The Theatre Royal and Plaza

A recent comment on the Theatre Royal in Yarm Lane led me to older comments about the similarity of the building to the Plaza Cinema: https://picturestocktonarchive.com/2014/01/16/the-theatre-royal-2/#comment-89897

One of the images shows the Theatre Royal after it was damaged by fire in 1906, the interested bystanders appear to be standing in front of The Garrick, in the background is the Holy Trinity School.

The other image is of the Plaza Cinema in Bishop Street, it must have been a theatre originally as the box arrangement stuck on the front of the building was built to house the projectors when it was converted, this feature was fairly common on quite a few old theatres, most of which have long since disappeared. After the fire at the Theatre Royal it was replaced by a roller skating rink which later became that well known venue The Maison De Danse.
On one of my earlier postings I listed the cinemas I had visited in Stockton over the years, I didn’t mention the Plaza as I didn’t know it existed, never having been there, I was pleased when this photo was sent to me, it came with another shot from the other end of Bishop Street with the Grand in the foreground and the Plaza in the background.

Images and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

24 thoughts on “The Theatre Royal and Plaza

  1. Josie, There was a chap down the street called Alfie Sword. He had a Staffie that always wanted to lick my hand when I was a toddler. Can you remember the fun fair arriving and everyone running down to the rec to see the lorries? N

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  2. As a boy, I would occasionally go to the Plaza. The benches at the front were the cheapest seats. Once the film started you would try to move back to the plusher seats and hope that you were not caught by the usherettes. The Plaza in the 1950s was not the most salubrious of places to go to but it was cheaper than the other cinemas in the town at that time.

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  3. The Plaza was previously a theatre – it went though a number of guises and became a very popular venue for music hall artistes on the circuit.
    As a cinema it was less successful – getting a deserved reputation as a ‘flea-pit’

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  4. There’s a description on another site, of the frontage of the rebuilt Grand Theatre (later to become the Plaza) that states “The front has a fine effect, and is provided with an ornamental balcony, and fire escapes from gallery and boxes.” There’s no mention of a projector room, so due to the regular occurrence that theatres seem to have suffered major fires back then, it could be that the box, and staircases, were added primarily as fire escapes? following a major fire or to satisfy the fears of concerned theatre goers.
    (http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/StocktonTheatres.htm#grand2)

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    • The problem, I think, was fires that started in the projection rooms. The film stock (‘nitrate’) used in the early days was inflammable, and so, to prevent fires spreading into the theater itself the projection room was external, with only the smallest puncture in the wall of the theatre to let the light in. Consequently there was no access from the theatre to the projection room, which was instead reached by the staircases seen in the picture – one each side to give the projectionists the best chance!

      More here:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_base

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      • Sounds dangerous stuff, not what you’d want close to your fire escapes. At least two of the fires mentioned in other article were said to start on the stage, and there’s no mention of the Grand/Plaza being a cinema till 1934, long after the rebuild that includes a mention of the fire escapes was completed. Maybe gas/candle lighting was the main risk when it was a theatre?

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  5. I remember the Plaza very well especially its undesirable nick name of the ‘Flea Pit’ or ‘Laugh & Scratch’.
    Stockton was well blest with picture houses, TV like supermarkets have a lot to not be thankful for.

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    • Like you, Lindie, I remember the Plaza as my Dad used to go to the pictures every Thursday (new programme night).
      By the way, did you once live at the top of Norton?

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      • Sorry for the late reply, just reading it. I didn’t live in Norton. Lived in Thorpe Street then Fairfield. My maiden name was Spacey

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      • Hello Neil.
        You lived next door to my Uncle Bob and Auntie Tilley in Craister Street, your Mum Amy was fully involved in the Sunday school ‘Tin Box’
        J.

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        • Yes, Josie
          I remember Bob and Tilly Leng very well although I couldn’t say where Bob worked. We left Craister Street in April 1961 and moved across to Chadburn Road.
          N.

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          • There’s never been a substitute for the close trusting neighbourliness of the terraced streets of Tilery road, speaking of the area we lived in.
            J.

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            • Josie, I have many fond memories of Tilery and the honest folk who lived there. Craister street was a good community. All this said remembering happier times. However, I think the complications of today let us oldies look back on simpler days as much as my children and grandson will think of today.
              N

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              • Your quite correct Neil.
                When we married we viewed properties in the lower part of Trent Street, but as I remember they were ‘Leasehold’.
                Colin Eales and Carol lived .on the same side of Craister Street as yourselves, further toward the lower end, their Mum Maude & Dad took over the shop at bottom of Headlam Street, I have a photo somewhere of them.
                J.

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                • I remember the Eales’. They had a green Ford Popular and I had my first ever car journey in it. We went to Redcar. It’s reg. number was SW 7946. I don’t know why I remember that!
                  Bob and Tilly next door had relations who ran the bus service in Willington. They took my Man and me to see them once. That must have been in ’54 or ’55.
                  N

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                  • Bond coaches who often called at Tilly and Bobs, Arthur from memory, Saturdays I would always pop over and do errands for pocket money and then of an evening I’d go and watch some great regular TV shows including a slice of Tilly’s sponge cake.
                    The Eales took over what was Colliers shop.in Headlam Street.
                    J.

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                    • Josie, I think Tilly and Bob had a relation called (Peter?) Bond who had the same birthday as me. Also, in Craister Street I remember Mrs. York and the Rochfords who lived opposite. You must have been opposite the Moodys.
                      N

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                    • We were opposite Bowesfields, and next door to Balls with Atkinsons to the other side, I do remember Mrs York, I’m sure it was Bowesfields who had a dog that would go to the corner shop carrying a basket, note and money.
                      J.

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