Botchergate Picture House

The Botchergate Kinema was built behind the existing buildings on Botchergate in 1914. It opened for business in 1915, with access from the Botchergate down a narrow passage. It was known locally as the Picture House.

One of a number of picture houses in the city, the Botchergate Picture House became an important venue for the people of Carlisle. Before the invention of television, cinemas were a popular way of keeping up to date with news from the front.  Newsreels would be shown before the film and as well as keeping people informed, were used to promote patriotism and support for the war effort. In 1915 Wellington House began producing propaganda films for distribution in cinemas, their most noted work was the 1916 film The Battle of the Somme, which was seen by a reported 20 million people in Britain.

From 1916 to 1918, the Botchergate Picture House was used as a Wesleyan Chapel on Sundays. The Reverend Bramwell Evens provided services, but he also recognised the importance of providing entertainment for the people of Carlisle and the munitions workers who made the city their home during the war. He brought nationally known performers to the Picture House. During the construction of HM Gretna his services were incredibly popular, this has been put down to the fact that men working on HM Gretna were turned out of their lodgings in the morning, they did not work Sundays and the public houses were shut. The services at the Picture House provided a safe, warm and dry meeting place and became an important part of wartime life in Carlisle. In December of 1916 the Picture House had a full programme of pictures on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, providing somewhere for the Gretna workers who did not travel home for Christmas.

The events hosted at the Picture House also provided an opportunity to fundraise for the war effort. Rev. Evens raised money to build a hut at Dornock, near Gretna, to use as a base for social and religious work. By the 1 April 1917 he had raised £950 (about £44,000 in today’s money) and moved to Gretna. He also appealed for suitable lodgings for the workers at Gretna, and found lodgings for about 1,000 of them.

Following the Great War, Botchergate Picture House continued to operate as a cinema under various organisations. It was re-named Gaumont in 1956 and then became Odeon in 1964. The Odeon was closed on 17 May 1969. The auditorium built behind the existing Botchergate frontage was demolished. The property on Botchergate was converted into a supermarket and the building was demolished in the late 1990s.


To find out more about some of Carlisle's other Great War sites, return to map