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Memories of nights at Palladium wanted

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: May 20, 2009

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Romances started on the double back row seats, childhoods spent watching Saturday morning films and tales of yesteryear are all sought by Sue Green as part of her research into the history of the former Palladium cinema.

When it showed its last film, Midsomer Norton's Palladium was one of the country's oldest cinemas, having first opened its doors as the Empire in 1913.

Mrs Green, who moved to the town from Buckinghamshire three years ago, is hunting for personal stories behind the life of the cinema as part of her research for the Midsomer Norton History Society.

She said: "The society has collected some interesting history about the cinema but I am keen to add the human side of its position in the town.

"I have spoken to former owner Shirley Steel and she has filled me in on a lot of the history. I am now looking for all the personal tales that colour the history of the Palladium."

The building has been a landmark in the town since it was first opened as a cinema by Sidney Milles 96 years ago, when punters were treated to a full-sized stage, new scenery, electric lighting and heating in an age when people enjoyed live stage acts as well as films.

The next owner changed the name to the Palladium Electric in 1915, and stage acts included Tiny Tim, who at 43in tall was the world's smallest comedian.

The Saturday matinees for children started with popular series such as The Perils Of Pauline and The Jungle Queen.

The last owners, Mrs Steel and her husband Ken, were first associated with the building in 1944 when Mr Steel was a rewind boy on the projectors.

When the Steels closed the doors in 1993 the double back row seats became collectors' items, with former courting couples putting in bids for them.

A final goodbye was said to the cinema with a showing of Cinema Paradiso, an Italian film about a small town's love affair with a cinema, which finally shut because of the economy, video and television.

Before it became a centre for entertainment the building was a brewery. In 1892 the building was owned by the Welton Old Brewery Company. The neighbouring Savoy Rooms were the brewery and the cinema buildings held the vats.

After its closure in 1993 the Palladium was bought by Moonjuice nightclub owner Martin Sawyer, who died in a car crash in 2004.

In 2008 Bath and North East Somerset Council gave planning permission for the change of use of the Palladium to a club and shops.

To share memories about the cinema call Mrs Green on 01761 410026 or email sugreen.msn@btinternet.com.

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