Ambassador Super Cinema

397 Langworthy Road,
Salford, M6 7AH

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Ambassador cinema, Salford 6

Located on Langworthy Road, just to the north of Eccles Old Road in the Pendleton district of Salford, Greater Manchester. The Ambassador Super Cinema was a ground-breaking concept that redefined entertainment in its era. It introduced the concept of ‘Super Cinema’, to the Northwest, which went beyond the traditional film screenings, offering live theatre. orchestral concerts and variety shows along with movies. This innovative idea was ahead of its time and reflected the owners vision for long-term success. The Ambassador Circuit, foreseeing the potential evolution of the film industry, aimed to future-proof their establishment. The Ambassador Super Cinema became the first purpose-built cine-variety theatre constructed outside London.

Designed in 1928 by the prolific cinema architect John Knight, the Ambassador Super Cinema embodied the Art Deco style in its most elegant form, It was the pinnacle of Knight’s cinematic architectural achievements and, until its unfortunate demise, was the last standing testament to his prolific work in the Northwest of England.

Work on the foundations began with a tragic incident on Saturday 22nd October 1927. The construction site, which was once an old cinder tip, held unforeseen dangers for the labourers digging the foundation shafts. Although the builder, Gerrard & Sons of Swinton, were aware of the site’s history, they seemed unaware of the potential risk involved. Two workers, John Gannon (31) and John Gregg (31), tragically lost their lives in the accident. John Gannon succumbed to the fumes in the 25ft deep shaft, rendering him unconscious. When John Gregg noticed his unconscious colleague at the bottom of the shaft, he bravely descended to rescue him and he fell victim to the toxic gas. Both me were recovered from the shaft, with John Gregg found to be cradling his friend in his arms. The proceeds from the opening gala night of the Ambassador Super Cinema were given to the dependents of both men, even though the owners were not legally obligated to do so.

In July 1928, an accident during the construction of the building resulted in about £4,000 worth of damage when a steel hawser snapped, causing a falling girder to collide with three other girders and knock down part of the exterior wall. As a result, the planned early December opening was delayed allowing for the fabrication of new girders to replace the damaged ones.

The Facade of the Ambassador Super Cinema featured a Greek inspired style with Modernist elements, embellished in intricate Terra Cotta details. The main entrance had three double-height metal framed windows with margin lights, set withing a proscenium-like recess, reflecting the purpose of the building. The facade was robustly symmetrical, flanked by Italianate-style towers, adorned with Art Deco style fern moulding at the cornice level and a rusticated base.

The auditorium of the Ambassador Super Cinema was meticulously designed to provide unobstructed views of the proscenium and orchestra from every seats. It featured simple, yet effective decor, including ivory-tinted walls with glass tile dadoes. Heraldic-style winged Norse helmets and draped shields adorned the frieze, while ornate brass grilles in the Italian style decorated the organ chambers. Italianate style lights hung in front of each organ chamber, along with a grand chandelier in the same style at the centre of the auditorium ceiling. The 16ft deep stage included a 40ft wide proscenium and there were six dressing rooms, The orchestra pit contained a Jardine ‘Rex Gloria’ 3 manual organ. Remarkably, the auditorium closely resembled the auditorium of the Kingsway Super Cinema, also designed by John Knight at the same time.

The Ambassador Super Cinema was opened on December 24th 1928 by Mayor Councilor A.H. Collins and it marked a peak in luxury in Salford, comparable to the finest in Manchester. It truly earned the title ‘Picture Palace’ with its marble staircases, lavish fixtures, ornate decor, and deep pile carpeting, offering an escape from the mundane. The inaugural programme featured two films: “Vaudeville” with Emil Jannings & Lya De Putti & “Enemies of Society” with Conway Teal & Margaret Morris. The programme was complemented by musical performances from John Hughes, Madam Edna Melling and the Ambassador Orchestra conducted by Mr. Arthur L. Ward. In addition to film screenings. variety shows, local Amateur Dramatics Society productions, and charity concerts became regular fixtures at the Ambassador Super Cinema. For instance, in response to the Prince of Wales’s appeal for the Minors Relief Fund, the Pendleton Brass Band played at an event, raising £72 (equivalent to £5,640.77 today). The cinema also had an elegantly appointed cafe which was a versatile venue. It hosted various events, including wedding receptions, whist drives, social gatherings, cabaret performances and dances.

In March 1930, a remarkable event took place in the cinema when a Gaumont British News crew filmed a charity performance of the Manchester University Jazz group named the Varsity Vamps. Patrons had the extraordinary opportunity to witness the making of a talking picture in a silent film theatre, a pioneering moment in British cinema history.

The cinema ownership changed in 1933 with the sudden death of the Ambassador Circuit chairman, Fred Reed. At that time, the circuit owned nine cinemas, six of which were the new ‘Super Cinema’ type, and they had ambitious expansion plans. Following the passing of Fred Reed, the business was renamed the Snape & Ward Circuit. Interestingly, John Maxwell, the Chairman of rival Associated British Cinemas(ABC), joined the board as a non-executive director after acquiring the shares of Fred Read, however, the Snape & Ward circuit remained independent and was not acquired by the mighty ABC circuit.

During World War II on 22nd December 1940, a German landmine exploded in Castleway, situated behind the cinema. The explosion didn’t cause extensive structural damage, the sole casualty being the Jardine ‘Rex Gloria’ cinema organ, which sustained substantial damage from falling debris. The organ was eventually dismantled for scrap after the war, in 1951. By 1956 the board changed again with the death of Alfred Snape and the subsequent departure of Harold Ward left Alfred’s son Brian Snape, who had entered the business some years before, took charge and the circuit was renamed G.B. Snape Group.

After World War II and into the 1950’s cinema attendances started to drop and this was accelerated with the advent of TV and more competition vying for people’s time and money. The Ambassador Cinema started Sunday bingo sessions in 1961. This was not enough to halt the decline in profitability and so on 28th November 1964, the final film was screened at the Ambassador Cinema: the Alfred Hitchcock thriller “Marnie” starring Tippi Hedren & Sean Connery.

The cinema was sold to Mecca Leisure Ltd. and was transformed into a full-time casino bingo club. It was rather fitting that actress Violet Carson, a TV soap star known for her role as Ena Sharples in the long-running “Coronation Street” soap opera, and she was also an accomplished pianist and singer, was invited to inaugurate the refurbished former cinema as the Ambassador Mecca Casino and Bingo Hall in April 1965. This choice held special significance because a young Violet had performed in the Ambassador Symphony Orchestra on the opening night of the Ambassador Super Cinema on Christmas Eve in 1928. The Ambassador would continue as a bingo hall until 1995 when the combination of a decline in customers with bingo being seen as an old person’s activity and the opening of a new purpose-built bingo and social club nearby and was close to the retail centre of Pendleton spelled the end of the bingo operation at the Ambassador.

The building lay vacant for the following six years until approximately 2001 when it caught the attention of the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport(DCMS), which spot-listed it as a Grade II Listed building of architectural merit. Mecca, the owners of the building contested this listing and enlisted a legal team to advocate for its removal from the list, paving the way for a potential sale to a housing developer. In response to this threat, a local group known as the Ambassador Project emerged, spearheaded by two dedicated local women, Cath Connett & Mary Ferrer, who, alongside other community members, launched a vigorous campaign to transform the former cinema into a vibrant cultural and creative media centre. Despite their passionate efforts, the campaign to preserve the Ambassador Cinema ultimately prove unsuccessful. The building was controversially de-listed based on a report by English Heritage, which critic viewed as London centric and snobbish. English Heritage supported Mecca’s request for de-listing, contending that the reversable alterations carried out by Mecca in 1992 had substantially changed the building, making it ineligible for listing. Additionally, in the ultimate insult, English Heritage questioned the architectural significance of John Knight, the architect of the building, stating that he did not merit notable recognition. “An architect not of major repute, either in a provincial or national context” English Heritage.

Following the controversial de-listing, the historic Ambassador Super Cinema, the last surviving example of architect John Knight’s cinema designs, was unfortunately demolished in 2004, marking the end of an era for this remarkable structure. In its place, a less inspiring residential development of a block of flats ironically named “Cinema House” emerged.

Contributed by Steve Lynch

Recent comments (view all 45 comments)

adtv on September 19, 2004 at 5:26 pm

I dont have any unfortunately.


Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 11, 2005 at 12:09 pm

According to the developers, this building had ‘little architectural merit’! I wonder if future generations will say the same about what has been built on the site!

This is what was lost…..

….and that’s just the outside!

May all concerned in this wanton destruction of our Heritage, hang their heads in shame.

ormus on January 10, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Ive been driving past this building for about 40 yrs now. Fantastic building. What a great shame its now just another mini housing project.
We simply cant demolish glorious buildings like this, time and time again.
Salford council should resign, en mass.

Ian on May 29, 2007 at 5:56 am

A couple more pictures taken just prior to demilition here:–

View link

View link

ODEONesque on July 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

As per usual listing status means nothing when money talks.

Mr_BTH on April 26, 2015 at 3:18 am

The Ambassador was a lovley cinema. My farther was the sound engineer so we would go there once a month. I used to work with one of the projectionist, a man called Don Collier. In 1982 a freind and I removed the 2 BTH SUPA projectors. I rebiult them and used them in my home cinema.

UKmender on November 21, 2020 at 8:21 am

Interesting, Mr_BTH. I also used to work with Don Collier and assisted him at The Trocadero and The Imperial. His day job was running my local fish & chip shop on Cavendish Street, Ordsall, along with his wife and kids. He it was who told me that, as Snapes were closing houses, or converting them to Bingo, The Ambassador, or simply The Ambass, as it was known in-house, was used to store all the projecting equipment removed from elsewhere. There were supposed to be row upon row of the ‘Big Guns.’

Stephen Lynch
Stephen Lynch on August 20, 2023 at 6:49 pm

Having a rummage through my old “Ambassador Project” files from when we tried to save the Ambassador Cinema on Langworthy Road and found the facsimile we did from the original December 1928 opening night souvenir programme for The Ambassador Super Cinema, so I thought I might share an upgraded version of it on here. (Best viewed on a tablet or desktop)

Stephen Lynch
Stephen Lynch on September 17, 2023 at 7:41 am

I was part of the Ambassador Project group that tried very hard to save the Ambassador from the developer’s bulldozers there is a webpage all about the Ambassador the architect and the original owners

Stephen Lynch
Stephen Lynch on November 21, 2023 at 5:25 pm

For all the History of Salford’s Art Deco Gem & the people involved head to

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