DURING the Second World War, many of villagers in the mining community of Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland, worked shifts at the munitions factory at Newton Aycliffe.

In their downtime, they would pack into the Cosy Cinema in the village – but to ensure they got to their shift on time, every night for the six war years a voice would shout out: “Ten to nine factory workers”.

This gave them ten minutes to dash to Etherley station to catch the train to Aycliffe in time to start work.

And this meant that for six years, there were scores of Aycliffe Angels who never saw the end of the film.

The Cosy was a classic coalfield community cinema. It opened in the late 1920s inside a Primitive Methodist church which had been built in 1864. Because of the religious connection, the cinema was never allowed to open on a Sunday.

As the painting by artist Tom McGuinness, who was born in Witton Park in 1926, shows, the Cosy was a warm, welcoming place, seating just over 300 souls. The programme changed every two days, meaning there were three different features to watch every week.

The Cosy closed in 1963 when its projector broke down and it wasn’t economical to repair.

In more recent times, the Cosy has been cleared and the memorial garden dedicated to Roland and George Bradford, the First World War Victoria Cross winners who were born just down the road, has taken its place, complete with a moving statue by Ray Lonsdale.

  • With thanks to Dale Daniel and Keith Belton

MEMORIES 419 visited the Alhambra which was in Front Street, Fishburn. It opened in 1925 and was part of the Turnbull brothers’ chain which included the Royal in Trimdon Village, the Picturedrome at Trimdon Grange and the Savoy in Sedgefield.

David Johnson, of Bishop Auckland, remembers visiting the Alhambra a couple of times a week during his childhood in the 1950s, shown to his seat by a man with a torch – who was keen to show people out of their seats should there be any misbehaving.

The Alhambra had backless benches at the front for kids. “There was a slope up from the cheaper seats,” says David, “and there were double seats at the back which I did use a couple of times! I do not recall a balcony.

“I attended the ten o’clock service at Fishburn Methodist Church on Sunday morning and when it finished around 11 o’clock I would go straight down to the cinema and help the projectionist to rerun all of the film spools so that they would be ready for the coming week.

“There were two projectors and it would take about an hour. As I was leaving, the projectionist, whose name I cannot remember would always give me a free ticket for my help.”

THE open garden at Skeeby Manor House, which featured here a fortnight ago, raised more than £2,000 for the Richmondshire Buildings Preservation Trust, and the Heighington Scouts history exhibition, which featured here last week, was attended by well over the targeted 100 people and raised more than £550 for the village defibrillator appeal.

Many thanks to all who attended.

People may be interested to know that Chris Lloyd, who compiles these notes, is giving his talk about the former proprietor of the D&S Times, Henry King Spark, at the Witham Hall – where Mr Spark was a vice-president of the Mechanics Institute – in Barnard Castle on May 15 at 7.30pm. The talk is entitled King Henry the Ninth – the Donald of Darlo, and tickets are £6.

At 4.30pm on May 18, Chris is leading a free walk as part of the Darlington Arts Festival around the centre of the town looking at the history of art and artists in the town: poets, painters, performances and public art, plus some stories in the stonework, the views of a weathercock and the birth of the art of lion taming. The walk starts at the Green Tree in Skinnergate. To book a place, email darlo4culture@gmail.com

And on May 23 at 2pm in Darlington library, as part of the Local History Month exhibition about the Patons & Baldwins wool factory at Lingfield Point, Chris will be giving his P&B: Wonder Factory talk. Tickets are £2. To book, call 01325-349630.