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Historic Towcester - Bickerstaffes Almshouses and Cinema
Cinema PlaqueCinema Plaque
AlmsHouse, Cinema behindAlmsHouse, Cinema behind
Site of former Alms House and CinemaSite of former Alms House and Cinema, 2002
The surviving Towcester Charity Boards of 1792 show that Thomas Bickerstaffe -a London Merchant who was born in Towcester - paid for three almshouses to be erected in 1689 for "the labouring poor" of the town. In 1815 further donations from Simon Adams and James Hall allowed these houses to be largely rebuilt and extended to accommodate five deserving old people. They were demolished in 1970 and new almshouses, under the combined Sponne and Bickerstaffes Charity, were completed in 1984 and named Moorfields. The original date stone has been retained in the new complex, and bears the inscription "He that earneth wages by labour and care by blessings of God may have something to spare. T.B. 1689"

Towcester Cinema was opened by the first Lord Hesketh in December 1939. Designed by E.Fancott the imposing entrance was reached by two short flights of steps leading through double doors into an elegant Art Deco foyer with concealed lighting showing off the stylised trees decorating the gold speckled walls. These lighting effects continued into the auditorium where walls and stage were subtly lit with changing colours through red to gold. The stalls seats, in green and brown plush, were priced at 6d or 1s, whilst in the balcony one paid 1/6d or 3s to sit in the front row fauteuils. The Hesketh family box was sited centrally in the balcony and was reached by a private side entrance.

The whole cinema was air conditioned and the most modern projection equipment installed giving a capacity audience of over 850 the chance to view the latest films in utmost comfort. With the coming of television, like cinemas all over the country, Towcester Cinema went into decline, and even weekly bingo sessions could not avert the closure in 1973, sadly never to reopen. The building, much neglected, was demolished in 1984 to make way for the building of Richmond Court. [more on Towcester Cinema]

Margaret Knowlton, February 2002.
  1. "Towcester - The Story of an English Country Town" published by the Towcester and District Local History Society 1995 (ISBN 0 9524619 1 9).
  2. Information from Tom Knowlton
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