Heritage at its heart
Learn more about how we've been preserving our heritage features as part of The Picture House Project.
Over the past two years, thanks to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Leeds City Council, and of course our audiences, we've been able to work with a wide range of conservation specialists to bring much of the cinema's heritage features back to their former glory. With the construction part of The Picture House Project now near completion and our doors almost open, we thought we'd give you a glimpse into the work that’s been carried out.
As you may know, we are the only gas-lit cinema in the country (perhaps even the world!). We hope to keep our nine gas lamps flickering long into the future, so we are so happy to see them reinstalled after being refurbished. The backing roses have been remade, the fittings themselves have been restored, the gas lines serving each light have been freshly run with new secure locking mechanisms and the original vents for each light have been cleaned and restored. In the process we’ve also gained a body of knowledge that will help us preserve the skills required to maintain them.
Another precious feature of the Picture House is the ornate iron lamppost that welcomes visitors in. Some locals had a fright when they saw the Grade II listed Victorian lamppost disappear. However, the lamppost was in safe hands; ironworks specialist Peter Meehan diagnosed detailed repairs that would be required for the safeguarding of this feature and we’re relieved to see it back in better health.
Our characterful red and white façade was beginning to crumble due to weathering and, on investigation, the parapet at the top was found to be leaning outwards slightly. The parapet is safe since being taken down brick by brick and reassembled after a new steel lintel was put in. The experts at Darwen Terracotta surveyed our original faience and assessed which sections required restoration and which they would carefully replicate. Cleaning and restoration of some of the weathered stonework by Building Restoration and Cleaning has left the Picture House’s face glowing.
The mosaic and terrazzo floor just outside the original box office had been scuffed and worn down over time by the hundreds of thousands of customers who have crossed our threshold, so this has been sanded back gently, polished so you can enjoy the vibrant colours and in some areas elements of the mosaic have been recreated. Excitingly, we also discovered even more original terrazzo under the carpet in the foyer which has been carefully uncovered and restored after having been hidden for over 70 years.
Stained glass window
The stained glass and hand painted window on the staircase had to be removed to protect it but this gave us a chance to repair the wooden surround, given this beautiful piece of glazing a deep clean and it has now returned to stand proud over our foyer.
Even though our foyer has grown, the decorative plaster mantelpiece visitors will be familiar with has been reinstated thanks to expert support from Ornate Interiors. Ornate Interiors also helped assess the plasterwork throughout the rest of the building and where necessary complete minor repairs. The decorative plasterwork roses that don the front of the balcony and garlands of fruit and foliage which band across the ceiling have never looked so glorious!
All the paintwork is sensitive to the cinema’s history and is informed by a paint analysis led by Crick-Smith. In the new parts of the building the colours have been pulled from the most distinct heritage features in the building, the beautiful stained glass window and terrazzo flooring.
We are proud to keep our two 1960’s Cinemeccanica projectors in service. They have been in careful storage throughout the Picture House Project and we can’t wait to start sharing 35mm films with you. We’re also keen for people to learn more about cinema’s heritage so look out for tours of our projection room.
This is a real whistlestop tour of the conservation journey that the Picture House has gone on and it wouldn’t have been possible without the guiding hand of our project architects, Page\Park. Over the coming months we’ll be sharing more detailed pieces about particular elements of the restoration so please keep following if you’d like to learn more.