The Electric Palace 1910

The Electric Palace (or do you remember it as the "Empire" or "Bottom House Pictures"?) was opened with a great ceremony on Monday 14th November 1910. The building was designed by Henry Gibson and Pascal J. Stienlet.

Pascal Joseph Stienlet was born in 1879 in North Shields the son of Belgium parents Pascal Joseph Stienlet (a Ship Chandler) and Marie Stephanie Vanderzander. He studied at Beaux Arts School in Paris and became an Architect. 

In 1904 he partnered with Henry Gibson another prolific Northern Architect who was associated with Dunn and Hansom well known Newcastle Architects.

Pascal J. Stienlet

Henry Gibson

In 1904 he partnered with Henry Gibson another prolific Northern Architect who was associated with Dunn and Hansom well known Newcastle Architects.

In 1909 a Cinematograph Act was introduced which meant appropriate fire escape was required from Cinema Theatres. The majority of buildings being used were often unfit for purpose and so the first purpose built cinemas began to emerge. Stienlet and Gibson were among the first to design such buildings. Pascal in fact was such an important figure in early Cinema design he reputedly designed 200 of them in his lifetime. Stienlets grandson continues to run the Architectural Practice that he set up to this day, making it the longest running Architects Practice in the North East. Currently there are no Stienlet Cinemas in use and only a hand full are known to be still standing. Our cinema in Crook is thought to be the oldest remaining example of his cinema buildings.

The construction of our cinema was carried out by Mr W.S. Shepherd of North Shields and it is believed the Showman Billy Murphy was the proprietor giving local tradesmen sub-contracting jobs. Mr Hinchley the plumbing, Mr. Lax the painting, Mr. James English the slating and Mr. Johnson the Carting.

The Chronicle reported "The building has gone up with such rapidity that it is a surprise to the Crook people who know that early in August the site was covered with cottages and now one of the most handsome buildings of the Market Place is erected. It was promised that the cinematograph apparatus would be fireproof and the auditorium could be emptied in three minutes."
The Chronicle reported, "The palace is to be up to date in every respect and to bring the highest class of exhibitions so that the wonder working cinematograph shall be recreational and educational with travel scenes and with something of life's drama and comedy thrown in." On the opening night the palace was crowned attracting "influential patronage from the Urban Council downwards", and the populace was all agog to see the interior of the new hall of entertainment.

A Northern Echo Newspaper advert a week later on the 26th November read:


"An excellent programme will be submitted at the new Empire Picture Palace at Crook next week. Amongst the many pictures which will be shown will be: A Rural Romeo, the Broken Symphony, Cowboy Chivalry, Sorrows of the Unfaithful, Glimpses of Bird Life, a Tour Through Indo-China, and a host of comic subjects. The Bijon Orchestra will render selections each night."

The original 1910 design with its main film being Les Misérables which would suggest this photo to be from circa 1935. 

An Early queue outside of the main doors with the original decorative glazing and canopy. The two young lads where hats with Empire written above.

The original Stage with piano and lectern in the orchestra pit. Today the stage has been removed but much of the décor remains intact

The Proscenium as it is today, with much of the original details in tact.

The remaining Balcony Seats as they are today.