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 and Art Gallery after a successful campaign led by Ron Curry MBE.

At the museum, the frieze panels were conserved and cleaned, before a decision was made to relocate the frieze to a location adjacent to the cinema in Sir Nigel Gresley Square, as a fitting location for everyone to enjoy seeing this historical architectural feature in the borough.

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.

Close up image of the Frieze
© Flickr/Johnson Cameraface CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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.

Black and white photograph of The Gaumont Cinema
The Gaumont Cinema in Doncaster, before the frieze was hidden

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.

Photograph of Newbury Abbot Trent
Photograph of Newbury Abbot Trent by Bassano Ltd  © National Portrait Gallery, London CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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.

Work by local campaigners in Doncaster to raise awareness of the Gaumont Frieze led to 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.  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 led by Ron Curry MBE who sought to save a precious piece of Doncaster’s cinema heritage.

Image showing the Gaumont Frieze before and after it was cleaned