Cinema – update September 2020

Work is underway at The Grand cinema in Ryhope, Sunderland, as part of our National Lottery Heritage Funded Remaking Beamish project.

At Beamish, we will give visitors a chance to experience a trip to the cinema in the 1950s and discover the stories and memories we’ve been collecting during the project. We will include as much of the original building from Ryhope as possible, including distinctive features such as the stained glass windows, canopy, roof slates and some of the brickwork. The ornate interior mouldings have been carefully recorded and will be replicated in the cinema, as due to their condition it is not possible to collect them.

The recreated cinema will be part of our 1950s Town, which will also include houses, shops, cafe, fish and chip shop and bowling green. The first exhibit, a replica of Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, is open to visitors.

Helen Barker, Beamish’s Assistant Director Engagement Activity and Collections Access, tells us more about The Grand project:

The Grand has stood for just about 100 years in Ryhope and many people have shared with us fond memories of the building as a place where they did their courting or got up to mischief sneaking in with their friends or dropping ice creams over the circle balcony!  We know a lot of you are interested in what’s happening with the building and we want to keep you up to date so that it continues to be a little bit of Ryhope – right in the middle of Beamish.

Back in March of this year we announced that the cinema was coming down and any reusable parts brought to Beamish to be incorporated into the cinema in the new 1950s Town. Six months and one global pandemic later, this work is now well underway.  Smaller items had already been removed from the building such as bits of paperwork and some unique finds such as a golden syrup tin that had been fashioned into a light shade sometime in the 1930s or 40s. A full paint survey has been carried out so we now know exactly what colours the interior had been painted at every stage of its long and colourful history.

The building underwent a full architectural survey to assess which materials were suitable for salvage and re-use and to record any that could not be saved. The moulded plasterwork, which was such a memorable feature of the auditorium, sadly could not be collected because it would have crumbled upon removal. Instead the mouldings have been recorded and copies will be sourced for the cinema at Beamish.

The two huge stained glass windows that were positioned either side of the screen have been painstakingly removed from the site at Ryhope. Specialists had to be called in to assist with the removal of the windows when they started to come apart on removal.  They are now safely stored at Beamish awaiting reinstatement.

To date 14,000 slates and approximately 100 terracotta roll ridge tiles have been collected for re-use. Around 35,000 facing bricks, the moulded brickwork gutter corbel and bullnose bricks from the external windowsills will also make their way to Beamish.  From the front of the building, the stays used to hold up the canopy and the Western Electric Sound lettering have also been preserved. Western Electric Sound was one of the two best cinema sound systems around at the time so it was a feature well worth advertising.

Work on site in Ryhope is due to finish in early October. We’ll keep this page updated when there are developments around the cinema but in the meantime if you have any questions please contact