Kings Hall

81 Newgate Street,
Bishop Auckland, DL14

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Essoldo Circuit (Contol) Ltd.

Functions: Retail

Previous Names: Kings Cafe and Cinema

Nearby Theaters

The Kings Shortly After Closure

This former hall was altered in 1902 and re-opened as the Kings Hall. It was altered again in 1914 and re-opened at Christmas 1914 as the Kings Cafe and Cinema. The building also contained a ballroom, bookshop and tea-room. Seating was provided for 1,028 in stalls and circle levels. The proscenium was 24 feet wide and there was a stage for variety performances.

By 1937 the Kings Hall was listed with a seating capacity of 950. It was taken over by the Newcastle based Essoldo cinemas chain in 1947, and they closed the cinema on 13th January 1962. It was stripped out internally and became one of the first supermarkets in Bishop Auckland which opened later in 1962. Later the building became the Kings Auction/Sales room. The auditorium and ballroom have since been demolished and the front of the building (now missing its upper floors) and former foyer space and other rooms survive, the ground floor in use as a charity shop.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

terry on March 12, 2016 at 10:30 am

Picture postcard of the extensive catering facilities of the Kings uploaded to photos section.

terry on March 21, 2016 at 7:23 am

Two images uploaded to photos section.

terry on April 21, 2016 at 10:54 am

I have being trying for years to find out more about the Kings as it was the only Bishop Auckland cinema I never visited (it closed in either 1960 or 1961 when I was 5 or 6 years old).

I decided to post the following on ‘The History of Bishop Auckland’ website :–

“What was the Kings like inside???

It was was the only cinema in the town I never visited although I was taken into the cafe on at least one occasion by my Mum and Dad in the late 1950’s.

As a child I was always impressed by the facade (in fact this was the cafe, restaurant etc with an arcade at street level leading to the actual cinema which was set well back from Newgate Street). When the contractors were there knocking the place apart in 1966 I tried to peer inside but these attempts were always thwarted by Mum who was no doubt impatient to continue shopping!

Just what was the film viewing experience in the Kings like? It goes without saying that, being of 1914 vintage, it would not be in the same league as the 1938 built Majestic/Odeon which was wide and designed to offer the very best in cinema entertainment.

However, was the Kings at least the equal of its sister venues, the Hippodrome (later Essoldo) and the Eden Theatre? Or was it perhaps slightly better than the latter two?"

Unfortunately, the subscribers to the ‘History of Bishop Auckland’ website were unable to assist.

The Kings must have been fairly important in its time as all Warner Bros product played there and in the 1950’s quite a lot of Fox musicals such as ‘The King and I’ and ‘Carousel’ were shown during the CMA/ Fox dispute. It was also the one and only venue in the town equipped to play 3-D films and I understand that the house record there was achieved when ‘House of Wax’ was presented for, I believe, two weeks.

If, by the remotest possibility, any ‘regulars’ on this site know what a visit to the Kings was like together with a description of any architectural delights (or otherwise), whether it had tabs or festoons etc, it would be most appreciated……

terry on April 22, 2016 at 10:13 am

When the Kings closed the building remained empty for a few years prior to its acquisition by Broughs the supermarket chain in 1966. After redevelopment only the front section (the catering block, basically) was retained minus the upper half of the top storey. The auditorium was demolished leaving a delivery area behind the supermarket. Essoldo , the owners of the Kings, originally closed the Eden Theatre in 1960, having decided that they no longer needed three sites in a relatively small town. Very soon afterwards they had a change of heart when they reopened the Eden Theatre and closed the Kings.

The rationale behind this, I understand, was that the theatre bar at the Eden was rather more lucrative than the catering outlets at the Kings and it was not desirable to operate the bar at the Eden within a shuttered building. The Eden, of course, whilst even older than the Kings, had a deep fully equipped stage which could occasionally be brought into use.

The alterations referred to at the Kings all took place long after the place had shown its very last film and my quest for information about the place goes back to my childhood days when I used to look up in wonderment at the abandoned building and wished that I could venture inside to see what it was like.

Having tried to find interior shots of the place without success and having not been able to obtain more comprehensive information from people who were around when the Kings was still open I have decided that it is time to ‘give up’…….

Rookie2 on October 17, 2017 at 9:20 am

Hi Folks Just a small update on this building. I have recently taken on a 5 years lease of this building and have been doing a little exploration. Little or nothing remains of the original cinema as far as the main part of the building is concerned however !!!!!!!!! The building to the extreme left of the photo which is signed as “Library” has uppper floors which are part of my lease. I went exploring, ther first floor above the main entrance of the conema is in a delapidated but reasonably safe condition. This leads through to the first floor of the uilding marked as “Library”. From there, a very precarious staircase leads up to the second floor, the sign on the wall at the bottom of the staircase is a hand painted “Hand with finger pointing” and the words “To Gentlemen’s club” Climbed the stairs (very carefully) and entered into a foyer with reception desk. Good lord it was like a step back in time. The woodwork in there, including swinging doors had not been touched for many many years. I do not even think you could get wood this beautiful today. Behind the reception desk is a set of wooden pidgeon holes which I believe were to hold the Hats and Gloves of guests. One of the smaller windows to the front of the building still has the original Stained glass in it and leaded. From the foyer there are a couple of stairs and another sign which points to a door which apparently leads to “The Ball Room”. Alas, the ballroom is no more as that level of the main building has, as mentioned elsewhere, been demolished. What a step back in time this place is, I am glad I had the opportunity to take a look, I will, when I get the chance. take a few photographs of what is left before it is gone forever. However, I have the building for 5 years so hopefully some good can come from it. Though it has to be said, the flooring on that level is very very dangerous.

terry on January 30, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Hello Rookie2

I have added below the link to a recent article in The Northern Echo which features your fascinating photos.

I have not been to Bishop Auckland, my town of birth and where I attended King James I School, since 2011 when I took an old friend to show him around my old ‘stamping ground’. The said friend, now sadly deceased, was my Manager at the huge ABC Wigan (facing the famous ‘Wigan Casino’)back in the early 1970’s.

I have not been back since that day as I was saddened by the town’s decline. Bearing in mind that Marks & Spencer and Beales' Department Store were still open at the time I do wonder what Newgate Street is like now………

It is fortunate that you have a five year lease on the remaining section of the Kings and that you are keen to see the original surviving fragments restored. I am intrigued by your plans to recreate the last meal served in the restaurant and to show the last ever film onto the rear shutters of the car park where once was the back wall of the cinema.

I have often wondered what that last film was and have tried to find out without success. When I was based in Darlington years ago I should have gone along to the Northern Echo Offices to try and find out but I never seemed to have the time then, unfortunately.

Back in 1966 when the demolition team were on site I would try to peer into the building but my Mum, who had absolutely no interest in such things, would drag me along Newgate Street so she could continue with the shopping!

If the woodwork in the surviving foyer area (for the ballroom?) is anything to go by, then the Kings Cinema & Ballroom must have been rather grand affairs.

As a small lad I was once taken into the restaurant for afternoon tea; I guess that this would have been a year or so before the entire complex closed. I seem to recall an air of ‘faded grandeur’ with quite a number of ‘sweet trolleys’ around the place.

When you consider it, the Kings , with all its sections (a 1,050 seat cinema, ballroom, restaurant, cafe, arcade, library etc), did indeed occupy a huge site between Newgate Street and Kingsway. I remember that from the very back of the building (Kingsway) you could see in the distance the elaborate stonework on Newgate Street. The aforementioned stone looked like a very fine quality sandstone too good to end up in landfill and I assume that it would have been sold for recycling.

For quite a while from 1966 onward there remained a side elevation of the Kings' auditorium on the right as you faced Kingsway; I am guessing that it is also now long gone.

I wish you well with your venture at the former Kings and I very much hope that you manage to see some restoration work take place. It would be interesting to see what remains above the false ceiling in the former Kings Restaurant and furthermore what, if anything, actually survives above that level as it appears that at least two thirds of the second storey, albeit with bricked up windows, remains.

Perhaps , if and when I am in Bishop Auckland, you would be kind enough to show me inside the accessible abandoned areas, if it is safe to do so.



terry on January 30, 2018 at 1:44 pm

terry on September 18, 2018 at 1:18 pm

1955 newspaper advert uploaded to photos section.

terry on January 22, 2020 at 5:19 pm

The Kings closed on 13 January 1962.

The following day the Eden Theatre (which had closed on 08 July 1961) reopened.

terry on May 6, 2022 at 9:58 am

Image of a similar theatre interior uploaded.

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