A multi-million-pound redevelopment scheme has breathed new life into the Grade II listed Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds.
Our team at BRC worked alongside the architects Page\Park and the main contractor Triton Construction to conserve and restore the exterior masonry and façade of the building.
It was a pleasure to be part of such a great project such as this historic independent cinema, that is well known and cherished in Leeds as well as the wider cinema community.
It’s so important to retain and invest in these unique and special buildings, but it’s not just about bringing the cinema back into use for now; it’s also about making sure everything is restored properly so that the building will continue to be a vital community asset for another 100 years.
The Hyde Park Picture House
The Hyde Park Picture House is an iconic Edwardian building in Leeds. Built by Thomas Winn & Sons in 1914, this period property is one of the oldest surviving cinemas in the country. It is also the only gas lit cinema remaining in use in the whole of the UK.
The cinema was forced to close in March 2020 at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic and work began in spring 2021 on the redevelopment scheme. It is due to re-open in 2023.
The Picture House project
The scheme aimed to revitalise and safeguard the building by preserving and restoring its original features and character. This included the restoration and repair of the iconic Burmantofts tiled façade, original terrazzo flooring, historic lamp post and gas lamps.
It has also seen the addition of a second screen, the expansion of the foyer, and the creation of accessible facilities. These have been sensitively implemented to maintain the historic integrity of the building.
The scheme was made possible by a £2.3m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a £285,600 Capital Kickstart Fund, alongside support from Leeds City Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the British Film Institute and others. Further funds have been donated by the local community and fans of the Picture House.
Our work – Restoration
One of the most noticeable areas of work that the BRC team carried out was to the front of the building (the façade) under the distinct Hyde Park Picture House lettering. To the right you can see us replacing a number of damaged faience blocks (handcrafted glazed terracotta tiles) above the entrance with new, custom made like-for-like ones.
We also carried out masonry work including brick repointing and stone repairs, as well as repairing and replacing balustrades, matching the original architectural features.
One of the main parts of our work was on the gable. Over the years the gable had moved, so we dismantled it all, rebuilt it and tied it all in with steel ties. We also carried out stone repairs. Most of the stonework could be repaired, but we had to replace one of the balusters, which was in bad condition and was particularly eroded.
The moulded stonework was repaired and refurbished. Where it had eroded, we cut it back to a sound surface and then built it back up to its original profile. This kind of work crops up often in the projects we carry out on old buildings, with most needing cleaning, pointing and repairing.
BRC was involved in the project fairly early on, carrying out initial cleaning both to the interior and exterior of the Picture House. We did some sandblasting to remove the paint from the original metal beams down in the basement.
We used the Doff cleaning system – a gentle form of steam cleaning used primarily for stonework – for the masonry on the outside, then repainted with a breathable paint.
The facade was also cleaned to remove unsightly graffiti.
Where possible, we used bricks from the site, such as those that had been removed from the exterior when new openings were formed. When carrying out restoration work on listed buildings, part of the criteria is that you have to use like-for-like materials. The ideal way to do this is to re-use materials from the same structure, as there’s no better match than a brick out of the same building.
Another aspect of working on listed buildings, such as the Hyde Park Picture House, is getting the mortar mixes right. You need to use a lime mortar mix, and it’s a case of putting samples on to try and get something to match. With the Picture House, the joints were quite tight so any aggregate that was too big wouldn’t work. We ended up using fine black grit in the mix with the sand and the lime.
There were some special bricks over the windows, and these and the keystone had to be specially made because of the shape and the size of them. With the round windows we also re-did the brickwork with ‘brick specials’ because they were carved to go round.