Tag Archives: Rugby North Street

Scrap Book Project – Rugby Town Twinning, The Town Hall and The Saracen’s Head

Rugby Town Hall

In a previous post I recalled my memories of going every week to the Saturday morning pictures at the Granada Cinema in North Street in Rugby, the town where I lived.

As I thought more about the location of this once important part of the town I began to remember other buildings and places all around it in this part of the town and what they meant to me.

At the front of the cinema there was a road junction and following the road to the left it became Evreux Way which since 3rd May 1959 has been Rugby’s twin town in France.  From 1975 to 1980 I worked at Rugby Borough Council and there was a strong Town Twinning Association with a regular group of Council bigwigs rotating biannually between visiting the twin town in Normandy and then entertaining French visitors the following year.  Being a sociable sort of chap with an interest in overseas travel I happily signed up and joined in.

Town Twinning became a big thing after the Second World War as people sought to repair shattered relationships with their neighbours and I have often wondered what the process was for getting a twin town.  Perhaps it was like the draw for the third round of the FA cup when all the names go into a hat to be drawn out with each other, or perhaps it was like the UCAS University clearing house system where towns made their preferred selections and waited for performance results to see if they were successful; or perhaps it was a sort of international dating service and introductory agency.

Anyway, I never found the answer to that question but I did enjoy a couple of visits to France.

Rugby Evreux Town Twinning

Rugby Town Hall was opposite the old Granada Cinema and was built some time during the early 1960s and had a rather functional Eastern European construction of brick and concrete with a soaring arch entrance.

n 1975 I started work at Rugby Borough Council and my boss, the Borough Treasurer, John Lord, was the captain of the office cricket team so amongst my other duties he gave me the job of team secretary and it was my job to arrange the fixtures, book the pitches, look after the kit and make sure we had a full squad every week.

I seem to remember that during the summer I didn’t do a great deal else and I neglected my studies to become an accountant, failed my exams and told him one day that I didn’t really want to be an accountant anyway so he punished me by transferring me from an office on the front of the building where you could watch the girls go by to a job in internal audit which was in a portacabin at the back with a view of the print room.

Saracens Head Pub

With little interest in work after this I used to get through the morning session and then at lunch time go to the pub with my pals.

This was the ‘Saracen’s Head’ and was directly opposite the old Granada Cinema and here we would have our lunch and a couple of beers.  In my final job at South Holland District Council in  Spalding in Lincolnshire a nasty little member of staff called Sarah Naylor wrote a staff behaviour policy which forbade staff from drinking at lunch time or even making friends with people at work but in the 1970s this was still quite acceptable.

Sarah didn’t have any friends and she doesn’t work there anymore.

My favourite memory of lunchtimes at the ‘Saracen’s Head’ was a colleague who worked in the Technical Services Department called Merv who was guaranteed to be there every day.

As a drinker Merv would have challenged Oliver Reed and he would regularly drink six (yes, six) pints of beer in his lunch hour!  He was a big Rugby Union fan and followed the Rugby Lions and I asked him once how much he would drink on a match day.  He told me that if they lost the match then he would only have about twenty pints but if they won then it would be at least twenty-four.

I seem to remember that Merv passed away quite soon after this conversation.

Crown House Rugby

Also at the bottom of North Street and directly behind the cinema was Crown House, the head office of Rugby Portland Cement and at ten stories high seemed almost to be a New York skyscraper.  We used to play a team from Crown House in the Rugby Advertiser twenty over cricket league and if I remember correctly they always used to beat us.  Actually, I think every one used to beat us so this doesn’t take too much remembering.  Just like the Granada Cinema there is no Rugby Portland Cement anymore and it is now owned and operated by Cemex of Mexico.

In the middle of all of these buildings and wedged in between the Council Offices and the ‘Saracen’s Head’ was and is Caldecott Park which outlives everything around it with lawns, gardens, tennis courts, a bowling green and a Victorian bandstand and when on the very infrequent occasions that I didn’t spend lunch times in the pub then I used to take a stroll through the paths that looped around this fine old park but I never really appreciated it as much as I might now if I still lived and worked there.

Caldecott Park

Scrap Book Project – Rugby Granada Cinema and Saturday Morning Pictures

Granada Cinema Boarded Up

For a couple of years or so in the early 1960s I went every weekend with my pals, Tony Gibbard and David Newman, to the ‘Flicks’ at the Granada Cinema at the bottom of North Street in Rugby opposite the posh new Council offices to the Saturday morning pictures.

What a fleapit it was.  It was an old brick building built in 1933 and originally it was called the Plaza but later in 1946 changed its name to the Granada in the same way as so many others as they borrowed continental place names such as Alhambra, Rialto and Colosseum to make them sound more exciting.  Later car manufacturers did exactly the same of course and we had the Corsair and the Cortina, Toledo and the Dolomite and the Ibiza and the Cordoba.

After it closed as a cinema it became a bingo hall – what a tragedy- and late in 2011 it was demolished to make way for a new development.

Every Saturday morning we would get the crimson Midland Red R66 bus, which left from the top of the road, into town and our main objective was to get to the cinema early in order to get a seat in the front row of the balcony if we could. We weren’t allowed through the front door because of the damage we could potentially do there to the fixtures and fittings but had to queue down the side of the building and were admitted through one of the exits at the back.  It cost sixpence (two and a half new pence) to get in and the queue was always long even before the show opened and the big boys would come along later and more often than not push in the front of the queue.

Inside the cinema was dark and smelt of stale cigarette smoke with seats covered in a sort of maroon velveteen.  Unlike real velvet, however, this material was not very pleasant and for boys wearing short trousers it scratched and made legs itch, which made it impossible to sit still and I am sure that it was the same for girls in their little skirts.

The noise levels inside were unbelievable.  About three hundred children aged between five and thirteen would scream, whistle, shout and boo at any and every opportunity.  To try and keep some sort of order the Manager had a cunning plan, which was to give out silver shillings to children who were sitting still and behaving themselves.  Throughout the show, cinema staff would pass through the building and randomly hand out the coins to kids who were trying desperately to behave.  Once you had got the shilling of course you could do pretty much behave as badly as you liked and once they had all been given out it was absolute bedlam!

Cinema Interior

The show began with a young man called Christopher King on an organ that would rise out of the stage floor accompanied by the ‘Dam Buster’s March‘, like a poor man’s Reginald Dixon show, and there would be ten minutes or so of community singing.  Next came the birthday spot and paid up members of the Rugby Grenadiers Club whose birthday it was this week were invited up onto the stage to receive a present.  After the present came the ritual humiliation of ‘Happy Birthday to You’, that was normally sung by kids in the auditorium with all sorts of unsuitable for print alternative lyrics.

There were always cartoons to get things started and then there were usually about three features each week.  A serial (to make sure you came back next week), a short comedy (Laurel & Hardy was always my favourite), and a feature film.  This was usually a western that had the good cowboys in white hats and smart clothes and the bad guys in black hats and with unshaven faces and who always looked untidy.   The camera would pan from the good guys to the bad guys constantly to cheers for the white hats and boos for the black hats.  In these films no-one’s gun ever ran out of bullets but surprisingly the good guys never seemed to get seriously injured.  Bad guys fell over clutching a fatal wound, but there was never any blood and the good guys always got winged in the arm without causing any real damage.

Excuse me digressing here for a while but this was completely unrealistic of course.  Six shooters in the old west were notoriously unreliable and if someone was unfortunate to take a bullet this would have done the most horrendous damage to flesh, muscle, sinews and important internal organs.  Bullets, or slugs, were made of soft lead and of relatively slow trajectory so if they entered the body they would have bounced about doing unimaginably painful damage and if shot it is completely unlikely that anyone would have shrugged it off as a flesh wound and carried on fighting as they did in these films.

If there wasn’t a western then quite often there would be a sci-fi feature and this would be something like ‘The Creature from the dark side of the Moon’.  The special effects left a lot to be desired and the aliens were always ugly creatures that were always after our women, which thinking about it now is a bit improbable.  A scaly black lizard creature is probably more inclined to have the hots for another scaly black lizard creature back home on Mars or wherever else it came from and would be more inclined to run off with an iguana rather than an earth female.  Like cowboys the space heroes were dressed in white, often with goldfish bowls over their heads.  The aliens usually wore black and had ingenious secret ray guns.  As with the westerns we cheered at the whites and booed at the blacks.

If there was a period epic then this would be something like Robin Hood, William Tell, Richard the Lion Heart or my all time favourite, Zorro.  Zorro, which is Spanish for Fox, and a by-word for cunning and deviousness, was the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega a nobleman and master swordsman living in nineteenth century California. He defended the people against tyrannical governors and other villains and not only was he much too cunning and clever for the bumbling authorities to catch, but he delighted in publicly humiliating them while riding on his horse, a jet black stallion called Tornado.

Zorro was unusual because he was dressed all in black with a flowing Spanish cape, a flat-brimmed Andalusian hat, and a black cowl mask that covered his eyes. His favourite weapon was a rapier sword which he used to leave his distinctive mark, a large ‘Z’ made with three quick slashes. It was strange for a hero to be in black, so for Zorro we had to remember to cheer for the blacks and boo and hiss at the Mexican soldiers who were dressed in white.

For the staff this must have been the worst day of the week, I bet sickness levels were high on a Saturday morning.  This must have been a bit like trying to deal with a prison riot.  When the films reached the exciting bits we would flip our seats up and sit on the edge and kick furiously with our heels on the seat bottom and make a hell of a din while we reduced the plywood base to splinters.  The manager didn’t like this of course and would frequently stop the film and appear on stage to chastise us.  This was usually met with a hail of missiles that were lobbed at the stage.  The cleaning up afterwards bill must have been huge.

I stopped going to Saturday Morning pictures about 1966 and the Granada cinema closed down about ten years later.  I’m guessing it must have been 1976 because I think that the last film shown there was the Towering Inferno, which opened in January of that year.   The Granada cinema closed because of dwindling audiences but predictably the last film was a sell-out all week as people of the town flocked to the cinema for the very last time in a nostalgic tsunami  before its conversion to a bingo hall.