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  • Getting Out in 50s York by Paul Chrystal

    The 50s were at the wrong end of the golden years of the cinema in York.

    At the beginning of the 20th century film shows could be seen in the Opera House, the Festival Concert Rooms, the Exhibition Buildings, the Victoria Hall in Goodramgate, the New Street Wesleyan Chapel,  and in the Theatre Royal. The New Street chapel, after renouncing its use for worship in 1908, became first the Hippodrome, and then in 1920, the Tower Cinema, which was still going in 1959. You could also see films at the City Palace, Fishergate, a venue variety concerts from 1910; it was renamed the Rialto, but burnt to the ground in 1935 and replaced by the new Rialto on the same site. It was still going strong in 1959 with variety shows and concerts.

    York - Microsoft Word - Document1 The Scala in 1957, shortly before closure.

    The Electric Theatre, Fossgate was opened in 1911 as the first purpose-built cinema in York. Entrance was through a door beneath the screen. From 1951 it was known as the Scala; it closed in 1957 and became a furniture shop although the exterior is still beautifully preserved today. Locally it was known as the Flea Bin – and a visit meant a ‘laugh and scratch’. Admission on Saturday afternoon was 4d – or a clean jam jar - an early example of recycling.

    Three more picture houses were established between 1911 and 1921: the Picture House, Coney Street, was opened in 1915 and converted to shops in 1955;  The Grand in Clarence Street, opened as a cinema and ballroom in 1919 but converted to a roller skating rink and ballroom in 1958;  and the St. George's Hall, next to Fairfax House in Castlegate, was opened in 1921 and still going in 1959. Four more were opened in the 1930's: the Regent, Acomb, in 1934; the Odeon, Blossom Street; the Regal, Piccadilly, and the Clifton , in 1937.   The Regent closed in 1959  but the others survived the 50s. The Regent had the biggest screen in York and double seats on the back row for anyone not that interested in the main feature.

    York - Microsoft Word - Document1 The Regent in Acomb in 1959.

    The ten cinemas still showing in 1950s York were the Regal in Piccadilly; the Picture House in Coney Street; the Tower in New Street; the Electric Theatre in Fossgate; the Grand Picture House in Clarence Street; the Odeon in Blossom Street; the Rialto in Fishergate; St George’s Hall Cinema in Castlegate; the Regent in Acomb until 1959 and the Clifton in Clifton. A massive choice.

    Clubs were accessible to the well connected; as well as the usual Masons, Rotarians and Oddfellows there were branches of the Independent Order of Rachabites; the United Order of Druids; the Ancient Order of Foresters and the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. The Melrose Club for the Blind catered for the sight impaired.

    The 'York New Grand Opera House' was opened in 1902 and going strong in the 50s; it was built on the site of the corn exchange, King Street, by the owners of the Opera House, Harrogate offering 'varieties' - to avoid direct competition with the Theatre Royal.

    It was known then as the Opera House and Empire.   From 1945 to 1956 F.J. Butterworth owned the Grand Opera House and stars such as Vera Lynn, Laurel and Hardy and Morecome and Wise trod the boards.   The theatre was closed in 1956; in 1958 Shepherd of the Shambles bought it, and it became the SS Empire.   The stage, lower boxes and raked stall floor were removed and replaced by a large flat floor suitable for roller-skating, dancing, bingo and wrestling, reflecting dramatically changing tastes and requirements in entertainment in the 1950s.

    York - Microsoft Word - Document1 The programme for the 1957 production of The Desert Song at the Theatre Royal.

    Theatre Royal and Empire apart, culture thrived in 1950s York through a plethora of arts organisations. There were at least six musical societies and orchestras: York Musical Society; York Orchestral Society; York Symphony Orchestra; York & District Organists; British Musical Society of York and the Rowntree Choral & Operatic Society. There were nine bands including York City Brass Band; York Postal Military Band and Rowntrees Cocoa Works Band. Drama too was thriving with opera and dramatic societies in Acomb and in New Earswick; a community association drama group also in Acomb; the Settlement Community Players and the Rowntree Players at the fine Rowntree Theatre in Haxby Road.

    In a city with such a rich history and so fertile a heritage, it   should come as no surprise to find that in the 1950s there were numerous organisations working to promote and conserve that history and heritage for contemporaries and for generations to come. All did sterling work, then, as now. York Civic Trust Association, York Georgian Society, Yorkshire Philosophical Society; Yorkshire Geological Society; Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society; York Art Collectors’ Society; York Art Society and York Photographic Society, York Film Society and York Science Film Society all contributed to the rich fabric of the city’s magnificent culture.

    But it was not all high brow and earnest : more pragmatic, caring and rehabilitation organisations also existed then such as the Borstal Association, the Infantile Paralysis Association, and York Castle Discharged Prisoners Aid Society.

    In 1955 York City FC were killers of giants when they defeated mighty Spurs to go on to the semi finals of the FA Cup. Sadly they were beaten 2-0 by Newcastle United at a replay at Roker Park. Newcastle went on to win the trophy. York had beaten Scarborough, Dorchester Town (2-5), Blackpool, Bishop Auckland, Tottenham Hotspur (3-1) and Notts County on their way to elusive glory. Arthur Bottom was top York scorer with eight goals. Arsenal were the next giants to fall to York in the 1985 FA Cup semi final.

    Extracted from Paul Chrystal’s York in the 50s. © Paul Chrystal

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    Paul Chrystal's York in the 1950s Ten Years that Changed a City is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Newcastle by Ken Hutchinson

    I was asked to write this book by Amberley Publishing following on from my book on Lost Newcastle published in 2014. Lost Newcastle as its title suggests features buildings and structures that have disappeared from the streets of Newcastle over the years.

    As a direct contrast this book concentrates on features of Newcastle past and present that are all visible today. The reason why they are there is often unknown, has been forgotten, or in other words is a ‘Secret’. Many of the subjects featured in the book are ‘invisible’, in full view to everyone. In other words people walk past them every day taking them for granted, or have never noticed them before, or indeed have walked over them every day for years.

    Newcastle - Microsoft Word - Document1 The Response Memorial, Barras Bridge. It is a narrative sculpture telling different stories of the individuals called in the First World War.

    This was certainly true in my case, as I discovered a few years ago as I trained to be a Newcastle City Guide. All these features were pointed out to me and despite thinking I knew Newcastle like the back of my hand, having lived and worked here for well over 50 years, my eyes were well and truly reopened. Most of the photographs I have used show plaques, statues, sculptures, artworks and buildings that I have walked past for years without realising the reason for their existence, or their significance, both locally and nationally.

    Newcastle - Microsoft Word - Document1 Northumberland Street Scultptures. Thomas Bewick the famous wood carver.

    Newcastle and the surrounding areas have produced some of the most influential people in British and world history as well as great inventors, musicians, artists and politicians. The city has welcomed a wide range of British and international visitors including many visits by Royalty. All of this is recorded in the streets around us, in the centre of Newcastle, if you know where to look. This book has been arranged to follow five different walks around Newcastle. The first four radiate from Grey’s Monument in the centre of the city and the last is based on the Quayside starting at the Guildhall. Most are about a mile in length and are fairly flat and accessible to all. The Quayside walk is slightly longer but starts and finishes close to bus stops linking with the town centre. When I do my guided tours around Newcastle and the surrounding area, I always give out a general health warning at the start. This advises you to take care when you start looking above shop front level and down on pavements. You will discover so many features of interest that you may well forget to watch where you are going and might trip over a kerb or walk into a bollard. So be careful out there you have been warned!

    All the royalties from this book will be divided between St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

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    Ken Hutchinson's book Secret Newcastle is available for purchase now.

  • Cranborne Chase – A Secret Landscape by Roger Lane

    Cranborne Chase – A Secret Landscape is published this month (June 2015) providing me with the end result of many years of deliberation and two years of research, writing and photography. Most pleasing however, is the coincidental launch of the book with two important events embracing Cranborne Chase in relation to its history and landscape.

    The historical element concerns the signing of the Magna Carta by King John on 15th June 1215 and Cranborne Chase was of course a much favoured hunting ground of his. The city of Salisbury residing on the edge of the Chase is home to the best preserved original copy of the Magna Carta and is the only place in the world where an original can be viewed in a true 13th century setting.

    As important as the Magna Carta is, I have to unashamedly admit to feeling more closely associated with the landscape event, and the launch of my book, sharing the 175th birthday to the month of undoubtedly Dorset’s most acclaimed landscape writer, Thomas Hardy. Hardy used Cranborne Chase in his novels and his poetry most notably in Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

    Being first and foremost a photographer, over the years I have been given the opportunity by various editors to accompany my images with words. In this respect I can also regard myself as a writer, although not under any stretch of the imagination a ‘Thomas Hardy’. The only commonality between us is the visualisation and description of the Dorset landscape.

    Thomas Hardy was both a landscape novelist and poet who managed to portray a certain atmosphere of the landscape into his work, providing a backdrop for his character’s lives and frequent tragedies. Had he been a photographer he would no doubt have produced images of the natural world in an equally subtle mood with the use of light reflecting the landscape in his story with much effect.

    Cranborne Chase - Microsoft Word - Document1With Cranborne Chase being featured in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which although set predominantly in the eastern end of Blackmore Vale around the village of Marnhull (Hardy’s Marlot) the story takes the reader into the Chase at Cranborne or the village of Chaseborough in Hardy’s novels. Here, the heroine danced in a barn at Chaseborough near the Flower-de-Luce Inn, seemingly one of the out-buildings of the Fleur de Lys Inn (Now the Inn on the Chase), before returning back across the hills to Trantridge (Pentridge). Cranborne Chase was in fact the scene of the seduction of Tess by Alec d’Urberville.

    The Chase has always had the character of a remote landscape, perhaps something of a forest wilderness with a dark reputation. By the early 19th century it became a notorious region for smugglers and poachers. Even the local squires dressed in their quilted coats and beehive helmets would steal deer and attack the gamekeepers merely as a blood sport. The forest was not brought under control until the 1830s when areas were deforested and the landscape opened up thus reducing the opportunity to hide within the dark forests of the Chase

    Cranborne Chase - Microsoft Word - Document1Today the forest areas are crisscrossed with open rides and footpaths with the rolling chalk downlands along the Wiltshire/Dorset border sculptured clear of the tree-line. The Chase now offers a far less foreboding environment to walkers who now frequent the region in search of the pathways used by our distant ancestors who travelled across the downs on trackways made by feet and hooves over many years of history. The Ox Drove, one of the oldest, traces an ancient route over the Downs, high above the woodland escarpment of Cranborne Chase.

    By the beech clump on Win Green, the very roof of Wiltshire, the traveller can take in a magnificent view from the distant blue of the Isle of Wight in the south-east to the Quantock Hills in the north-west.

    Cranborne Chase - Microsoft Word - Document1The chase has many faces, upland, downland, woodland and open fields; windswept open pastures and sheltered valleys. Despite years of transition by nature, here you can still find the nooks, crannies and wide open spaces moulded by history, agriculture and the landscapes that have inspired writers such as Hardy.

    I have read many of Hardy’s novels and have always been intrigued by his descriptions of the Dorset landscape, agriculture and of the country folk in his stories and settings. This may of course be due in some way to a link with my own childhood. I remember my great grandfather and great grandmother from the village of Durweston near Blandford Forum, where I spent many childhood summers harvesting on the hill, appearing like characters from a Hardy novel. Their names were Silas and Jane and Silas in particular was a strong man with whiskery sideburns but a gentle nature who all horses and sheep seemed to understand and obey. My grandfather also had a wonderful way with working horses and his brother was also a shepherd on the hills above Durweston. The characters I remember from those glorious ‘horse and cart’ summer days were certainly Hardy characters and later when reading his novels their faces would come back to me time and again.

    Thomas Hardy is perhaps the greatest writer of rural life and landscape and as we celebrate his 175th year it is no wonder that his words and indeed the landscape he has reflected should have stood such a test of time. As a photographer in the modern digital age I can’t help but wonder where my work might be in 175 years.

    Cranborne Chase - 9781445649849

    Cranborne Chase - A Secret Landscape by Roger Lane is available for purchase now.

  • Welcome to the Amberley blog!

     

    We are delighted to be able to present our new website to you, along with our exciting new blog.

    The Amberley blog will consist of our new and forthcoming releases, interviews with our authors and regular guest posts on a variety of subjects.

    We shall have posts on the Women’s Institute which celebrates its centenary this year, the history of the railways in Britain, the legacy of Henry V, the history of British weather, the writings of Eustace Chapuys Ambassador to Henry VIII and the sinking of the Lusitania!

    Also read all about Richard III’s reinterment in Leicester Cathedral on 26th March. Our bestselling biography by David Baldwin is being updated with information on the reburial and we will have posts on the events in Leicester that week.

    Out this month:

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    Our book of the month! With 25% off during March only, read the remarkable story of a life of privilege, tragedy and danger, of a woman who so nearly became the seventh wife of Henry VIII: Henry VIII's Last Love: The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Willoughby, Lady in Waiting to the Tudors.

    ‘A gripping biography... David Baldwin is a brilliant historical detective.’ Philippa Gregory

    Plus be in with the chance of winning a copy of this fantastic book on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/amberleybooks

    Check out this fantastic article which recently appeared recently in The Times:

     

     

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    ‘Rude and feisty widow was in Henry’s mind for seventh wife.’

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    And this in this month’s BBC History Magazine:

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    ‘David Baldwin tells the story of Katherine Willoughby, a great friend of the Tudor king, who seemed set to replace Katherine Parr as his bride.’

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    To commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, this is a new biography of Henry V, the warrior king. Teresa Cole looks at the life and legacy of a king whose heroic achievements and tragic early death may truly be said to have changed the course of British history.

     

     

     

     

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    In The Family of Richard III Professor Michael Hicks, described by BBC History Magazine as ‘the greatest living expert on Richard III’, reassesses the family ties and entrails of his wayward and violent family. Includes a scathing reappraisal of the 2012 dig which claims to have discovered Richard's remains and brings into question the authenticity of the find. Chosen by The Bookseller Magazine as one of their highlights of 2015.

     

     

     

    We look forward to telling you all about our exciting titles and up-to-date news. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates including exciting reviews, articles and interviews.

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