The rise and fall of Lymington's Lyric Cinema

Many a local romance blossomed at The Lyric, but with the rise of TV its popularity waned

Lymington's Lyric Cinema in 1963The grassed area of 4 St Thomas Street was a popular location for open air dances until Lymington & New Forest Entertainments Ltd built the Lyric cinema there.

The Lyric Cinema in St Thomas Street opened for entertainment in December 1913 with seating for 500. The three original directors were Mr Last (confectioner), Mr Hewitt (auctioneer) and Mr Vicary (solicitor). The first manager was Mr Cecil Elgar.

The architect was Mr Benjamin and it was built by local builders Rashleys at a cost of £1,768 10s, less 2.5% for surveyor's fees. Later it was agreed to add brick frontage instead of cement for £25. Mr Badcock carpeted the whole hall for £64.

Seating comprised ten rows at 3d a ticket, six at 6d, three at 1/- and three at 1/6d. Mr Dibley was appointed film operator at £1 10s a week, Miss Pelfrey cashier for 8/- a week and there were many applicants for the posts of doorkeeper and chocolate sales girls. 

In February 1914, the County Architect closed the premises for structural strengthening work owing to the weight of the ceiling and all staff were laid off with just one week's notice in lieu of wages. Mr Elgar was dimissed as manager for his 'unseemly' conduct with young female patrons, lack of smartness and allowing encores when the door should be open to admit the second house.

Lymington's Lyric Cinema closed in 1963When the Lyric reopened later in 2014, Mr Harry Wincote was appointed manager at £2 a week. Silent films were cranked by hand by one operator and the lights came up when the reels were changed. A Werhner piano was acquried for £30 and Mr Wincote's son Cyril sometimes deputised for the pianist. The cinema also acted as an army recruiting office during the First World War.

The Lyric also staged local entertainment by organisations such as the Lymington Philharmonic Society, but with so many young men called up for the Great War, the Lyric incurred a £226 18s loss during its first year.

In 1919 it was agreed to introduce Sunday evening performances, despite condemnation by the Vicar and by 1921 the Lyric saw temporary local competition in the 'People's Theatre' which originated in a marquee off Grove Road before transferring to the Literary Institute in New Street - until they also went through a 'bad patch.' 

The 1924 Finance Act led to a change in admission charges, with the first section of seats reduced to 1/3d, second section 8d and third 5d.

In 1930 Mr Wincote was surprised to receive just one week's notice and was succeeded by Mr Walter Mouland, who also acted as the fire station officer. He collapsed and died in his cinema office in 1961 and with television becoming increasingly popular, the Lyric closed two years later. The last film to be shown was Mrs Gibbons Boys starring Diana Dors and Lionel Jeffries on 1st June 1963. 

Nowadays, Lymington is fortunate to have the Malt Cinema at the Community Centre - find out more about the Lymington Community Centre here, and the history of Lymington Community Centre here.

Marks and Spencer now occupies the site where the Lyric cinema once stood.

Sources:

Lymington: A pictoral past - Brian J Down
Lymington in old picture postcards - Brian J Down
Then and Now: Lymington and Pennington - Brian J Down

Find more Lymington and New Forest history features here.


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