Saturday 17 April 2021

So who was Clarence George Starkey?

The former Odeon on Baxter Gate

The new Odeon cinema on Baxter Gate opened on Saturday 21 November 1936, built on the site of the former Post Office. The building was designed by the Harry Weedon architectural firm which was based in Birmingham, and was responsible for the design of all the cinemas in the Odeon chain. The lead architect was Weedon himself, although he employed assistant architect Arthur J. Price in the design of Loughborough's Odeon. 

Estimates of the cost of construction were around £50,000, but the eventual cost of the alone was just under £30,500. Facing bricks were used on the side of the building that fronted onto Lemyngton Street, but the side adjacent to the car park used common stock brick. the faience tiles were produced by the Hathernware, produced by the firm formerly known as Hathern Station Brick and Terra Cotta Company, who had already produced many attractive fronts for Odeon buildings. There is nothing in the newspaper reports to indicate which company made the brick itself - Hathern all round, maybe.

In October 1936, Mr W. Bryan of Kettering applied for a music, singing and dancing licence for the new cinema to be granted to Mr Richard Herbert who had already been granted such licences in a number of towns: the licence was granted, not least because this new, modern cinema could demonstrate that it had been built with the safety and comfort of the patrons paramount.

Having said that, the local fire superintendent, along with two firemen and a patent extinguisher arrived at the cinema in late November 1936. A fuse had blown out, but before the fire brigade arrived, members of the cinema staff were able to avert any danger.

Clarence George Starkey, 1939

The Odeon would accommodate a total of 1,625 people - 1,029 in the stalls and 596 in the circle. The first appointed general manager was Clarence George Starkey.   

The opening programme included ‘Mr Deeds Goes to Town(1) starring Gary Cooper, ‘Broken Toys’ and a musical interlude from the Band of the Fifth Battalion, the Leicestershire Regiment (TA). The evening reception and dancing for guests went on until midnight.

The opening hours of cinemas was highly regulated, but Loughborough magistrates granted permission for cinemas in the town to open on Christmas Day in 1936. It wasn’t until 1940 that Loughborough cinemas were allowed to open regularly on Sundays, although there had been an exceptional Sunday opening on 20th March 1938.

In February 1937 Clarence George Starkey entertained audiences at the Loughborough Odeon with his accordion playing. It was such a success that he planned to make it a regular feature.

In early September 1937, secretary of the Loughborough Trades Council advised that he had written to the Loughborough Division MP, concerning a complaint about the working conditions and wages of cinema employees. The report in ‘The Era’ does not specify if this was any specific cinema in Loughborough, or if this was a national complaint, but as a result of the local meeting, all cinema employees – The New Empire, The Victory and The Odeon – were approached for their views. Unfortunately, the outcome is not clear. However, in March 1938, the 60 employees of Loughborough cinemas decided to form a union, affiliated to the local trades council. They demanded a 48-hour working week and an extra week’s holiday with pay.

As well as entertaining his audiences with his accordion playing, Clarence George Starkey was brilliant at publicising films, and linking with local firms. In October 1937, he managed to get a display in the Corporation electricity showrooms in support of the film ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, which consisted of a large notice in the window:

“The charge of the Loughborough light brigade has been reduced, all electricity labour savers are no within range of your pocket.”

This was accompanied by stills from the film, and a tray of Mexican jumping beans!!

The next month, Starkey publicised ‘Farewell Again’ by having two carnival bands – the Sileby Carnival band, and the Loughborough Blue Diamonds Carnival Band – march through town to the cinema. Crowds of people lined the route, and Starkey took the opportunity it give out publicity material.  Also in November 1937, Starkey invited the mayor, Alderman Arthur Lacey, to deliver an address before the showing of the Ministry of Health film ‘100 Years’.

At the beginning of 1938, Starkey asked patrons to contribute photos of their dogs, and awarded a 5s. prize to what was considered to be the most natural picture. This was to publicise ‘Storm in a Teacup’. In February 1938 Starkey teamed up with a local music dealer (possibly George Hames on Market Street, who was also an accordion player): the music shop displayed stills from the film ‘His Affair’, and the cinema displayed the sheet music in the cinema. That same month, Starkey publicised the film ‘Marked Woman’ by taking photographs of female employees leaving their factory work for the day. The photographs were then displayed in the cinema foyer, and if one of the girls identified themselves they received a free pass to see the film. Some of the factories nearby were Cottons on Pinfold Gate/ Baxter Gate, Caldwells on Church Gate, and Towles on Nottingham Road.

In March 1938 Starkey worked with Timpsons to promote the film ‘Knight without Armour’. The public were invited to describe the most chivalrous deed they had ever done, and the best letters received won a pair of shoes!! At the end of March, the child’s cot which appeared in the cinema foyer was reserved for the baby born at the time closest to the screening of the film ‘A Star is Born’. This time Starkey teamed up with two local retailers – Allsops who donated the prize, and the music shop which displayed stills from the film, with the cinema displaying copies of the sheet music.

When ‘Vogues of 1938’ was released, Starkey teamed up with the local Singer Sewing Machine retailer where promotion told that the stars’ dresses were made on Singer machines, and one such machine was on show in the cinema foyer.

For his final two publicity stunts at the Loughborough Odeon, before moving to Halifax, Starkey involved the local Halfords on High Street, who lent the cinema a tandem. To promote ‘Woman Chases Man’ cut outs of a man and a woman, with jointed legs sat on a tandem in the cinema foyer, and pedalled – the pedals being operated by an electric motor! Lastly, Starkey’s chief operator created a mechanical display unit, which was used to promote the film ‘Slave Ship’ and could be re-used in the future. A plywood wheel, which has holders for still or cards from films, and revolves with the help of an electric motor,  protrudes out of a boxy structure. This was a particularly eye-catching object and attracted the attention of many patrons.

Clarence George Starkey departed Loughborough at the end of May 1938, and his position as manager was taken by Leonard Putsnam.

Timeline for Clarence George Starkey

Grandparents – Benjamin and Phoebe

Parents – Benjamin and Charlotte Gibbins

Siblings – Harold B. and Lancelot Malcolm Hereward

Children - Norman Harold

1829 – birth of Benjamin Starkey (Snr), grandfather of Clarence George Starkey, probably in Wishaw

1830 – birth of Phoebe, grandmother of Clarence George Starkey, possibly in Nechell, which is listed as being in Stafford

1845 – birth of George Starkey, son of Benjamin (Snr) and Phoebe, brother of Benjamin (Jnr) and uncle of Clarence George Starkey

1857 – birth of Sarah Starkey, daughter of Benjamin (Snr) and Phoebe, sister of Benjamin (Jnr) and aunt to Clarence George Starkey

26 February 1868 – birth of Charlotte, mother of Clarence George Starkey

17 November 1870 – birth of Benjamin Starkey (Jnr), father of Clarence George Starkey, to father Benjamin (Snr) and mother Phoebe. Possibly born in Walsall

1871 – on the 1871 census, Benjamin Starkey (Snr), aged 40, is listed as a railway guard, living at 116 Nechells Place, Aston, with his wife Phoebe, aged 41, and children George, aged 16 who is unable to work due to injuries, Sarah aged 4, and Benjamin (Jnr) aged 4 months.

1881 - Benjamin Starkey (Snr), grandfather to Clarence George Starkey, is living with his wife, Phoebe, son George, daughter Sarah, and son Benjamin (Jnr) at 115 Nechells (?) Place, Nechells (?) Aston. Benjamin (Snr) is a railway guard, and George a labourer.

18 October 1890 – marriage of Benjamin Starkey (Jnr), aged 19 to Charlotte Gibbins, aged 22, in St Clements church in  Nechells St Clement. They are listed on the marriage certificate as both living at 116 Nechells Place. Benjamin’s father, Benjamin (Snr) is listed as a railway guard, and Charlotte’s father, George Gibbins, is a fitter.

1891 – Benjamin Starkey, father to Clarence George Starkey, is listed on the 1891 census as a 20 year-old general labourer, born in Birmingham, and now living at the back of 93 Havelock Road, Erdington in Aston. Charlotte, his wife, is aged 23, and was born in Cheltenham.

1894 – birth of Annie Mayall, later wife to Clarence George Starkey, daughter of Fred Mayall and Elizabeth Ann. The birth is registered at Oldham, Lancashire.

30 September 1896 – Clarence George Starkey was born, and is birth registered at Aston.

1901 – the 1901 census lists Clarence George Starkey, aged 4, living with parents Benjamin, aged 30 and Charlotte aged 32, as well as older brother Harold B. aged 9. Also listed at the property – Cals (?) Street North, in Aston – are Benjamin’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth Gibbons, aged 24 who was born in Birmingham, and Samuel Austin, aged 23 and also born in Birmingham, is listed as a boarder.  Benjamin is a warehouseman (stampings?), Elizabeth is a warehousewoman (labellings?) and Samuel is a steel and iron stamper. 

1901 – on the 1901 census, Annie Mayall is living with her grandparents and her mother at 20 Cambridge Road, Blackpool, all of who were born in Oldham. Thomas aged 59 is listed as an agent for the British Workman’s Society: his wife is Ellen, aged 58. Annie’s mother, Eliza Ann, is listed as single, and aged 35. 

1911 – on the 1911 census returns, Clarence George Starkey is listed with his father, Benjamin (Jnr) aged 40, his mother, Charlotte (Lottie), and younger brother, Lancelot Malcolm Hereward, aged 3, along with Clarence George Starkey’s widowed grandfather, Benjamin (Snr) aged 83. The head of the household is William Tylar, aged 53, a factor of photographic goods who was born in New Bolingbrooke, Lincolnshire.

Benjamin (Snr) is listed as a retired railway guard who was born in Wishaw, and Benjamin (Jnr) who was born somewhere in Birmingham, was the clerk to William Tylar. Charlotte, aged 42, was born in Cheltenham, and it’s possible she was also working for William Tylar’s photographic shop.

Clarence George Starkey is aged 14 and is listed as a student at the property, 22 Westminster Road, Handsworth.

1911 – Annie Mayall, who later becomes wife to Clarence George Starkey, is listed on the census as living with her grandparents, Thomas and Ellen, and her mother, Eliza Ann, at 88 Granville Road, Blackpool, where she is an apprentice to a dressmaker.

1915-1920 - Clarence George Starkey served in the Royal Army Service Corps. On 16 September 1915 when he registered at Aldershot, Clarence George Starkey was living with his mother, Charlotte, at 20 Redcar Road, Blackpool. At the age of 26, Clarence George Starkey was 5 feet 9 5/8 inches tall, and had a chest measurement of 37 ½ inches. By the time he left the army, Clarence George Starkey had reached the rank of SQMS – which could be either Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant, or Staff Quartermaster Sergeant. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

14 February 1917 - Clarence George Starkey, a 20 year old soldier, marries Annie Mayall, aged 22, in Blackpool at the parish church. Clarence George Starkey’s father, Benjamin, is a clerk, and Annie’s father, Fred Mayall, is an insurance agent. At the time of the marriage, Clarence George Starkey is living at 22 Redcar Road, Blackpool, and Annie at 88 Granville Road, Blackpool.

1917-1922 - Clarence George Starkey and his wife Annie lived in Blackpool and Bournemouth

1918 or 1920 – birth of Norman Harold Starkey, son of Clarence George Starkey and his wife Annie (the records are quite confused)

1920 and 1921 – Clarence George Starkey appears on an electoral roll for Boscombe, with his father father Benjamin (Jnr), mother Charlotte, and William Tylar, at 11 Churchill Road, Boscombe, Dorset

2 February 1921 – birth of Georgina Matilda Llewellyn, third wife of Clarence George Starkey

11 March 1922 – at the age of 25, Clarence George Starkey travelled to New York on the Aquitania, part of the Cunard Line, from Southampton. At the time he was living at 24 Newcastle Avenue Blackpool. He apparently lived at Chicago for 10 years, where he owned a dance hall, where he conducted dance orchestras, and arranged numerous shows and other entertainment. He also broadcasted his piano-accordion playing. His wife and son followed him in 1923.

1923 – Norman Starkey appears on a transcript of a passenger list: his birth is listed as being in 1921

13 May 1932 - Clarence George Starkey, wife Annie, and son Norman returned from living in the US for 10 years. They travelled on the Olympic, part of the White Star line, and arrived in Southampton. Clarence is listed as a musician. They are coming to live at 32 Grosvenor Gardens, Boscombe, Hants.

1932 - 1935 – Clarence George Starkey is manager of the Regal cinema in Bradford. His approach to publicity was novel, for example, while at Bradford he introduced a musical interlude, selected from suggestions by cinema goers. If their suggestion was playing when they are in the cinema, they are offered a prize. Starkey also played his piano accordion on the stage, and organised a piano accordion band.

October 1935 – Clarence George Starkey is appointed manager of the Rialto cinema on Briggate, Leeds, succeeding John Briggs. The managing director at Leeds is John Lambert.

November 1935 – Roy S. Neill is appointed as assistant manager to Clarence George Starkey at Leeds. Neill had previously been at Harrogate.

July 1936 – Clarence George Starkey resigned from his position at Leeds – presumably he had a new role lined up!

October 1936 – it is reported that the licence for the Rialto cinema in Leeds is being transferred from Clarence George Starkey to Harry Carter.

21 November 1936 – the Loughborough Odeon on Baxter Gate opens with Clarence George Starkey as its first manager. Starkey was keen to provide Loughborough cinema goers with what they wanted, and hoped they would be so good as to let him know what this was.

January 1937 – while Clarence George Starkey was not at home, there was a chimney fire at his house on King Edward Road, which was luckily quickly reported to, and dealt with by the local fire brigade

March 1937 –  it is reported in a local newspaper, the Lancashire Evening Post, that Annie raised a divorce petition against her husband, Clarence George Starkey, citing Dorothy Martin, of Bolton Road, Bradford.

1938 – Clarence George Starkey married second wife, Dorothy Martin, who was born on 8 October 1916. They were married in the first quarter of the year, in Bradford.

April 1938 - Clarence George Starkey was fined £1 for speeding in Nuneaton. At the time, he was living at 6 Park Street, Loughborough

Mid-May 1938 – the ‘Leicester Evening Mail’ announced that Clarence George Starkey would be leaving Loughborough’s Odeon, to take charge of the new cinema in Halifax at the end of May. Despite this, he would return after a week’s holiday to supervise a baby parade!! The new manager would be Mr W. Putsman (2), who was coming from the Odeon cinema at Brierley Hill, where he was currently the manager.

30 May 1938 – the baby parade at Loughborough’s Odeon cinema, which Clarence George Starkey supervised, was attended by 105 babies! The event was connected to a film which was currently showing at the Odeon, entitled ‘Lovely to look at’, and it was this concept that was used as judging criteria.

January 1939 – a famous film star visits the Odeon cinema in Halifax, while Clarence George Starkey is manager. The film star is a young Anna Neagle, whose latest film, ‘Sixty glorious years’, was being shown at the Odeon, and had been seen by over 8,000 people in and around Halifax. Indeed, Clarence George Starkey arranged a special showing of the film for 80 members of the South African War Veterans’ Association. Anna Neagle was accompanied by the film’s producer, Mr Herbert Wilcox. Also visiting was Miss Mildred C. Marsden, the reigning Halifax wool Queen, and Mr T.W. Marsh, the president of the Halifax Chamber of Trade, was also in attendance. The party had travelled via Sheffield, from whence it had taken them 2 hours, because of the snow on the roads. 

30 April 1939 – when Clarence George Starkey was manager of the Odeon cinema in Halifax, he arranged a charity performance in aid of the Halifax Society for the Blind, the Royal Halifax Infirmary and the Cinematograph Trades Benevolent Fund. The film shown for the event was ‘The Hope of His Side’, and the event raised £65 4s. 10d.

June 1939 – it was announced that Clarence George Starkey was leaving the Odeon cinema in Halifax, and would be succeeded by Mr Walter Smith, a native of Bradford, who had worked in the film industry since 1910, including eight years as cinema manager at Bradford, Skipton and Peterborough.

July 1939 – it was reported that the Danilo cinema in Quinton, Birmingham was due to open in August 1939, and that Clarence George Starkey would be coming from Halifax to be the manager.

7 August 1939 – on this August bank holiday Monday, the Danilo cinema in Quinton, Birmingham opened. It is a building constructed almost exclusively from material manufactured in and around Birmingham – T. Elvins and Sons Ltd. were the building contractors; Proctor and Lavender Ltd. Of Solihull provided the bricks; Lazarus and Sons Ltd were responsible for billposting work; carpets were supplied by W.W. Turner and Co. Ltd. of Northfield; sanitary ware and ironmongery were supplied by Baldwins (Birmingham) Ltd.; and heating and ventilation was by Brightside Iron Foundry and Engineering Co. Ltd.. The opening shows were the latest Charlie Chan thriller, ‘Charlie Chan in Honolulu’, Jane Withers in ‘Always in trouble’, Patricia Morison in ‘Persons in hiding’ and James Mason in ‘I met a murderer’.  

September 1939 – Clarence George Starkey, is listed on the 1939 Register, as the general manager of a cinema and Theatre (probably the Danilo cinema in Quinton), involved in administration and publicity. He is living at 73 Halesowen Road, in the borough of Halesowen, but not sure where exactly, with second wife, Dorothy, formerly Martin.

September 1939 – Annie Starkey, formerly the wife of Clarence George Starkey, is listed on the 1939 register as living at 44 Falmouth Road, Blackpool. Of the other residents, Ralph Cardwell is a 38-year-old marine engineer, who is married to Ellen. Their daughter, Marion Cardwell, is aged 24, and working as a fancy goods assistant, the same occupation as is listed for Annie. The widowed Mrs E. Hartley is also a resident, as is Roy McBride a 7-year-old scholar.

September 1939 – on the 1939 register, Georgina Matilda Llewellyn, born 2 February 1921, is listed as living at 44 Lucas Road, Poole, in a house named Sunnyhurst. Also living there are Gertrude Llewellyn, listed as a housekeeper, born 17 July 1898 and Ernest Horrocks, a compositor born 26 April 1898. These two are both listed as married, but it’s not clear if they are married to each other. Georgina is a cinema usherette.

September 1939 – the 1939 register lists Benjamin (Jnr) living at 32 Grosvenor Gardens, Bournemouth, with wife Charlotte, and three domestic servants. He’s a canvasser. Benjamin was born 17 November 1870, Charlotte 26 February 1868.

1942 – Clarence George Starkey is manager of the Regal in Parkstone, Dorset, an Art Deco cinema that had been opened on 18 September 1935, showing ‘Peg of Old Drury’, a film that starred Anna Neagle. Clarence was living at 32 Grosvenor Gardens, Boscombe.

15 February 1942 – Norman Starkey, Clarence George and Annie’s son, was captured in Singapore during the Second World War. The POW record says that Norman was a resident at 44 Falmouth Road, Blackpool, which is where his mother, Annie was living in 1939. Norman had been educated in Chicago, and was well known as a baseball player in Leeds.

January 1943 – Clarence George Starkey marries Georgina Matilda Llewellyn in Poole.

1945 – Clarence George Starkey is manager of the Electric theatre, Bournemouth, which was built in 1921.

2 September 1945 – Norman Starkey is released from captivity in Singapore. When he is released he is listed as coming to live at 21 Vale Road, Parkstone

1954 – Clarence George Starkey is listed in the 'Kinematograph Year Book for 1954' as a member of the Hampshire and East Dorset Branch of the Kinematographic Society in 1954, as he is connected with the Bournemouth Electric cinema

24 June 1955 - Clarence George Starkey of Wisconsin, Durrant Road, Parkstone, Dorset, died at the Hospital in Christchurch, Hampshire on 24 June 1955. Probate was granted to his widow, Georgina Matilda Starkey on 27 January 1956. Effects were £3,524.

3 July 1956 – the death of a Benjamin Starkey, aged 85, is registered, at Summerfield Hospital, Winson Green Birmingham. The residential address given is 87 Poplar Road, Edgbaston. Probate is granted on 30 August 1956, to Thomas Leslie Evans and Frederick Ernest Padbury, solicitors clerks. Effects were £2234 8s. 7d.

July 2000 – death of Norman Harold Starkey, son of Clarence George and Annie Starkey, in Poole, at the age of 80

27 February 2010 – Georgina Matilda Starkey, third wife of Clarence George Starkey, died in Bournemouth.


(1) I would recommend searching either Wikipedia of IMDB for synopses of all the films mentioned in this blogpost, and for biographies of some of the actors.

(2) Putsman is variously spelled in the documentation consulted – Putsman and Puttsman – and is sometimes recorded with the initial W. and sometimes as Leonard.

 Posted by lynneaboutloughborough 18 April 2021

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