The Gaumont Frieze
The Gaumont frieze, created by sculptor Newbury Abbot Trent in 1934, was recently recovered from the Rose Hill Cemetery and moved to Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery after a successful campaign led by Ron Curry MBE.
The frieze used to adorn the front of the Gaumont Cinema, which stood at the top of Hallgate in Doncaster. It depicts the making of a film, from the writing of the story, to the building of the sets, and lastly the shooting of the film.
The Gaumont Cinema in Doncaster opened in 1934. Designed by W. Sydney Trent and W.E. Trent (the cousin of sculptor Newbury), the cinema was originally known as the Gaumont Palace Theatre.
The building was created in the Art Deco style, and housed an auditorium that could hold over 2,000 people. During the 1960s the Gaumont staged many concerts, including appearances by Buddy Holly, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
The building was modernised in 1968, with aluminium cladding attached to the front, hiding the frieze from public view. The frieze was finally revealed during demolition of the cinema in 2008, when it was removed and put into storage.
Newbury Abbot Trent (1885-1953), the sculptor of the frieze, produced similar works for other Gaumont cinemas, as well as producing designs for a number of war memorials.
Trent was born in Forest Gate, Essex in 1885 and was one of 11 children of ship builder Walter F. Trent. According to his descendants, Newbury was discovered drawing in the South Kensington Museum at the age of 11 by painter Thomas Armstrong RA (1832-1911).
Armstrong was the Director for Art in the Department of Science and Art (later the Royal College of Art) and was so taken with Newbury’s talent that he persuaded the boy’s parents to allow him to adopt their son and raise him as an artist.
The Gaumont Frieze is on display today outside Doncaster Museum in a secure location and at the current time it is not possible to display the frieze as it was originally meant to be seen. However, the work by local campaigners to raise awareness of the frieze resulted in an offer from the Victoria Cross Trust to clean the piece with specialist equipment free of charge.
The charity usually works on cleaning war memorials but enlisted the services of Doncaster-based restoration company Eco-Restoration to clean the Gaumont Frieze at the museum. A super-heated steam system was used on the stone and made a huge difference to how the frieze looks today. This work was made possible by the efforts of local campaigners who sought to save a precious piece of Doncaster’s cinema heritage.
Heritage Doncaster intends to apply for external funding to provide clear, protective covers for the panels. This will ensure we can preserve them in a way that they can still be viewed by the public and protected from the weather.
Visit Let’s Go to the Pictures to find out more about Doncaster’s cinema history.