The Century Picture Palace 1922 – 1959

“Miss Gandy” and the Century Picture Palace
Auntie May 1966
Cordelia May Gandy 1966. Photo courtesy Dylis Lloyd Johnson Collection

Cordelia May Gandy became in som rather roundabout way manageress of the Century Picture Palace, a cinema which existed in Widnes between 1922 and 1959.

Century Picture Palace
The Century Picture Palace, Widnes, 1922. Photo courtesy Ann Campbell


Here Ann Campbell describes the connection between “Miss Gandy” as she was known, and the cinema, the “Cenie”.

“The connection with Miss Gandy and the three cinemas Century, Picturedrome and Empire was that Len Platt, who owned estate agent S Owens and Son, was also part owner of the cinemas, and Miss Gandy used to help with the management of the cinemas, and oversee the administration. Miss Gandy worked originally for Sammy Owens, who owned the estate agents. When he died, Leonard Platt took the company over, and he part-owned the three cinemas.

Miss Gandy was a very well-known, well-spoken and respected lady, she would stand at the back of the cinemas and ensure the children were all well behaved. She was a very hard act to follow when I took her job on at the estate agents. Needless to say I only took over the daily running of the office from her, I wasn’t old enough to look after the cinemas. Jim Geering did all that. The office was in Victoria Road when I joined the Company. When Mr. Platt retired, Jim Geering took over, and the office was moved to Albert Road.”

Memories of the Century Picture Palace

“The cinema was in West Street, West Bank, Widnes. I used to attend the cinema at least twice weekly, because I lived a few streets away, and we are going back to the days before television, in the fifties. The cinema had wooden seats at the front, which were the cheap seats (5p), there were seats in the middle which were nice material covered seats (9p) and then there were the best seats at the rear (1/6p) which were red velvet. I was one of five children, and Miss Gandy knew us all by name. My name before marriage was Manning. We lived opposite to St Mary’s church in the villas, my youngest sister still lives there. My three sisters and brother all still remember Miss Gandy.

Miss Gandy as she was known was very well respected as I said before, and she always got that title, she was never called by her first name, at least not as far as I can remember, even from my mum and dad, she was very well spoken and was always dressed perfectly, and may I say, always wore the best perfume. I had an aunt who was very much like her, and they were good friends. From what I can recall, Miss Gandy worked originally for Sammy Owens, who owned the estate agents. When he died, Leonard Platt took it over, and he owned the three cinema’s, I don’t know whether Sammy owned them previously, but I do know that Mr Platt and his two brothers owned them when I worked there. My aunty went to a licence victuallers doo in 1956 as my grandmother owned a local pub, and told me that she had been speaking to Miss Gandy and she was looking for someone to take her place at the estate agents because she wanted to retire. As I had just finished my 12 months course at a commercial college, she put my name forward. I went for an interview and got the job. I loved it there. Mr Platt was a well-known tenor, and he used to sing as he walked around the office, he had a beautiful voice.” Ann Campbell.

Val (Gandy) Reid in Chilliwack, who lived in Widnes as a child, said that her Grandad (Harry Gandy 1902-1955) would take her and her brother to the “Cenie“ cinema in Widnes. It was run by her Great Aunty May (May Cordelia Gandy, 1897-1984) and the story is that she owned the cinema.

“The picture of the Cenie what a find! Notice the date of the building 1922, my dad was born 1923 and his brother 1924 thinking they probably went to the pictures there. Can’t remember what the inside looked like, but remember Grandad and I would sit with Auntie May and she would get us lolly ices. The last picture I went to with Grandad was “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” with Marilyn Monroe, around 1954. They play it sometimes on the Turner Classic movies and I’m sure it was not for children but in those days they didn’t really think about that. Gives me nice memories of me and my Grandad Gandy he was the best! Gr. Grandad Charles Gandy lived with Gr. Auntie May in Lancaster Road and he probably went to the Theatre.” Val Gandy Reid

To find out more about Cordelia May Gandy and the Century Picture Palace I placed a query on the Widnes Past and Present Group on Facebook in January 2013. There was an impressive response and many sent in their own memories of Miss Gandy and the Cenie. Their stories are summarized here.

The End

The cinema was demolished in 1959, to be replaced by a row of houses

Demolition of Cenie
The End. Photo courtesy Ann Campbell

The photograph shows the demolition of the Cenie in progress.

Read more about the Century Picture Palace here: