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St Georges Hall

This pub still has its original cinema seating!

203 Church Road, Redfield, Bristol, BS5 9HL
This pub is the former Granada cinema, although it was originally called St George’s Hall when it was built, in the days of ‘the silent era’, when films were accompanied by captions and shown in ‘picture halls’ and ‘picture houses’.

Photographs and text about St Georges Hall.

The text reads: St Georges Hall opened as the Electric Palace in 1912 at 2 Victoria Road, now the rear entrance to the Wetherspoon pub.

The films were short and primitive, and so was the accommodation. There was a pianist who accompanied the film and played during the interval.

The Pugsley family purchased the small hall in the 1920s, plus the house next door and the Victoria Road Mission Hall which was upstairs. They added 203 Church Road and joined it all together, with the entrance in Church Road.

It re-opened on Boxing Day 1927, with seating for 750 and a full orchestra. Two years later the Talkies arrived and the orchestra left.

The cinema was renamed the Granada in the late 1930s. It survived until bingo took over in 1961, when, appropriately enough, the cinema’s desperate fight for survival against television ended with a showing of The Alamo.

A print and text about the early days of cinema in Bristol.

The text reads: The earliest films lasted just a few minutes, and were often as novelty interludes in variety shows. The Tivoli Music Hall was the first to present them to a Bristol audience, in 1896. As technology improved, longer films could be made, and two or three provided an evening’s entertainment.

Bristol’s first purpose-built cinema was the Bio, which opened in 1908. The popularity of film shows grew quickly, by the end of the First World War, Bristolians had over 30 cinemas to choose from, ranging from flea-pits to purpose built picture palaces.

The building occupied by this J D Wetherspoon pub was previously the Granada Cinema. It was built during the silent era, when films had subtitles and caption cards to help the audience follow the story. Meanwhile, a pianist watched the screen and improvised appropriately. A more expensive cinema would have an orchestra, playing a synchronised score, or a huge cinema organ rising from the floor as the show began.

Several ways of adding sound to films had been invented, but none was satisfactory until the late 1920s. By 1931, the Talkies were well established in Bristol, and all the city’s cinemas had been converted for sound.

A print, illustration and text about George White.

The text reads: On 14 October 1895, the first public electric tramway service in Britain was opened, running from Kingswood to St George. The managing director of Bristol Tramways, George White, arranged a huge celebration, with a military band and a banquet, as well as free food for over a thousand of Bristol’s deserving poor.

Horse-drawn trams had been successfully introduced twenty years before, also under White’s direction, after a municipal scheme had come to nothing. However, it soon became clear that the city’s gradients would require extra horses on some routes, and in 1880 a first attempt was made to mechanise the system.

This proved unsuccessful, and was abandoned after a year. However, by 1900, the electric trams had taken over completely, lasting until 1939, when they gave way to buses, which had been introduced in 1906.

White had learnt his entrepreneurial skills at an early age, in the law firm of Stanley & Wasborough of Corn Street. Here, at the tender age of 16, he was put in charge of the practice’s bankruptcy work, which gave him splendid insight into the pitfalls of running a business.

He later introduced motor buses and taxis to Bristol, before turning his attention to aviation. He founded the British & Colonial Aeroplane Company at Filton in 1910.

Top: George White
Right: St Michael’s Buildings, Cotham, birthplace of George White.

Text about Redfield and St George.

The text reads: Redfield is thought to have been so-called from the red soil banks of the Wainbrook, which ran close to this pub through the area once known as The Wilderness. The red earth contrasted with the blackened surface around the neighbouring industrial works.

During the 19th century, this area was transformed from rural district, with appalling roads frequented by robbers, into a fairly prosperous suburb.

Development of the Great Western Cotton Works and the Netham Chemical Works, together with the expansion of the shoe-making and mining industries, led to the building over of farms and market gardens.

The Parish of St George was created in 1754, and the hamlet of Don John Cross adopted the name.

Church Road, where this pub is located, was previously named St George’s Road.

The story of St George slaying the dragon to rescue a maiden has been traced back to the ancient Greek myth of Perseus. George himself is said to have been a Roman officer, who was martyred for his Christian beliefs.

The Crusaders bought the cult of St George back to Europe during the 11th century, and he seems to have been adopted as England’s patron saint by Edward III.

The King created the Order of the Garter under the patronage of St George around 1346.

Illustrations and text about the Bristol Riots.

The text reads: Redfield House, home of Lieutenant Colonel Brereton, stood not far from this pub. Brereton was in charge of the cavalry used to suppress the infamous Bristol Riots of 1831.

At the time, the city’s economy was in decline. Combined with popular impatience with the slowness of political reform, this led to considerable unrest locally.

Although Bristol had representatives in Parliament, unlike many northern industrial centres, there was discontent with inefficient and undemocratic local government.

The riots were sparked off by the arrival of the Recorder of Bristol, Sir Charles Wetherell, a staunch opponent of reform.

Wetherall managed to open the Assizes in the Guildhall, but had to disguise himself to escape from the Mansion House in Queen Square.

The rioters burnt down the Mansion House and the Custom House, as well as destroying the Bishop’s Palace. Ironically, the mayor was a sympathiser with the Reform movement, but was finally forced to read the Riot Act, and call in troops.

A dozen rioters were killed before order was restored. Brereton and the mayor later faced trial. The mayor was acquitted, but Brereton, living in the same area as many of the rioters, shot himself before his court martial reached its verdict.

Above: The riot in Queen Square
Left: Queen Square in 1827.

Illustrations and text about Edward Everard’s printing works.

The text reads: One of Bristol’s most remarkable buildings is the former printing works in Broad Street, built by Edward Everard in 1900.

Everard served his apprenticeship as a printer, and worked in London, before coming to Bristol. In 1875, he married the sister of Bristol’s great transport entrepreneur, George White, who made the most of his brother-in-law’s artistic and technical skills.

Everard’s building was, in its day, the architectural sensation of Bristol. Contemporary sources claim that the crowds which gathered to view its opening were so large that a police operation was necessary to control them.

Art Nouveau, which developed during the 1890s, was partly inspired by William Morris, who is pictured, with his hand-operated press, on one side of the façade. The balancing figure represents Johannes Gutenberg, a 15th century printing pioneer. Everard’s name is featured in an Art Nouveau style typeface that he designed.

The architect of the printing works was Henry Williams, who three years later, in a startlingly different idiom, produced the Stock Exchange in St Nicholas Street for Sir George White.

Left: Johannes Gutenberg, ‘inventor’ of printing
Right: William Morris, leader of the Arts and Craft Movement.

Photographs of the Granada cinema.

Internal photographs showing the original cinema screen room, with rows of seating still in place. 

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

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