Gaumont Cinema

The following story is part of Memories of Wednesbury High Street, a collaboration between artists, Iain Armstrong and Jo Löki, involving participation from a variety of Wednesbury residents. You can look through the photographs while you listen to people’s stories. For more information on the project and to view more stories, visit here.

The Gaumont Cinema

The Gaumont Cinema on Walsall Street is fondly remembered by many Wednesbury residents as a popular leisure destination and the location for many first dates. Built on the site of the Picture House in 1938, the Gaumont ran for many years, changing name to the Odeon in 1964, and briefly the Silver in the early 1970s. The cinema closed in 1974, but the building remained in use as Walker’s Bingo Hall until 2010. In its heyday, Wednesbury had several entertainment venues including the Palace Cinema and the Hippodrome Theatre on Upper High Street and the Rialto Cinema on Earps Lane. The Gaumont is the only building that remains and is currently under the ownership of Picturedrome Cinemas who intend to reopen it as a cinema once more. 
Violet Heywood (nee Silwood) worked as an usherette at the Gaumont as a teenager in the 1940s. Speaking here with her daughter Sandie Wood, she shares her memories of the cinema, working life and the origin of the ghost that reputedly haunts the building. In 1949, Violet married Desmond Heywood who was the projectionist at the Palace Cinema on Upper High Street. 
Local resident and councillor Elaine Costigan shares memories of the Saturday club at the Gaumont Cinema and enjoying chips and drinks in the town centre afterwards. 
Local historian Ian Bott shares some history of the Gaumont and the other entertainment venues from Wednesbury’s past such as the Rialto Cinema and the Hippodrome Theatre. 
Local resident Teresa Davies recalls going to the cinema and other things she did for fun growing up in the seventies. 

To see more, and to read captions, click on the photographs.

Images in the gallery were shared by project participants working with visual artist Jo Löki.  They were collected, edited, adapted and digitised into photo-albums © Jo Löki / Memories Of Wednesbury High Street.  With special thanks to: Violet Heywood, Sandie Wood, Ian Bott, Elaine Costigan, Ken Roe, Mike Blackmore, David Simpson, Colin New Hyde who gave their time, access to personal collections and shared memories of Wednesbury High Street. Their vital contributions add to the conversations around Wednesbury’s rich heritage.