Wednesday, 20 May 2015

ABBEYDALE PICTURE HOUSE SHEFFIELD




Situated on the south side of Sheffield on Abbeydale road around a mile outside Sheffield City centre is the Abbeydale Picture palace. When opened by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield on 20 December 1920 the picture house was the largest and most luxurious cinema in Sheffield, often referred to as the "Picture Palace" because of the luxurious cream and gold colour scheme, and dark mahogany seats trimmed with green velvet. The picture house also boasted many intricate decorations and carvings, a mosaic floor in the foyer and a glass canopy with a marble pillar to the outside of the building,over the years this fine building has,like most if not all suburban cinemas fallen by the wayside and been converted into various carpet warehouses,supermarkets, churches, even pubs and now lead a different life from what they where intended for.As a young lad in the mid seventies i can remember going in 1975 to see a James Bond Film, this would have been around the time when it was near to closing down, as Sheffield City Centre Cinemas had most of the big films showing and the dwindling suburban audiences much preferred a trip to the city centre. from the late 70s onwards, various parts of the palace have been used for different things, the downstairs ballroom was a well know mod/northern soul club known as the KGB or the K GEE BEE, it was one of my early introductions to the emerging mod scene around 1979-80 there was always a few tasty scooters parked outside on certain nights of the week when the club ran and also the odd band that played there, it was a destination to head for after seeing a band at the broadfield pub,(400 yards away)  I'm not sure of the origins of the name and the club, but over the years the KGB northern soul club has appeared in various venues in and around Sheffield with quite a lot of the old northern DJs still playing under the KGB soul club banner.
Throughout the 1980s the building was used quite successfully by the Drakes Office Equipment business, who converted quite a bit of the balcony area into there offices and used the downstairs area,now with all seating removed as a display area,which must have been quite unusual with it's slopping floor! However on a recent tour of the building it was said it was quite a successful and prolific way of enticing customers in to view there wares!
Drakes made the most out of the building by using the downstairs as a snooker hall and  in recent years a bar was opened aptly called the "Bar abbey" which was quite a happening place putting bands on and various soul and ska nights,recently it's had a transformation and morphed into "the picture house social" aiming at the "beardy arty" crowd that have suddenly moved into the abbeydale/nether edge area,not had the chance to visit yet,but seems to have a lot more happening with it selling food and loads of different beers,table tennis and it's own small cinema.The picture on the right shows the original fire curtain backdrop in front of the stage, this is a truly great  piece of history and well worth a visit purely to see this, the advertising is local shops and businesses that sadly are no more, not sure from when this dates from,possibly the 50s.
The downstairs area had the seats removed a long time ago and makes quite a nice area for all the food and craft stalls on market days,towards the back there is an area with settees scattered around so you can sit down and enjoy your buns,cakes or sandwiches!

Current owners of the building had plans to turn it into a climbing wall business,but pulled out as Sheffield seemed to be flooded with them,so at present they have ideas to hold functions and the odd concert, plus the regular vintage and food markets that take place,slowly but surely the picture palace is getting back on its feet millions need to be spent to restore it to its former glory,which the owners don't have,and lottery grants can't be given as the owners want it for business use.
My own thoughts are that it's a very similar building and location as the Manchester Apollo,and could very possibly offer residents of the steel city a very big alternative to the venues on offer in our city centre. Only time will tell!



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