Treasure trove of artefacts left by movie-goers discovered under floorboards of historic Leeds cinema

A fascinating stash of movie-going artefacts dating back more than a century has been discovered by workmen during the renovation of a historic Leeds cinema.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 11:55 am
Updated Thursday, 11th November 2021, 11:56 am
Old Woodbines box and Kodak film box. PIC: SWNS
Old Woodbines box and Kodak film box. PIC: SWNS

The floorboards at Hyde Park Picture House were lifted for the first time in decades, revealing a treasure trove of items belonging to patrons from as far back as the 1920s.

Long lost items, some of which had fallen from the pockets of former patrons, were discovered including cigarette packets and sweet wrappers from a by-gone era.

The theatre in began exhibiting their finds in weekly social media posts called “treasure trash Tuesdays”.

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An Old Gold Flake box. PIC: SWNS

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Ollie Jenkins, marketing and communications manager, said the objects sparked interest as they chronicle the lives of visitors back to 1914 when the site first opened on Brudenell Road.

He said: “They tell the story of what was happening in the cinema throughout those years.”

The cinema is being restored after securing a £2.3m lottery grant.

Hyde Park Picture House in the 1960s. PIC: SWNS

Back in July, work began to modernize the historic Leeds cinema, with a second screen in the basement, a front-facing extension and changes to improve accessibility.

But as the restoration of the grade-two listed building progressed, Ollie became fascinated by the things left behind by its former patrons.

He said: “As the work has happened, we have uncovered all sorts of bits that have been hidden under the floorboards and under carpets – things that have slipped through the cracks over the years.

“Most of it is kind of rubbish, essentially – things like cigarette packets and sweet wrappers – but obviously when they are 60 to 70 years old, they become quite interesting.”

So far, Ollie has recovered around 20 household items that dropped out of people's pockets, with some dating back a century.

He said: “All kind of fall within the categories of either chocolates and sweets or cigarettes, but we found a film box, too.”

“The earliest stuff we are finding is from the 30s or maybe late 20s, which feel pretty old – 100 years, almost.”

One specific item stood out to Ollie, an intricate Woodbine cigarette packet, as the brand was often smoked by soldiers in the Wold Wars.

He said “I think they’re a very popular brand of cigarettes, particularly during both the First and Second World War, because they were the cigarette of choice for soldiers.

“When I picked that up, I did wonder if that was from a soldier who was on leave and had maybe come back to Leeds to see a film, and maybe dropped that.

He added: “You start to romanticize these things a little bit.”

Since Ollie started posting the items online last week, theatre enthusiasts of all ages have been trying to date the historic objects and trace their backstory.

“We’re sharing them online every Tuesday and making a point that if they have any information about these items – if you can help in terms of dating them – let us know!

“We’ve been using the hive mind of the internet to help us.”

He added: “It’s basically desk research in terms of seeing if anyone else has picked up something similar and shared it online and what their best guess is.

“Usually, it’s hard to get better than within ten to twenty years, but sometimes the packaging is a really good sign of when exactly something came out.”

Though Hyde Park Picture House is in a process of redevelopment, it remains one of the oldest independent cinemas in the UK today.

One of its most unique period features is its nine gas lamps that flicker throughout screenings, which its owners believe are the only working examples still used in a cinema anywhere in the world.

During the building work, these will be restored along with the cinema’s façade, with the conservation project due to be completed in September next year.

The cinema is set to begin a fundraising campaign, running for six weeks, to raise further money for the improvements that are currently underway.

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