Picture house is surburban luxury for cinema-goers

The Windsor Cinema in Balby, taken in 1956.
The Windsor Cinema in Balby, taken in 1956.

Now this image might be a bit of a mystery to some people but there are a group of enthusiasts who will know exactly what it is. Any ideas?

Looking for all the world like some sort of weapon from a Star Wars movie, it is in fact a projector from a cinema, not just any old projector but one which showed films to Doncastrians from 1938 in the newly built Windsor Cinema. The cinema stood in High Road, Balby, next to its junction with Tenter Road.

The projection room of the Windsor Cinema in Balby, taken in 1956.

The projection room of the Windsor Cinema in Balby, taken in 1956.

It opened its doors on August 4 in the presence of the town’s mayor and mayoress and was billed grandly as “Luxury in Suburbia Balby’s new picture house”.

Opening films included Tom Walls in Second Best Bed and Jack Holt in Outlaws of the Orient followed by Ronald Coleman in The Prisoner of Zenda. Stalls were 6d and 9d with circle seats a staggering 1/- and 1/3.

It was indeed an impressive structure, grand inside, physically large outside and it contained some of the latest equipment of the time including the projector that you see here.

Now I don’t know a great deal about such things but a man who does kindly sent in the photograph which was taken in 1956.

His name is Dennis Hodgetts, and Dennis, who was a projectionist at The Windsor, reliably informs me that after working as a part-time projectionist at Edlington Cinema he moved to Balby and worked alongside chief projectionist Alf Paynter and a young chap called Gordon in the projection room which was on the roof.

And for the technical minded among you Mr Hodgetts tells me this state-of-the-art piece of equipment featured Peerless Magnarc carbon rod lighting, along with Kalee projection mechanism. Bet you didn’t know that.

Wonderful memories from people who remember the sumptuous festooned curtain delighting patrons as they watched the various stunning lighting effects during gramophone recitals which took place between 5.30pm. and the beginning of the film.

Another milestone occurred when The Windsor received a magnificent new organ in 1939 on which Harold Cryer entertained his audience.

So it was that this fine auditorium served the community for many years until it’s unceremonious demolition in September 1964 as it disappeared in a pile of dust like many of our town’s picture palaces over the years, the Balby Cinema, Wheatley’s Astra, The Palace, The Ritz, The Electra, Don Cinema the Essoldo and finally The Gaumont to name just a few.