

The Organ Arrives
- and a New and Better Name
The 'Mighty Paramount Theatre Organ' was installed. It had been built for the 3,000-seat Birmingham Odeon cinema in 1937, was restored in the 1950s and removed in 1988 to 'The Regal' in Oswestry. The Regal closed in 1994 and Blackpool Tower organist Kevin Grunhill bought it from them. After careful restoration, it was installed in Penistone with due ceremony. The theatre was renamed the 'Penistone Paramount', which was a vast improvement on the unloved 'Metro' name. In November, the first live football match was shown in the Paramount. This was England versus Scotland in a qualifying play-off for the 2000 European Championship. Other matches would be shown from time to time until someone threw beer at the screen, causing damage. Then they ended.

Intermission Troubles Again
Once again, the Intermission came under attack by the Society of Film Distributors (SFD) (see 1979 above), who again threatened to stop supplying films if it continued. The Paramount was resolute and now considered taking it to the European Court to settle the matter. Penistone MP Michael Clapham said the situation had become 'daft'. The SFD backed down for a second time and intermissions continued as before. The SFD was later 're-imaged' (renamed) as the Film Distributor's Association (FDA), in 2002.

console console

Technical Upgrades and the First Compton Organ Concert

The Westrex projector was fitted with Dolby stereo sound along with the necessary sound equipment, and a new wide screen was fitted. Total seating was reduced to 346, of which 128 were in the Circle (balcony). The first organ recital at the Paramount was held in November. See the Cinema Organ Trust site and the Organ page on this website.

Take a look at a BBC 'Where I Live' archived page, outlining a visit to the Town Hall. Its historic details are not very accurate; for example. it says that the theatre had originally been built as a library. Of course, the library was next door and co-existed with the Town Hall for five decades. Ignoring a few erroneous details, it is still an interesting article.

'Heartlands' Premiere

Actors Michael Sheen and Mark Addy came to the Paramount for the world premiere of the low-budget film 'Heartlands'. The local folk singer Kate Rusby had pressed for the premiere to be held at Penistone, after being involved in the film's music.

BMBC to Sell the Town Hall Building?
Barnsley MB Council had more than once declared an ambition to sell off the building, having assumed ownership via Local Government Reorganisation Act (enacted in 1974), possibly for it to be demolished and the land re-used for housing. This year, Penistone Town Council and the local community were forced to oppose Barnsley MB Council's plans to sell off the venue, with demolition as a distinct possibility.

It was suggested by 'people in the know' that the lucky accident of the Masonic Lodge being attached to the same building might have have protected it from disaster. BMBC does not have any powers over the Masonic Hall, which sort-of sits above and behind the council rooms and cannot be detached from the main part of the building. Penistone has not always enjoyed a happy relationship with its Barnsley lords and masters (other than being its alleged 'Cash cow').

A Mighty Fall-Out

A most unseemly dispute arose between the Penistone Organ Trust and Penistone Town Council on what ought to have been a trivial matter, easily resolved. It led to our town becoming a laughing stock in national and international media. The dispute started as dispute about how visiting coaches being (legally) parked on the road outside the Paramount. It soon evolved into a major stand-off and a fine example of small-town intransigence. Something which belonged to the Victorian age.

As the dispute deepened, the Organ Trust (which put on the concerts) was punished by being locked-out of the building and this prevented them from doing their routine maintenance tasks. The ensuing publicity was embarrassing for our town and it was on television news and in national and local newspapers (Eg. Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Star). 'Locks were then changed on the doors and the council and Cinema Manager said that because of harassment and intimidation of staff and volunteers, recitals had been suspended.' Concerts stopped and the organist was prevented from earning his money. The story reached as far as Australia.

In a fine effort at damage-limitation, Penistone's MP Mick Clapham asked The Rt Rev Stephen Platen, Bishop of Wakefield, to intervene in the dispute as an independent arbiter. He was politely refused (See Huddersfield Examiner). Our local council can occasionally be wary of public scrutiny (especially where co-options for empty seats are concerned) but its secrecy in the dispute only made matters worse. They could not handle this level of journalistic probing and gave the impression of being an example of intransigence, pettiness and heavy-handedness in an otherwise unremarkable dispute. Quite simply, they closed ranks and kept shtum.

Penistone's 'grapevine' has always been very efficient and the lid always comes off any can of worms, sooner or later. After the dust had settled, the council licked its self-inflicted wounds and held a private meeting with the organist to assess his claim for loss of earnings. He was duly compensated out of public funds, indirectly conferring an admission of guilt. Except for the embarrassment, this was all rather entertaining to the local public, in its own way.

The 90th Anniversary of Films

This was the 90th Anniversary of films being shown in the Town Hall (the rival 'Assembly Rooms Cinema' had preceded the Town hall Cinema by at least a decade). The Manager Steve Tales put on a very fine and informative exhibition on the stage, with display boards, running films and a display of projection and other equipment. These photos give a taste of the event, with a projector and spooling platter. There was plenty to see at the exhibition and it was well supported by the public.

ProjectorReel WinderProjector

The projector on display was a Lanterne Cinémeccanica CX21H, which you can view in more detail on the French-language Projectionniste site. It is possible to download the Service Manual (pdf) but in a foreign language. The projector used a 1.6 kW xenon bulb with air-blast cooling. For an interesting demonstration of film winding using a platter, take a look at a 15-minute Youtube video, which is not from Penistone.

YFA Event

Brian Barnsley took over as manager this year. A special Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA) event took place in November 2008. An organist played before the YFA films were shown and a YFA commentator explained details about the old film clips. The first clip was of a train, from the 1880s. The presenter referred to his pleasure in being 'In Barnsley' on three occasions and was met with a certain coldness from the audience each time. We could forgive his poor grasp of geography; he had come from York. It was a good show.

Going Digital

This was the start of a new wave of modernisation, involving a new Dolby sound system with BOSE speakers and a satellite dish installed in 2013 to stream live events from such as The National Theatre in London, to reach its conclusion in 2014. £86,000 was spent on digitising the theatre in the major upgrade. The old column speakers at each side were replaced with more modern types. Soon after, films would only need one digital projector and could be distributed digitally on something like a Hard Disc Drive cassette, with a dongle-like device to control the number and times of showings.

The old film projectors had become redundant. The projection booth did not have room for a pair of the old projection equipment alongside the new digital 2k Christie projector. Film projectors needed to be in pairs for reel-changing but digital projection needed only one device to play a film continuously (except, of course for the intermissions).

Centenary of the Opening of Penistone Town Hall

Fully digital showings of films and live events from distant theatres were now possible. Also film distribution by satellite was possible, although normally distributed by encrypted hard disc drive. New seats and foyer carpets were planned. An October facelift of the frontage was made ready for the Centenary Celebrations (see picture further down this page). The actual Centenary Event was a notable and grand affair, described in detail below. It had the Kirklees Mayor, the Penistone Mayor, florid speeches, era-related sandwiches, organ music on the Compton organ and a fine medley played by Thurlstone Brass Band. It was attended by local councillors, dignitaries and Penistone MP Angela Smith. The local 'Community Radio' Penistone FM ignored the occasion!

Centenary of Films in Penistone Town Hall

This was to mark the historic milestone of films being first shown in the building on Friday 20th November 1915 (have a look at that entry, above). A much larger Centenary Event had originally been proposed but it had been scaled down. A week of special films from different decades played in a bitterly cold spell in November. The event was given minimal publicity (it was not even in the Paramount leaflet) and was badly attended. For the film centenary event, see below.

New Equipment for the Paramount - (From PTC MInutes, May 2015, pdf)

Lease Extension Applied For.

From Minutes (pdf) of the PTC Leisure and Amenities Committee (Held 8th Feb. 2016, IT Room, Community Centre):

The BMBC Estate Manager confirmed in correspondence with PTC that Barnsley Council had no objection to extending the lease of the Paramount. In order to extend the lease, the current lease would need to be terminated and a new lease granted, to expire in April 2029. It was said at this meeting that a new lease arrangement might open the door to the Town Council obtaining funding for a new cinema screen from a cinematographic body; the existing one having a degree of wear and tear. Furthermore, any lease extension would be conditional on BMBC meeting certain requirements and, upon satisfaction, would subsequently require the approval of a full Penistone Town Council meeting. (The grant of lease being extended was achieved in 2017).

50th Penistone Library Anniversary

2016 was a 50th anniversary of the 'new' Library which had continued the facility after the Carnegie Library closed in 1966. The week was marked with a series of events, including a Launch Event with fine speeches, a buffet, General Knowledge quiz and book-signing. It was attended by library officials, local councillors and the MP Angela Smith. One event was a talk by the nonagenarian historian, Cecil Hallas, who had been a popular Gents' hairdresser in Penistone before his retirement. A rather good (and somewhat familiar) historic timeline went up on a library wall and there were interesting historic displays on show. This event was well-publicised and well-attended by the public.

BBC Report - British Libraries in Crisis
Penistone did well to keep its Library, given that one in four libraries in the UK have closed in the previous six years, with the loss of around 8,000 library staff. Where libraries have been under threat, nationally around 15,000 volunteers have kept them going. In fact our Library thrives as one of the busiest in the Barnsley Borough. Now in its 50th year in its current location, Penistone Library had expanded to include the Internet, job-search assistance, computer courses, genealogy courses, a readers' group and more, keeping it right at the heart of the Penistone district community. See the BBC's Libraries Report.


This was more than the usual lick of paint. It included a brand new screen and new mechanism to hoist and contain the screen, as it is rolled up during theatrical productions. When the retro-reflective screen is not needed, for such as a play, it is wound up into a box above the stage. The earlier box was open at the top for a line of dust to accumulate on the screen. The new arrangement protects it better. According to a Penistone Town Council Precept meeting (Feb 2014, pdf) the new screen cost £10,000, presumably including fitting and ancillaries.

Silent Film Special
Saturday 14th October: In a very full theatre, Buster Keaton's 'The General' silent film was shown and accompanied by Jonathan Eyre on the mighty Compton cinema organ. This had followed on from the first hour of happy organ music performed by Elizabeth Harrison, which was also well-received. Penistone is one of the few remaining places in this country where a silent film with accompanying organ music is still possible (and with an interval and beer).

'What's Your Penistone'
Sunday 15th October. Enthusiastic Architect Masters students from Sheffield Uni held an event in the Market Barn to seek ideas from the public to improve on the town and particularly its three main focal points: the Railway Station; the Town Hall Building and the Market Barn. This was part of BMBC's 'Principal Towns' project, which had some funding available to encourage economic regeneration across the borough, with Penistone being one of the 'Principal Towns.' The idea was to bring fresh eyes into the town and pick up on its weaknesses and strengths.

The students had some good ideas of their own, such as improved signage and better access to assets such as the Market Barn and Trans-Pennine Trail. They also proposed converting parts of the Town Hall building into a second cinema and a community area with snack bar or cafe. Various acronyms and names were invoked under the 'PenistoneLive' heading (an offshoot of Penistone Area Council).

It had been a good effort with good intentions and conducted under poor weather conditions, but they did not appear to have been properly briefed by Barnsley Council (this, in itself, was informative about what Barnsley really understood about Penistone). They had a weak knowledge of Penistone and did not know that the Council Chamber was in active use, nor even that Penistone had its own Town Council. They at least brought some youthful enthusiasm to the Market Barn - and a bicycle machine. Their history was inaccurate, such as the Town Hall being 'Converted from an Assembly Room' (it has been a theatre and dance hall with a stage, right from the start). Perhaps they had been reading the inaccurate BBC website.

They thought that the Council Chamber was 'Only used once a month'. They did not know about PTC meetings, PTC sub-committees and Penistone Area Council (their own mentors), holding meetings in there. The Armed Forces Day committee had also been meeting in there, complete with fish and chips.

Penistone Library Under Threat.
Towards the end of 2017, BMBC held a Public Consultation on the borough's Libraries in order to save £250,000 from their libraries budget. A minimally-promoted questionnaire appeared with its content based on a flawed 2016 Libraries Consultation. In the 2016 effort, Question 17 had a choice of locations where library services might be farmed out to, such as pubs and churches. There being no box to tick for 'None of the above,' it was impossible to complete the online survey without agreeing to one of their off-loading options. Such is Barnsley politics; trick people then tell them they agreed to it.

A New Lease
After much preparation work by our (unpaid) Town Councillors and delays by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, an agreement was reached to extend the current Town Hall lease to Penistone Town Council for a further 25 years. The lease renewal had originally been expected early in 2018 but was eventually signed by Penistone Town Clerk, Keith Coulton, in December 2019.

Some significant upgrades were held back until the lease was signed, which could now go ahead in 2020. Intended improvements included a cinema projector upgrade to 4k DCI standard, new LED stage lighting (higher efficiency, cooler running, cheaper bills), updated Box Office computers, general lighting improvements, re-upholstered seating and a major re-modelling of the Bar area to create a long bar down the window side. After many years of disuse, the stained glass panels in the ceiling are also to be cleaned and back-lit lit with LED panels which would be dimmable with the room lighting. Penistone's Coliseum will gleam.

Covid - 19 Shut-down and Refurbishment
During the Covid-19 lock-down, Paramount staff did their very best to reduce outgoings. To take best advantage of its prolonged closure, £80,000 of improvements were carried out to our Town Hall. A £10,000 grant was received from Barnsley MBC and was not liable for business rates (Leisure and Amenities, June). The hall was extensively re-decorated inside and out, with new furnishings, new seats, new carpets, repaired floors, improved electrics and lighting, the circle re-arranged for two aisles instead of one and brand new stone steps outside, with the old refurbished railings re-fitted. Also a move towards more cashless and online payments to reduce the use of cash.

New steps, mayor, consort and ClerkThis picture was taken on on Monday 14th September 2020. From left to right, it shows the new Town Clerk Tara Ball with Penistone Mayor Cllr Steve Webber and Mayor's Consort Cllr Lynette Webber, all standing on the new Town Hall steps. This was before the refurbished handrails were re-fitted.

Although there had been some hoo-hah (or confected anger) on social media about the lack of wheelchair access at the main door, such access had already been in place via a side door and working well. Councillors had looked at the possibility of a wheelchair ramp to the main entrance but it was not practical. It could only be fitted to the higher side of the steps and, in order be clear of the other doorway further up, it would have been too steep for safety. You can see this for yourself in the picture above, if you consider that the grooves in the wall are horizontal; that the ramp would have to go to the very top of the steps and that there would need to be a clearance to the door further up. There would also have been some problems with making a flat part at the top to fit with the other steps. Not just that, it would simply have looked wrong as well. Anyway, it isn't a problem.

New Seats - Formerly of the Odeon of Leicester Square, London, the old seating had served us well but were wearing out. They were sold on Ebay for £2,600 and the money was used as a deposit to the new seats, thereby offsetting their cost. Cllr Millner said that it had been a great idea by the manager Brian Barnsley to get something back from what might otherwise have gone in a skip. Looking at a sample 'Bristol' seat from the Audise company, Cllr Cutts liked it and called it "The bees' knees." He said the seats would also be easier to keep clean. With a polished wooden back, the new seats are slightly thinner than before, giving a fraction more leg room between rows. Other companies had been considered but this was one the most practical within the available time-frame. The Cinema Manager Brian Barnsley has said that he will look into a seat-sponsorship plan to raise a bit more money.

We can see details of the refurb in a Special Meeting held on 26th July 2020 by Penistone Town Council, Here is an interesting section about the seating:

The Bristol seat supplied by Audise be selected, as it was a traditional seat that is built in a strong but light frame. It has a high seat pad-to-floor height with a polished wooden back and arm rest and comfortable seating in a rich red velour, all of which can be easily cleaned. The total cost is £63,428.30 which works out as £182.26 per seat. This was agreed unanimously.

The new carpets entailed more work than might have been expected. Upon lifting the carpets, it was obvious that parts of the flooring needed to be repaired. It also uncovered some electrical wiring which nobody knew about and the cables had to be traced and made safe. The new Circle seating was re-arranged to allow two aisles for easier access. The back stairs would be put to greater use as an egress point. Some security work on the outside access points was also carried out. An odd factoid that came to light is that there is a 'dumb waiter' (a small lift for such as food and drink) which would need to be removed. This would have been expensive, so it was left for another time. Covid-19 protocols were put in place to comply with government regulations to reduce the spread of the disease while keeping public places open for business.

Penistone Paramount Re-opening - I was very pleased to be able to visit the Paramount just before the re-opening and Brian Barnsley was good enough to show me the new fixtures and fittings and what a splendid job they had all done to get it ship-shape for the day. I took many photos and posted them on Facebook. Unfortunately, this website is now too full to add more photos unless I can make some space by removing something boring.

On Friday 18th September, the doors opened 7pm for the public but with a small re-launch ceremony had happened at 6.45pm. It had to be small to comply with the Covid-19 rules, with only six people and some people walking past. The moment when Cllr Gill Millner cut the red tape was televised live on the BBC's Look North regional news programme. I was well away from them across the road and the tv presenter and cameraman were a few yards away from me on my side of the road. The Sci-fi film 'Tenet' was the first film to be shown at the re-opening. We can chalk it up as a success.

2015 Centenary of Films in the Town Hall
PosterTo mark this local historic moment, films were shown during the centenary week which had been popular during their time, including a silent 1920s film. This was originally going to be a much bigger event with an exhibition like in 2005 but it was scaled back (possibly because of adverse weather).

Publicity for the week had been somewhat weak and fellow customers were heard to remark to that effect. It appeared to have relied on a Barnsley Chronicle article a fortnight before. A poster went up outside the Paramount for passing pedestrians but the event was omitted from the Paramount's 'What's On' leaflet and there were few posters around town. I remarked that: 'Even a church jumble sale would have had more publicity'. Few people attended, although the bitterly cold weather would have been a factor. Even so, the Penistone community saw it as an historic event.

These films were shown in the Centenary week of Sunday 15th to Sunday 22nd of November 2015:

The 2014 Town Hall Centenary
The grand event took place Friday 7pm, Friday 31st October 2014 by 'invitation only' and was intended to replicate the opening ceremony of 1914 as closely as practicable. BBC TV Look North sent out a team to interview the Manager Brian Barnsley in the morning and that went very well. They also returned to report live in the early evening.

News Blackout
This website was the only source to inform the community about this event before the day. Both the 'Community Radio' and the Paramount's own 'What's On' booklet performed a news blackout before the event. The visit by the Look North team had been arranged by a local resident unconnected with the event. A Google search revealed nothing about it before it happened. Ed Elliot (Penistone reporter for Barnsley Chronicle) followed it up with an excellent and informative article, covering the centenary event itself and Town Hall/Library history in some detail. Some of Ed's work found its way to this page.

A Landmark Event
It had been a well-organised, joyous and friendly occasion with around 160 people attending and went very well. Glasses of champagne (or similar) were offered to guests upon arriving as Kevin Grunhill played the Mighty Paramount Organ for perhaps twenty minutes, in an increasingly animated and absorbed fashion. An old lady had laughingly described him as 'A Man Possessed', as in a Hammer Horror film, but I prefer 'Absorbed'.

100 years celebration - not clickableTown Hall 2014

The invited audience included three Mayors, dignitaries, people with a connection to the Town Hall such as thespians, history group members, Town Hall staff, council officials and a few councillors. Two previous Cinema Managers were also present. Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith also attended and was herself attended by a small group of admirers, perhaps in the hope of glory rubbing off, but she did not make a speech.

The Speeches
The first speech was by Penistone's Mayor of the time, Cllr Steve Marsh, who had the audience in the palm of his hand with a very well-crafted and animated speech. He covered the Town Hall's milestones, going in some detail to the opening ceremony of 1914 and remarks made at that time. He referred to a description from 1914 of the hall as 'Penistone's Coliseum' and that it would be an "Open sesame for all that was good for this town." He also described features of the hall, council offices next door, landmark film moments and how it had been supported by the public, through good times and bad. He concluded by saying how it was a much loved part of our town and quite unique, with its half time intermissions for a drink. The Mayor Cllr Marsh concluded by calling upon the rapt audience to raise their glasses to the Town Hall for the next 100 years. The audience willingly obliged and applauded appropriately.

The 1914 opening event had the Mayor of Huddersfield, Alderman Blamires, JP, as one of the guests of honour. The 2014 equivalent was Mayor of Kirklees, Cllr Ken Smith, who made a brief but effective speech echoing the sentiments of the Penistone Mayor. He responded to Cllr Marsh's speech with: "That sounded like a plea for home rule for Penistone!" He described how a century earlier the country was walking innocently into an awful tragedy for the four years of the Great War, and that the same happened twenty years later in the Second World War but that the Town Hall managed to carry on functioning. He concluded with his thanks and said that he was "Grateful to have the opportunity to bring again the good wishes from the people of Kirklees to the town and particularly this enterprise in your wonderful venue." He too was well-received.

Barnsley's Mayor, Cllr Tim Shepherd, followed on with the observation that, "When coming on third, it's best to leave the speech in the pocket." He had lived in our area and referred to his political career starting on Penistone Town Council. He had regularly enjoyed being a visitor to Penistone Town Hall and had proudly attended the 1996 world premiere of 'Brassed Off' in Penistone. He continued by wishing all the best for the next 100yrs and: "... hoped to be around for a good few of them". With that, he thanked everyone and received good applause.

The Manager Brian Barnsley also spoke about the Town Hall's history and films which had been shown. He referred to the two former Managers in the audience and their years during difficult times. He mentioned an old lady in the audience who had been coming to the theatre for eighty years and was still going strong. After a brief round-up of coming theatrical events, he brought the audience to attention by calling upon the band to play the National Anthem, in accordance with old cinema tradition, and was applauded for his effort. Thurlstone Brass Band was in fine form and went on to perform some inventive medleys themed upon events in each decade of the centenary, including elements of the French and Russian National Anthems.

A munificent buffet appropriate to the style of 1914 was opened and a splendid time was had by all, with a very worthy "Well done" to all concerned.
See the Cinema Tour section for Paramount views behind the scenes.

The Old Carnegie Free Library
LintelThese are the original Library Opening Times, from the 1915 Penistone Almanack:

I can remember the old library as a stale or musty-smelling and forbidding place for a young lad to visit. Newspapers in the 'Reading Room' were all broadsheets in those days and were laid out and clipped on to large wooden easels which might have been a century old. The room had an air of being out-of-bounds unless you wore a tweed jacket with a whiff of stale tobacco smoke, which is what I thought was the uniform of local councillors. I didn't see many people go in there.

In 1966, the Lending Library was moved to a new purpose-built building on the High Street but the 'Reading Room' (newspapers and journals) was relegated to a small building behind the Town Hall office for a time. With the removal of the library, the space liberated at the top of the building was taken up for Barnsley council services, public information and a social housing contact point, with the local council administration moved to the Community Centre on Church Street. The top office became used for many years as 'Berneslai Homes' to support social housing in the area.

The old 'Carnegie Free Library' rooms went through many changes after being taken over as a council facility and a new 'accessibility' automatic door was fitted at the top wall. Just beyond the door is a small red-brick building which was a tiny house for the caretaker and family. It was for a time occupied by Penistone & District Community Partnership, and East Peak Innovation Partnership (more or less the same thing).

The Council Chamber
The 1914 opening ceremony had been for "The Town Hall and Council Rooms" but the 'council rooms' was mainly the 'Council Chamber' with some other small rooms. The whole caboodle was built on to the Carnegie Library which opened in 1913. Until Barnsley Council appropriated Penistone's assets in the 1970s and council house support was removed to Barnsley, local tenants came to the council rooms to sort out house repairs or rents, etc. A loosely-bound wad of papers pinned to the noticeboard on the way in was the Electoral Roll with the names and addresses of all Penistone district residents. Anyone could look at it. After St John's School removed from Church Street to their new premises, the old school became Penistone Community Centre and the administrative side of the local council with the Town Clerk and other officials moved into offices there.

These pictures show the council chamber in 2005, with its elegant wooden table and framed pictures of council members. In 2021, it looks just the same. The public can visit this room to observe Penistone Town Council meetings, 7pm on the third Monday of each month except August and councillors sometimes hold 'surgeries' there.

Council Chamber
Lintel carving
Council Chamber
Cinema Picture

A tunnel storage area under the Town Hall buildings was used to archive record books and documents going back centuries. These items of local history were shipped out to Barnsley after the local government re-organisation, to become lost in their system. Many years before the council rooms were built on to the Town Hall, Penistone Urban District Council (PUDC - PTC's predecessor) met in the board room of the Union Workhouse, Netherfield. The Workhouse later became an old people's home and, more recently, a base for the Grammar School's sixth form before being unceremoniously demolished in this century to make way for a new school.


The Town Hall has been a great asset to our town and continues to enjoy great popularity in the area. Now with surround sound, digital projector, bar and conference facilities and extensively refurbished in 2020. Major film releases are often shown soon after release and occasionally on the actual day.

Back Top Home Samuel Palmer (1805-80): 'Wise men make proverbs, but fools repeat them.'