Century Old, Gas-Lit Cinema Receives £2.4 Million Grant

Hyde Park Picture House
The Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds, England, is the U.K.'s only surviving gas-lit cinema. Lottery funding will ensure its doors remain open. Tom Joy/Heritage Lottery Fund

More than a century after it first opened its doors, Leeds’ Hyde Park Picture House, the U.K.’s only surviving gas-lit cinema, has secured a £2.4 million investment to ensure the lights stay on.

First launched in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, the small picture house was used to broadcast news bulletins and announcements to civilians during wartime.

To this day, the cinema continues to use gas “modesty” lighting, giving modern patrons a sense of the Grade II-listed building’s century-long history. It plays both historical films and modern blockbusters.

The Hyde Park Picture House embraced gas lighting in response to the lurid reputation of “penny gaff” cinemas where the audience, often the lower classes, would sit in complete darkness.

The cinema’s windfall, which includes £122,000 in development funding, is part of a £55 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) scheme ensuring the future of 12 of Britain’s most prestigious historical buildings.

The lottery funding will be used not only to keep the cinema lit by gas lamps, but also to restore the “terrazzo foyer floors and decorative screen plasterwork,” the HLF said.

HPPH Exterior Exterior of the Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds, England. Tom Joy/Heritage Lottery Fund

The former Cotswolds home of famed textile designer William Morris has also secured funding of £4.7 million. Kelmscott Manor, which is open to visitors, “is an incredible collection of listed buildings dating back to the 16th century, housing furniture, pictures and textiles, including many pieces created by Morris.” The funding will be used to re-open two rooms previously closed to the public as exhibition spaces and a new cafe.

The largest amount of funding, £14.8 million, will be given to the Plymouth History Centre to consolidate key locations in the city centre, such as the City Museum and St Luke’s Church, into one major tourist attraction.

Britain’s Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: “Our heritage provides us with a sense of identity and helps boost tourism, local economies and people’s wellbeing. These grants will have a huge impact on a range of projects across England. I am delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to help preserve important parts of our heritage for the public to enjoy.”