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Ross-on-Wye

The Roxy Cinema

Below-left is a photo of the frontage of the Roxy Cinema and below-right is the frontage of the shop that is on the site of the Roxy.

The car parked outside, in the photo below left, belonged to one of the directors, a Mr H. G. Prickett, who also owned the New Theatre. The New Theatre was on the site of the old Corn Exchange behind Bannister and Foxwell's clothing store in High street which is now the site of the Ross Council Chambers. He had a lot of the operating box equipment transferred from there to the Roxy. The New Theatre burned down not long before the Roxy opened.

The Roxy Cinema Ross-on-Wye
The frontage of the Roxy Cinema
[Thanks to Mr. Tommey]
(Click for a larger image)
The site of the Roxy
The site of the Roxy Cinema on Broad Street
(Click for a larger image)

The Roxy was, according to the advert in "Ross-on-Wye - The Gateway to the Wye" (by Wyedean Tourist Board), one of the finest cinemas in the west of England.

It had the latest projection and audio systems and had 'washed air' (equivalent to climate control at the time) and facilities for the deaf.

Inside the Roxy Ross-on-Wye
The inside of the Roxy taken from a brochure "Ross-on-Wye - The Gateway to the Wye" by Wyedean Tourist Board
(Click for a larger image)

The Opening of the Roxy

The Roxy was opened in April 1939 and the report of the opening appears in the Ross Gazette dated 13th April 1939. The special 'invitation only' opening show was "Girl of the Golden West".

The cinema was of quite advanced design for such a small town as Ross which had a population circa 5,000 at the time. The auditorium, of 611 seats, boasted air conditioning and wireless aids for the deaf in all seats, made possible by a copper strip arial loop laid under the aisle carpets.

The photos below are of the inside of the Roxy and were taken in 1939 by professional photographers from London just before the opening of the cinema. They were scanned from the originals which are high gloss and of very high quality. They were taken sometime in April 1939 by SALISBURY PHOTO PRESS of Queen's Road Station, London S.E.15. Tel. New Cross 4920. The job No. was 705339 and they were posted to the cinema in May 1939.

The Roxy Foyer
The Roxy Foyer
[Thanks to Mr. Tommey]
(Click for a larger image)

These photos were originally black and white that were coloured by an ex-manager, Mr. Mervyn Tommey. The colours were from his memory but, having lived in the place for many years, he believes them to be reasonably authentic.

The coloured photo looking forward in the auditorium is actually a modified one because it shows the proscenium width after the installation of Cinemascope. Originally there was floor to ceiling fluting around the screen, which can be seen in the advert above, which was removed during the addition of Cinemascope.


The Roxy Auditorium (forwards)
The Roxy Auditorium towards the screen
[Thanks to Mr. Tommey]
(Click for a larger image)
The Roxy Auditorium (backwards)
The Roxy Auditorium looking back from the screen
[Thanks to Mr. Tommey]
(Click for a larger image)

The Mural

In the picture above of the Foyer, behind the settee in the middle, is a mural. The painter who did all the spray work (with masks etc.) was a consumate artist with a spray gun. To the right is a blown-up version, to show the details.

It is a graphic depiction of Ross showing all the places of interest which are easy to recognise. What is not so clear is the significance of some of the people illustrated in the picture.

The Mural in the Foyer
The Mural in the Foyer
[Thanks to Mr. Tommey]
(Click for a larger image)

The person depicted fishing on the bank of the horseshoe bend was Fred Seymour, who was an avid angler. More interesting still, if you look at the two figures in front of the Market Place on the left, one is on a motorbike and the other, who is standing, is a local policemen in the act of 'booking' the artist himself for parking his motorbike in front of the market place, which not permitted at that time! Unfortunately the artists name is unknown.

Many fine artisans were employed in the building of the Roxy. For another example, the entire long entrance hall and front steps was of genuine Terrazzo flooring, painstakingly laid by an Italian tradesman.

Air Conditioning

Hot or cold washed fresh air could be 'blown' in through the 'organ' type grills at the sides of the proscenium and extracted via a large fan situated in the roof space. A complete air change was effected every seven minutes.

The Screen

The screen was glass beaded and was disclosed by two sets of curtains (tabs), rust coloured 'stage' tabs and draped cream satin 'screen' tabs. The proscenium arch was widened in the 60's, on the advent of Cinemascope. The vertical 'fluting' either side of the proscenium opening in these photographs, was removed along with the pillars supporting the proscenium girder, which was lengthened and supported in the outside walls of the building. This accommodated the new thirtythree foot Cinemascope screen, the widest in the county.

Roxy Cinema and Cafe advert
The Roxy Cinema and Cafe Advert
(Click for a larger image)
Roxy Cinema advert
The Roxy Cinema Advert
(Click for a larger image)

These three adverts date from the 1950's and 1960's and advertise the cinema and the cafe that was associated with it. The above right advert shows that at that time the manager was Mr. J. M. Tommey.

Small Roxy Cinema advert
A half page Roxy Cinema advert
(Click for a larger image)

The Roxy Luxury Cinema & Molino Restaurant
The Roxy Luxury Cinema & Molino Restaurant
(Click for a larger image)

This advert is from when the manager was Mr. A. Benarroch. The cafe had become a Molino Restaurant and was decorated considerably differently.


A Brief History of the Roxy

1939-1950

Fred Seymour was the manager from 1939 until 1950 when he fell foul of the Fire Authorities. A fire officer paid a flying visit to the operating box one evening to find no one in charge. The unsupervised assistant operator running the show and out on the fire escape deck smoking. The film was still of the inflammable nitrate stock in those days, so it was a most serious situation.

The Ross Cinema and Theatre company Ltd., was prosecuted and heavily fined in Ross magistrates court for serious infringements of its Cinematograph License and hauled before the County entertainment committee with a view to having its licence revoked, which would have meant closure. The company was obliged to dismiss the manager and appoint a new one.

Jan Berenska and his BBC Orchestra

This is a program for a Jan Berenska and his BBC Orchestra performance that was held in the Roxy on 30th January 1946 at 2.15pm.

Jan Berenska and his BBC Orchestra
Jan Berenska and his BBC Orchestra pages 1 & 4
(Click for a larger image)
Jan Berenska and his BBC Orchestra
Jan Berenska and his BBC Orchestra pages 2 & 3
(Click for a larger image)

Supporting them as a guest artiste was Irene Hinsley (Soprano) with Norman Parker on the Xylophone, Frank Carter on the Saxophone and Frederick Kelly on the piano. The compère for the evening was Dick Barker.

1950 onwards

In 1950, Mervyn Tommey had recently demobbed from the Navy and applied for the position as manager and was subsequently appointed to the post. An additional condition was that the new manager would also be required to live in the Cinema flat. In those days nobody, but nobody had access to a modern unfurnished flat. Having only recently married on the 29th August, Mr. Tommey couldn't believe his good fortune but there was one drawback, he knew nothing about managing a cinema.

A nice gentleman, by the name of Heffernon, managed the show while Mr. Tommey underwent a month's training at the Crescent Cinema Leatherhead. The local directors of the cinema were W.J.B. Halls, a noted Gloucester builder and Baptist benefactor and W.V.Eggleton a Gloucester accountant. They knew little of the cinema business themselves but gave Mr. and Mrs. Tommey full support and were excellent employers in the years to come. Three young Tommey's were born in the Cinema flat.

While the Sun Shines

This is an programme for a Ross Operatic and Dramatic Society performance that was held in the Roxy on Mon, Tues, Wed March 28th to 30th 1955.

While the Sun Shines
While the Sun Shines pages 1 & 4
(Click for a larger image)
While the Sun Shines
While the Sun Shines pages 2 & 3
(Click for a larger image)

While the Sun Shines was a comedy in three parts written by Terence Rattigan.

The Beginning of the End

Sometime in the late 1960's, Mr. Tommey was the Managing Director of the Roxy. He was involved in a discussion on the future of the cinema with his fellow directors. During this discussion, Mr W.J.B. Halls, the actual owner of the building, suggested to him that as the town had never managed to possess a town hall that perhaps the R.U.D.C might be interested in purchasing the property for that purpose.

Mr Halls was very knowledgeable of council matters at that time because he had just served a term as Chairman of Gloucestershire County Council so he was aware of how the council's finances worked. W.J.B, as he was known to his friends, was a great Christian man and benefactor and many of his charities are still being administered. He was an orphan and started as a jobbing carpenter with his tool bag on his bicycle, rising to be probably the biggest building contractor in Gloucestershire at the time.

He pointed out that the flat and cafe could be easily adapted to re-accommodate the council offices and chamber, and that the council would be able to dispose of their existing building to offset a large proportion of the costs. At this time, Mr. Tommey was also serving on the Ross Urban District Council, and may have been Chairman at the time, and told him it was a great idea but in the then current economic climate it would be difficult for the council to raise the necessary funds.

Mr Halls said that in any case he would be prepared to sell to the council for £20,000 and to lend them the money on a 5% mortgage! As the council premises would have been worth about £12,000 this was a great opportunity to preserve the Roxy and have a ready made town hall with car parking already at the rear etc.

Mr. Tommey was delighted to put his offer before his fellow councillors and felt that they would jump at the opportunity and 'bite Mr. Halls' hand off'.

The matter had to be discussed in private committee to start with but from the outset two long serving councillors were against the scheme and this unfortunately resulted in the scheme being rejected, which was ultimately also the downfall of the building.

Closure

The Roxy continued as a cinema until sometime around 1982 when it was closed, demolished and converted into a shopping area.

Many thanks to Mr. Mervyn Tommey who supplied, and owns the copyright to, the photos indicated above and thanks to him for supplying the historical details.

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[Page updated: Feb 15 2011 13:31:58]






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