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Tony Flynn
In this first part of a two part series we will look at the first building in Eccles to be converted into what became, Eccles first picture house - the grandly named Picture House, Public Hall, Patricroft which is still standing on Franklin Street, Patricroft and is know a joinery business ran by the Johnson family.



The Public Hall on Franklin Street, Patricroft opened in 1871 and was owned by Samuel Hooley, a coal dealer who also had a lucrative sideline in hiring out wagonettes and coaches. 

He was also know to be a lead member of the Temperance Movement in the Eccles area with the Patricroft Blue Ribbon Army using his hall as their headquarters with Mr Hooley giving lectures on the demon drink. 

By 1905 the hall was being used for weddings, concerts and general meetings with, as the Eccles Journal noted at the time, "An attempt is being made at this hall to bring cheap and light entertainment to this area of Eccles". 

History was made in March 1907 when a company called Dykes Celebrated Ensign Animated Picture Company put on a performance of moving images, this was followed shortly afterwards by the Madame Ragne Dehn's Animated Picture Company. 

Hooley saw the potential and the money to be made from the animated picture companies and it was decided from then on, that the Public Hall would only show films. 

By 1908 the Public Hall had changed its name to the "Picture House, Public Hall, Patricroft" and was redecorated and benches installed, no expense spared there then, and the admission was 1d, 2d and 3d, and entertainment was about to change forever in Eccles.

By 1908, various film companies would exhibit at the Public Hall, including the Parisian Bioscope Company, The Mikado Animated Picture Company, The Star Animated Company, whilst local girl Miss Flora Buxton would sing in the interval, what more could you ask for? 

The Picture House provided many benefits for the people of Eccles, for the sum of a 1d or 2d they could escape the drudgery of their lives and escape into a world of fantasy, humour and education. 

In August 1908 the Continental Animated Picture Company showed films showing the Abram Colliery pit disaster of that year in which seventy six men were killed, and The Olympic games that were held in London that summer. 

On the other end of the scale you could witness such rib ticklers as, "The Cripple comes a Cropper", "Carlo Steals the Sausages" and that firm favourite, "The Adventures of a Roll of Lino". 

By 1909 the cinema had a manager, Mr G. Parr who served up such films as Louis Bleriot flying over the channel and Dr Crippen being brought ashore at Liverpool after being arrested at sea for the murder of his wife. 

These films must have sadly been lost for ever, the film was cellulose nitrate which was highly flammable and could disintegrate very easily. 

It would be marvellous if any of these old films could be discovered, many films were shot on the streets of Eccles and Salford and were shown the next day at local cinemas, makes me sad to think of what we have lost. 

1914 saw the outbreak of the Great War and the Picture House was soon showing patriotic films such as "Under the German Yoke" and one called, "A Belgian Girl's Honour". 

At the screening of this film a Belgian soldier who had lost a leg fighting against the Germans was brought onto the stage and gave an account of the fighting in Belgian and the so called atrocities being carried out by the beastly Hun, mainly propaganda to be honest, having said that, they did shoot the nurse Edith Cavell for alleged spying. 

Time was catching up with Public Hall cinema, just down the road The Palladium cinema opened in April 1915, and compared to the Public Hall it was a luxury cinema, fitted seats, fire doors, an orchestra, and no way could they compete. 

The last film shown was in September 1916, and was called "Stingaree", this chap was an Australian super hero who could vanish at will and defeat any number of enemies, a regular all-round good guy. 

The hall then went back to being used by Mr Hooley as a coal yard and stables and over the years has been a garage and a joiners' workshop. 

It is still standing on Franklin Street, so next time that you pass, take time to have a look and reflect on what was Eccles's first cinema.

This video first appeared on SalfordOnline on the 11th of August 2011, it is reproduced here with the blessings of not so silent youtube movie star, Tony Flynn (He does his own stunts) and was edited by Alasdair Ricard.

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