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The Town Hall and Victory Cinema Sandy

The former Town Hall March 2010
The former Town Hall March 2010

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for the Town Hall [HER 2026] notes that it was built in 1906. It has exposed brick on the ground floor and render with an ornamental half-timbered effect above. A balcony lies above the entrance, supported on pillars. A bell tower stands at the entrance end. The architects were Bedford firm Usher and Anthony and the plans are held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service [CDE5].

The Town Hall Company was formed two years before, in January 1904. The memorandum and articles of association [X515/2] make it clear that it was a company with a political purpose – allied with the Liberal Party. The twenty two aims and objectives of the company were as follows:


West elevation of Sandy Town Hall [CDE5/1]
West elevation of Sandy Town Hall [CDE5/1]

(a)   To provide in the town of Sandy, in the County of Bedford, a public hall and with a view thereto to purchase, or otherwise acquire, a suitable site in the said town, and in particular to acquire a certain piece or plot of land situate on the southern side of the Bedford Road, commencing at a point on the verge of the said line in a true line from the frontage line of Mr. Joseph Hall’s cottages, and from this point running eastwards for 65 feet along the verge of the said road and then extending southwards in a line parallel to the before-mentioned true line to a line drawn 9 feet from and parallel to the northern wall or end of the said cottages, which said line will then be 120 feet or thereabouts distant from the said Bedford Road.

(b)   To erect, or cause to be erected, a hall or building with all necessary or convenient offices, outbuildings and adjuncts, to be used as a public hall and for the purposes of public or private meetings, or of a club or clubs, library, reading room, entertainment hall, ball room, court of petty-sessions, bank, gymnasium, dining hall, theatre, bazaar, place of resort, corn exchange, auction room, or for other like purposes, with power to erect as part of, or adjoining the said hall, shops, stalls, dwelling-houses, or other buildings, with a view to turning to account the whole of the land acquired.

(c)   To fit up and furnish the said hall in a manner suitable for all or any of the purposes for which the same may be built, and to provide books, newspapers, periodicals, billiard, bagatelle and other tables, gymnastic appliances, stalls, scenery and all other things useful of convenient for any purpose for which the hall may be used.

(d)   To purchase, take on, lease or in exchange or otherwise acquire, any lands or buildings or other property suitable for the purposes, for the time being, of the Company, and to erect or to alter dwelling-houses, shops, or other buildings upon such land, or to let the same as land for allotments, gardens, small holdings or otherwise for any purpose whatsoever.

(e)   To sell, lease, give in exchange or otherwise dispose of the site of the said hall, and all or any the property for the time being of the Company.

(f)     In the event of the said building ceasing to be used as a public hall, to alter and convert the same so as to be useful for any other purpose, and to manage and carry on the same for such purpose, or let the same on such terms as may be thought fit.

(g)   To afford to its members all the usual privileges, advantages, conveniences and accommodation of a club.

(h)   To promote the cause of Liberalism, and to provide means of social intercourse between parties professing Liberal principles.

(i)     To consider and discuss all questions affecting the interests of the community, or the alteration or administration of the law.

(j) To procure delivery of lectures on political and other subjects.

(k)   To form and maintain a library of political, historical, and other literature in.

(l) To render voluntary aid to Liberal candidates in the parliamentary, municipal, and other elections in the Town of Sandy, in the County of Bedford.

(m) To petition Parliament

(n)   To borrow or raise money by the issue of, or upon bonds, debentures, bills of exchange, promissory notes, or other charge of all or any part of the property of the Club.

(o)   To distribute any of the property of the Company among the members in specie, but so that no distribution amounting to a reduction of capital be made without the sanction of the Court when necessary.

(p)   To promote, form, and register other companies for the purpose of acquiring all or any of the property and liabilities of this Company, or for all or any of the objects mentioned in this memorandum, or for advancing directly or indirectly the objects of interests thereof, and to take or otherwise acquire and hold shares, debentures or other securities in, or of any such company, and to guarantee the payment of any debentures or other securities issued by any such company.

(q)   To take or otherwise acquire and hold shares, debentures, bonds, or other securities of or in any other company having objects altogether or in part similar to those of this Company, or carrying on any business capable of being conducted so as directly or indirectly to benefit this Company.

(r)     To sell the undertaking of the Company or any part thereof for such consideration as the Company may think fit, and in particular for shares, debentures or securities of any other company having objects altogether or in part similar to those of this Company, and to underwrite or procure to be underwritten, all or any part of the debenture or share capital of such company.

(s)   To make, accept, endorse and execute promissory notes, bills of exchange, and other negotiable instruments.

(t)     To declare and pay dividends out of the profits of any year without making good capital losses in previous years.

(u)   To carry on the objects comprised in each paragraph of this clause in as full and ample a manner, and construed in as wide a sense as they would be if each paragraph of this clause defined the objects of a separate, distinct and independent company; and so that such objects shall not, except where otherwise expressed in such paragraph, be restricted by reference to the objects contained in any other paragraph.

(v)    To do all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the above objects, either alone or in partnership or conjunction with any person or other association, and either as principals or agents.

The company’s capital was £3,000 divided into three hundred shares of £10 each. Seven men, the directors, each took ten shares. They were as follows:

  • Sir Robert Edgcumbe of Sandy Place;
  • Sir Frederick Howard of Bedford;
  • E. T. Leeds Smith of Sandy, solicitor;
  • Samuel Whitbread of SouthillPark, J. P.;
  • George Andrew Gregg of Sandy High Street, draper;
  • R. Oswald Fordham of Broom Hall, J. P.;
  • James Hall of Sunny Mead, Sandy.

The secretary was Frederick William Western of The Avenue, Sandy.

The Town Hall and Victory Cinema [Z1306/99]
The Town Hall and Victory Cinema [Z1306/99]

In 1920 a cinema opened at the Town Hall. It was called the Victory Cinema and was owned by Edward Charles Gray. In his booklet published by Bedfordshire County Council in 1981 and entitled Bedfordshire Cinemas, G. C. Peck noted that Sandy String Band played for all the films which were, of course, silent before the late 1920s and early 1930s. Later a solo pianist, Ida Warren, who had been a member of the string band, provided the accompaniment. The projector was powered by a gas engine which lay in an iron shed adjoining the hall.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the town hall and cinema [DV1/C27/113] found it standing in just under a rood of land. It was occupied by Arthur Hill who paid rent of £200 per annum to the Town Hall Company Limited.

The accommodation comprised a stage at the back of the cinema screen measuring 29 feet by 18 feet, the main hall measuring 34 feet 6 inches by 67 feet, with a sloping floor, an ante-room (which he spelled anti-room) measuring 10 feet 6 inches by 12 feet 6 inches and a gallery, a small room and a porch measuring 6 feet by 21 feet.

The valuer noted that the premises made its own electric light from a twenty or twenty five horsepower gas engine and dynamo. There were no battery accumulators.

The valuer observed: “At present there are 384 seats in the Hall but these are liable to alteration as at present they are too close together and very cramped. Management intends to lessen the number of seats and so make more room and also widen the gangways. Averages two good nights a week and four bad”.

Arthur Hill had just bought taken over the cinema from Edward Gray. In 1948 the building was damaged by fire and was rebuilt in its present form. The new cinema opened in 1950, was re-named the Albany and could seat 329 people. The premises were now shared with Sandy Liberal Club. The new cinema was not successful and G. C. Peck states that it was taken over by George Randall of Potton who re-equipped it. The cinema closed in February 1964 but in 1967 it was specially licensed to show occasional scouting films using hired equipment. By 1981, however, the cinema had been taken over by The Roundabout Club which still occupies the building at the time of writing [2010]. Ironically, the Town Hall seems never to have hosted meetings of either Sandy Parish Council (now Sandy Town Council) or Sandy Urban District Council.