Wicky Bear Theatre
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Functions: Live Theatre
Previous Names: Coronation Hall Cinema
In Kettering, Northamptonshire, in 1913, local engineering industrialist Charles Wicksteed purchased some meadowland, part of the Barton Seagrave Hall estate, with the intention of building a model village for his workers.
The Wicksteed Village Trust was formed. However, after World War I, when local authorities were building public housing, he decided instead to create a park with leisure facilities for local people, with refreshments and attractions, for which a modest charge was made, funding the provision of a free playground and sporting facilities.
The first playground equipment was installed in 1917, and an artificial lake was constructed in 1921, with the park officially opened that year. By 1926 there were also a pavilion, rose garden, water chute, bandstand and fountain. In 1931 a railway track was built around the edge of the lake.
Charles Wicksteed died that year, but the Wicksteed Village Trust continued his work, adding features and facilities.
The park continued to develop during the 1930’s, attracting a record 40,000 visitors on August Bank Holiday Monday in 1935. During World War II it remained partially open, with American troops billeted in the pavilion.
Improvement continued in the 1950’s, including the opening of Coronation Hall, a multi-purpose entertainment centre that included cinema facilities. This was built in 1952 when storage buildings had been cleared away.
The hall could seat between 300 and 400 patrons and had two 35mm projectors in a purpose-built projection room. The screen could be raised to allow for live performances on the stage. Presumably cartoons and short comedies predominated for the primarily family audiences.
It is not known when the film shows ended and the equipment was stripped out.
More recently the building has become The Wicky Bear Theatre, named after the park’s mascot. A live show, The Wicky Bear Show, plays periodically during the day.
The current auditorium is at right angles to the usual configuration, with the stage area backing on to the right-hand side. There are approximately 70-seats. There is also a low ceiling, which indicates the building has been sub-divided. So it is unlikely anything remains of its cinematic origins.
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