2010s: Theatres

We have now reached our current decade, the 2010s! It’s not over yet but there is still so much to look back on. In 2012 we moved from Sheepscar Branch Library to our current location in Morley, in the West Yorkshire Joint Services Building. This is also the decade we received the most substantial part of our theatre and cinema collections which includes City Varieties Music Hall, The Grand Theatre and Opera House and Hyde Park Picture House records. While they are all currently run by ‘Grand Theatre and Opera House Limited’, the origins of these places of entertainment did not come about simultaneously.

City Varieties Music Hall is the oldest of these three and opened in 1865, with an initial focus on entertaining the working classes. Cleverly adapting to the times, they survived whilst many other music halls closed down. A particularly good move was to become the venue for the BBC TV show ‘The Good Old Days’, for which they are still well known. Over the years they have had many stars grace their stage, including Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini. The collection we hold for this venue mostly includes programmes, photos and newspaper clippings and dates back to 1900.

The Grand Theatre and Opera House in contrast opened as a reaction to the popular music halls, such as the City Varieties, and was created to provide entertainment for the upper classes. It opened in 1878 with its first performance ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Many famous faces have performed there over the years including Julie Andrews and Laurence Olivier. This wonderful collection includes named scripts, such as this script for the role of ‘Alan’ in Goody Two Shoes dated from 1913.


Hyde Park Picture House opened in 1914 at the outset of the First World War, when cinemas were becoming increasing popular. It is believed to now be the only remaining gas lit cinema in the world. The cinema has shown a variety of films over the years starting out in the silent film era, moving to ‘talkies’ in the 1920s and more recently arthouse cinema and big blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982).


In 2016 the cinema received Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) of £2.4 million. A substantial amount of this will be used to preserve the historic building and help increase accessibility for those who have not previously be able to visit. As the repository of their archive we are looking forward to supporting this project as it progresses.

It is thanks to the volunteers at the Grand that these collections are so well listed, as they have been collaborating with us for 8 years and have supplied detailed descriptions to enhance our catalogues. If you are interested in viewing any of these collections – City Varieties (WYL2410), Hyde Park Picture House (WYL2359) and The Grand Theatre (WYL762) – please contact the Leeds office, our contact details can be found here. Here is a link to our online catalogue.

We have now caught up to present day I hope you have enjoyed reading through the history of Leeds Archives and our 80 years so far, here’s to the next 80!