Town celebrates its much-missed cinema

Charles Armstrong, right, cuts the ribbon with brother  Willam and former Usherette Jean Clarke

Charles Armstrong, right, cuts the ribbon with brother Willam and former Usherette Jean Clarke - Credit: Neil Haverson

It closed its doors in 1993, with a screening of The Bodyguard, starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.

Now, the history of Wymondham's much-missed Regal cinema is told in a new exhibition at the town's museum.

The Regal, now part of the town's Ex Services' Club, played a leading role in the lives of people in the local community.

It opened in 1937 showing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time.

The Regal on its opening day. March 18 1937. Photo supplied by Philip Yaxley

The Regal on its opening day. March 18 1937. Photo supplied by Philip Yaxley - Credit: Photo supplied by Philip Yaxley

Over the years it attracted several film stars to the town, including Virginia McKenna, Jean Kent, Sylvia Sims, June Whitfield, Susan Hampshire, Peggy Cummins, and Muriel Pavlow.

Feature on Michael Armstrong of Wymondham who has a replica of the Regal Cinema at his home in the t

Michael Armstrong pictured in 2008 with a replica of the Regal Cinema at his home in the town. - Credit: Archant © 2008

In celebration of its rich history, Wymondham Heritage Museum has opened its new season this month with an exhibition dedicated to the Regal.

The display has been made possible as a result of a bequest from the late Michael Armstrong, who lived in the town and was passionate about its cinema from the age of 10.

He worked there in his youth and after it closed he created his own mini version of the Regal at his home, furnished with the cinema’s original artefacts, some of which are now on view in the museum’s main gallery.

Michael with two usherettes when Mary Poppins was being screened in November 1965.

Michael with two usherettes when Mary Poppins was being screened in November 1965. - Credit: Archant

At the launch, the museum’s committee chair, Amanda Oelrichs, welcomed guests which included the town mayor, Kevin Hurn and Michael Armstrong’s brothers William and Charles.

William Armstrong, a former coroner and tribunal judge, paid tribute to his brother saying the Regal exhibition would honour a "remarkable man" who "helped keep alive the spirit and memory of the old Regal Cinema".

William Armstrong

William Armstrong - Credit: Neil Haverson

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A former usherette from the cinema, Jean Clarke, daughter of onetime owner Bert Caley, joined the Armstrong brothers in cutting the ribbon to open the exhibition.

Jean Barsby now Clarke when she was an usherette

Jean Barsby now Clarke when she was an usherette - Credit: Neil Haverson

The exhibition had been delayed for two years by the pandemic. The re-opened museum also features displays which recreate two former Wymondham shops: a grocers from the 1930s and a hardware store that stood on Town Green from the 19th century until 1988.

Chas H Standkley former employees, pictured from left to right: Jeanette Gibbs,Brian Gibbs, Sarah Standley, Colin Brown

Chas H Standley former employees, pictured from left to right: Jeanette Gibbs, Brian Gibbs, Sarah Standley, David Brackenbury, Colin Brown - Credit: Neil Haverson

Town Mayor Kevin Hurn and wife Sharron

Town Mayor Kevin Hurn and wife Sharron - Credit: Neil Haverson

Wymondham Heritage Museum is open daily from 1pm to 4pm. For more information visit thewhm.org.uk