Empire Picture House, Lambpit Street, Wrexham

The Empire Music Hall was built by John Scott of the Seven Stars and opened its doors on April 1, 1902. It was designed by Liverpool and Dolgarrog architect Thomas Price.

It boasted a seating capacity of 582 and many never have seen safety features like outward opening emergency doors and fire extinguishers. Entering the Empire from Lambpit Street the broad staircase had an encrusted dado rail.

In the event of an emergency there were two further exits, one at the rear of the building and one leading from the Gallery. The interior of the Hall was well fitted and decorated, with electric lighting being fitted throughout the building. Heating of the Hall was by a hot air system. Tip up seats were fitted in the Orchestra Stalls with chairs in the Pit Stalls, the Gallery consisted of benches. At the rear of the stage it had a 21-foot opening for the loading of scenery.

John Scott appointed William Gregory as the general manager; he had previously held the position of acting manager at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham and had vast experience with London Theatres.

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The Empire had a mixed act of variety shows and short clips of early newsreels as part of its regular programme from its opening night, customers on that opening night were shown the funeral of Queen Victoria, Opening of Parliament by the King, the Battle of the giants - Wales v Scotland and the Boer War. On the stage that night were Eva Nelson, Mike Scott, Almer Heath, George Heath and Mat Venus. It cost 1s for the Orchestra Stalls, 6d for the Pit Chairs and 4d on the benches in the Gallery.

In 1914 the whole of the building was leased to the People’s Popular Picture Company and was now known as the Empire Picture Palace. It then went back to variety theatre use in 1915, with only the occasional film shown.

The Empire Theatre closed on February 7, 1932 with a variety show called Royal Magnets. Following a refurbishment, it re-opened on May 13, 1932 as a cinema showing talking films, with the film Let’s Go Native starring Jack Oakie.

The Empire closed in 1939 on the outbreak of the Second World War but reopened just two weeks later. The manager was now Miss K. Nutter. Little was spent on the building following the war and, with the popularity of television it failed to compete, the Empire Picture House finally closed its doors on August 26, 1956. At the time of closure, it was in extremely poor condition.

Following the closure of the Empire a tyre company then used the auditorium for several years and the entrance foyer became an ice cream parlour. The building was incorporated into the adjacent Seven Stars pub (Saith Seren), a Grade II Listed building, built in 1898 also by the architect Thomas Price. In 2013 the cinema’s doors where reinstated to provide entry to the upstairs of the pub.

Details and photos courtesy of wrexham-history.com

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