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The Premier

Read about some of Widnes’s important historical figures.

93–99 Albert Road, Widnes, Cheshire, WA8 6JS
This pub is the former Premier cinema which entertained the people of Widnes until the 1960s. Built on wasteland, at a cost of £4,000, the Premier opened in 1915, with Jewel of Fate. It showed silent films until 1929, when it became the first cinema in Widnes to show ‘talkies’. The cinema closed in the 1960s.

Prints and text about The Premier.

The text reads: This Wetherspoon pub takes the name of the cinema which once operated in this building. Built at a cost of £4,000, The Premier was opened by the mayor of Widnes in 1915 for a showing of the film The Jewel of Fate.

Its owner, Arthur Richards, had shown films before at the Albert Hall, directly opposite this pub. The Albert was built in 1909 as a roller-skating rink by Charles Edward Martin, who lived in Appleton Villa.

Officially Martin’s Skating Rink, it was better known as ‘Bozza’s’ after Martin’s nickname. In 1910, the Albert Hall began showing films in the evening and Saturday afternoons. Five years later, and six months after The Premier opened, Martin built a new cinema there called the Bozzadrome.

The Premier was the first Widnes cinema to show Talkies. In 1929, Interference starring Clive Brook was the first sound film to be screened in the town. Unable to compete, to Bozzadrome was pulled down to be replaced by the Regal in 1935.

Above: Opening day of The Premier, 14 July, 1915
Far right: The Premier in the 1920s
Right: The Premier, 1930s.

A print and text about John Hutchinson and the Industrial Revolution.

The text reads: In 1801 the local population of Widnes numbered around 1,000, and the rivers were known for trout and salmon. There were some workshops at Cronton, but major development was still to come.

Three factors combined to create the industrial development of Widnes from 1833 onwards.

The Sankey Brook Navigation – the first canal of the Industrial Revolution – was extended to Fiddler’s Ferry, and the St Helen’s to Runcorn Gap Railway opened. The third factor was the new dock at Spike Island, said to be the first railway dock in the world.

They attracted industrialists, particularly chemical manufacturers, to the area. They appreciated the sparsely-populated neighbourhood, as there were fewer people to complain about pollution, the first major developer was John Hutchinson.

Hutchinson established his No.1 Works by Spike Island in 1849, and No.2 Works ten years later. He was originally a lime-burner. A good employer by the standards of the times, he established Widnes’ first factory canteen.

Known as the father of the Widnes chemical industry, Hutchinson lived at Appleton Lodge, near St Bede’s Church, until his death, in 1865.

Above: John Hutchinson.

Prints and text about chemical pioneers.

The text reads: The first of the chemical pioneers in Widnes was John Hutchinson, who arrived in the 1840s. He leased land at Widnes Marsh and Moor to other manufacturers.

These included many well-known names such as those of Gossage, Muspratt, Gaskell, Deacon, Pilkington and Sullivan.

Henry Deacon, Hutchinson’s former works manager, went into partnership with William Pilkington, and later Holbrook Gaskell, to produce soda and chlorine. William Gossage, a famous soap manufacturer, became the first chairman of the local board, which was set up in 1865 to run the municipal affairs of Widnes.

This had responsibility for water, gas, and sewage, and later had planning powers. A school board was set up in 1875, and by 1892 Widnes was run by a Municipal Corporation, its first mayor being FH Gossage.

Two other former employees of Hutchinson’s were Henry Brunner and Ludwig Mond, who worked in the Tower Building, which later housed the Catalyst Museum.

Their industrial partnership was developed by their sons as Brunner-Mond and eventually led to the formation of the giant company ICI.

Above: Henry Deacon
Right: (from top right, anticlockwise) William Gossage; Holbrook Gaskell; Ludwig Mond and John Brunner (son of Henry).

Prints and text about Roy Chadwick.

The text reads: This famous aircraft designer was born not fair from this pub, at Marsh Hall, Farnworth, in 1893. He is best known for the Lancaster bomber, famous for its role in the Dam-buster raids over Germany in 1943.

Above: left, the young Chadwick, right, Chadwick congratulates the pilot of his record breaking Lancastrian bomber
Right: Lancaster production during the Second World War.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

If you have information on the history of this pub, then we’d like you to share it with us. Please e-mail all information to: pubhistories@jdwetherspoon.co.uk