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Walker, Church Street, mechanics institute (Regal Cinema)





Mechanics Institute

Early Modern


Demolished Building

Mechanics Institutes were buildings where artisans could learn more about their craft and the science behind it. They could use the reading room and attend lectures. Such institutues were set up to take up the ideas of Jeremy Bentham, politician and reformer (1723-90). London's Mechanic Institute was founded in 1824 by George Birkbeck. By 1844 there were 200 institutues in Britain with 50,000 members. By the 1850s however the institutes were mostly attended by clerks and shopkeepers and the artisan interest declined. Nevertheless mechanics institutes can be regarded as the forerunner of modern professional engineering bodies {Dictionary of Industrial Archaeology}. The cinema was created in the first floor concert hall of the Walker Mechanics Institute. It had always been available to hire and may have been in use as a cinema in 1907. In February 1910 plans were passed for a fireproof operating box and in April 1910 the hall was licenced as the 'Favourite Palace' by James Simpson. On 15 May 1911 Marshall J. Rutter of the Picturedrome, Newburn and the Palace, Horden, took over. In 1912 a raked floor was built. In 1913 the lease passed to John Scott. In 1923 Baker and Roche, who ran the nearby Vaudeville, took over. They built a new proscenium in September 1923. The cinema was a valuable financial asset to the Mechanics Institute committee. In April 1928 it was reported that the cinema had been closed for a number of years. It was reopened in November 1931 by Andrew Smith as the Regal. Sound arrived in 1932. From 1933 J.L. Davenport ran the Regal. From December 1942 it was John G.L. Drummond of the Hippodrome Theatre, Bishop Auckland. In February 1949 the Regal failed its annual inspection. It closed because there was deemed to a be fire risk due to the boy's club on the ground floor.




Frank Manders, 1991, Cinemas of Newcastle, pages 147-148

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