20 thoughts on “The Empire Theatre

  1. i remember my auntie mary taking me to Gillys prize bingo it was part of the Empire building after the bingo we would go to Pacittos i would have an icecream she would have a frothy coffee i remember playing in the derelict Empire shortly before it was demolished . the high street had a style in those days whats it got now as the locals would say NOWT .the Empire and all that side of the high street gone forever only to be replaced by the eyesore thats there now .i remember being taken to DOGGARTS dept store[ a bit further along in the pic ]to see father christmas happy times

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  2. Looking at this very small section of what was once a great high-street, when I first came to Stockton on Tees as a child I fell in love with the central town and especialy the market, the sounds and the bustle and even the smells of the market. Here you can see at the bridge road entrance just how busy it looked. Our founding fathers planned and built well and I can hear a certain element saying ‘ah but it did need improvement’. Well yes I agree but the town center did not need decimating, it has turned into a cold uninviting high street with no real commerce. It’s sad, considering what was once there.

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  3. I was browsing thrugh the website and came across the name Jimmy Robson – he was a good friend and hung around with the same gang of lads as myself. He was slightly younger than the rest of us and the first time we took him to Sloanes he picked up a cue and proceeded to pot balls as if he had been playing all his life. He was a complete natural and I remember him playing many great games against Blackie Fletcher and others. As the gang gradually split up and found other entertainment (Maison & Jubilee) Jimmy gradually drifted away although we still remained friends. Having left Teesside some years ago it was good to see that Jimmy is still remembered by someone else who hung around the Billiard Hall.

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    • I know Jimmy Robson very well, we were friends with him and then both him and his wife Sandra. Although obviously much younger, my elder son and Jimmy are great friends. The Blytheholme is their local.

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      • Good to hear that Jimmy is still around, I wonder how many of the old gang still live around Stockton. I have been all over the country but am now settled in Bucks.

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  4. I can remember, as a child in the early ’60’s sitting on the bus waiting in the bus stop in the picture, always on the Top Deck. I was always intrigued by ‘The House Of Solace’ which was in the vicinity of ‘The castle Hat Shop’ in the picture. I can remember asking my parents what it was, but never got a satisfactory answer, I assumed at the time it was some sort of posh Undertakers. Anyone remember it, and know what it was?

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  5. On this particular page there are many wonderful comments. The Empire and its associated buildings within, was indeed a wonderful place, one comment that really brought back memories for me was Margaret Aldersons comment, because like her this is probably were I had my first smoke along with my friend Dave Smith. We had bought a pack of four domino cigarettes from the tobacconist in Dovecote Street which is still there to this day,(the buttery). I remember how the whole theatre seemed to light up with the flair of the matches when we tried to light our first ciggy. Glad to say I packed in smoking many years ago, but this old place will always be something special to me.

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  6. The tall building behind the Empire and referred to above as being part of a brewery is almost certainly the fly tower of the Theatre. The Fly Tower is a high level, usually 1.5 times higher than the proscenium opening seen by the audience in the auditorium and which via a system of ropes and counter weights provides the mechanism for scenery changes.

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  7. My first visit to the pictures was to The Empire to see Bambi – I was 5, it was many years after it’s release so I guess it was being shown as a school holiday special around 1959? I seem to remember a long walk up an arcade to the entrance to the cinema – is that right?

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  8. The film showing at the Empire Cinema at the time this picture was taken was ‘Cosh Boy’ (1953) a tale of juvenile delinquency and promiscuity somewhat ahead of its time. I am reminded of one of my early visits a few years later to see ‘House on Haunted Hill’ (1959) aged 14 or 15, Vincent Price playing the lead role. This was a memorable film for no other reason than during its showing a rattling skeleton appeared to emanate from the screen and proceed towards a rather surprised audience. The apparition was, unfortunately, no more than a few plastic? bones moved by a human-operated pulley, much like a pair of curtains. The supporting film was ‘Isle of Levant’, a skin flick without dialogue starring a multitude of sun-kissed goddesses, which was of course the reason I was there. There was such a sense of decay about the building even then. The other cinemas in the town were a class above.

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  9. I agree the Empire was a great building but if memory serves me correctly – and maybe it was the proximity of the Snooker Hall that my brother remembers as ‘risky’ – it never had quite the same class as the Regal, the Globe or the Cinema. Folklore had us believe that the place was infested with rats but I never saw one.
    I recall smoking my first illicit cigarette in the Empire, it just seemed the appropriate venue but I almost fell flat on my face with dizziness when I stood up.
    By the time of its’ demolition I had left Stockton and I still can’t believe what has happened to so many lovely buildings and its great High Street.

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  10. As I understand, the reason for the Swallow Hotel being empty is that the entire Swallow Hotel group went bust early on in the current recession.

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  11. I totally agree with you Frank Bowron the Swallow hotel overpowers that end of the High Street and may I say it is quite an ugly building. It is now stood empty, why?

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  12. I may be old fashioned, but the Swallow Hotel is a very poor substitute for the grand old Empire building. I hardly recognise most of Stockton when I come up for a visit these days…

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  13. I just noticed this picture of the old Empire on the site. What a load of memories this place brings back. I learned how to play snooker here as a young teenager at Sloan’s. It was a “risky” place to be in in those days full of characters and “hard” men. Billy the boxer was a frequent player, but it seems to me that the two best players in the town were always on table # 1 and everyone stopped to watch them. Jimmy Robson comes to mind as one of them. Also downstairs at the Castle Cafe we used to listen to the classy jukeboxes that were ‘state of the art’ on the walls in the booths…. the refrains of the Shirelles singing “will you still love me tomorrow” still ringing in my ears.

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  14. You know Mark this truly was a wonderful building it not only housed the Empire but several other establishments – a snack bar, a tobacconist(I think),a newsagent and Sloans snooker hall. With the passage of time some of my memories ara vague, but this was a building that should have been renovated along with the whole east side of Stockton High Street instead of being knocked down and replaced with the Castlegate centre, far better if rhe west side of Stockton High Street had been pulled down and renovated. I have a print of this wonderful building on my bedroom wall.

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  15. The tall building showing behind the old Empire, that Mark Trainer mentions, might have been part of the old castle brewery that was in that locality. No doubt some other readers of this site will supply the right answer.

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  16. Just curious but the tall building behind the cinema, would that be part of it? As a side note some of the older buildings, particularly the Empire, look pretty impressive. Only being 34 I have sadly never seen them in the flesh.

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