Wurlitzer organ and Royalty cinema share a Bowness 90th birthday party

19 July 2017 10:29AM

MUSIC and film will help to mark a double 90 th birthday celebration for a Lake District cinema.

The Royalty cinema at Bowness - and the Wurlitzer organ which sits next to its main screen - started life in 1927.

To mark the event there will be a concert and a vintage film screening on Saturday, July 22.

At 12.30pm there will be a concert by international theatre organist Simon Gledhill.

And at 6pm you can see the 1923 silent movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Lon Chaney - which will be accompanied by David Ivory on the Wurlitzer organ.

The Royalty was built by public subscription and opened as the Public Hall.

It was designed to provide silent cinema, theatre and dance facilities.

The flat maple floor of the stalls had seats in groups of three or four which could be moved into the basement when dances were held.

The hall was opened in March 1927 by H. L. Groves, chairman of Windermere Council, and the first film was The Wanderer – with an appearance by Billy Barnes, the broadcasting entertainer.

The building was controlled by the Windermere Public Hall and Cinema Limited and around 1930 was renamed as the Royalty and came under the control of Windermere and Ambleside Cinemas – which also had the Windermere cinema.

The managing director, Leonard H Clegg, had been a Liverpool architect and had designed the Lighthouse Pavilion, Hoylake and a cinema in Runcorn.

After Mr Clegg's death in 1952 the cinema was leased to Ronald Cowpe who retired in 1974. passing control to John Bailey.

He died in 1991 and the council operated the cinema for a year until granting the lease to Charles Morris in June 1992.

The Royalty now has three screens.

The Rex Wurlitzer Organ was built in 1927 and installed in the Almira Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States.It was shipped to England in 1934 and installed in the Rex Cinema, Stratford, London, where it was opened by the organist Sandy Macpherson. It has two manuals and seven ranks of pipes.

In later years it was used for concerts and featured on several LP recordings by David Shepherd before the bingo era of the early 1970s saw the organ being removed.

It was put into storage by organ enthusiast Charles Davidson before passing to the Furness Theatre Organ Project group, led by Mark Latimer.Donations, sponsors and events raised the cash for a major restoration and the organ is now to the left of the stage in the 400 seat main auditorium at Bowness.

The Wurlitzer organ was played for its first concert at the Royalty in October 2012.

This year there are Tuesday concerts starting at 12.30pm on July 18, by Paul Kirner; on August 15, by Declan Poole and Ian Midgley; on September 19, by Elizabeth Harrison and on October 17 by house organists.

The organ is also played to accompany an annual programme of vintage film shows on Saturdays.

The next is on August 19 from 1pm when you can see Clara Bow in the romantic comedy It.

On September 16 from 1pm it is the romantic thriller The Flying Scotsman and from 10.45pm on October 28 there is a vintage thriller for Halloween called The Cat and the Canary.

You can find out more about The Furness Theatre Organ Project on its website at http://ftop.weebly.com/

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