On this Day 6th December 1909

Our Perfect Little Fairyland in Penzance

Front page advertisement for the new rink from the Cornishman of 9th December 1909 (courtesy of the Cornish Studies Library)Rinking: it’s already sweeping the nation, and now it can sweep Penzance. A few chaps have been busy, and now the old West of England Knitting Company in New Street has been transformed into “the People’s Palace”.

In charge? Go-ahead young Robert Thomas. That’s a name I’d advise all Penzance folk to remember. He’s a young man with big plans, go-ahead ideas and a vision for the future. Thanks to him and his friends, Penzance is “following in the footsteps of other progressive towns”.

Criddle and Smith have done a cracking job of the décor, with “Chinese matting” and “bamboo panelling” providing an exotic, oriental theme. Look up to the ceiling and you will see 280 electric bulbs; look down again and you cannot fail to notice the “brilliantly illuminated electric orchestra”. Just imagine how the place will look by night! The orchestra is absolutely the latest thing, with 35 different “mechanical players”: organ, piano, mandolin – everything you could wish.

The new craze - “as much a national pastime… as cricket and football” – is highly recommended to all. It is jolly and vigorous. “Everyone can participate” – all you need to do is put on the special boots with rollers, which are of course provided, and off you go.

Cutting a dash in 1910 with pedal-powered skates. They look absolutely lethal to me! (image courtesy of Wikimedia)The confident, agile and practised can head straight off round the specially-laid floor; but what of their more timid cousins? Should you fall into this latter camp, never fear – the less practised can, to begin with, take advantage of the “massive brass rail” thoughtfully provided all around the edge. From there, you can learn from the example of “their more venturesome friends rinking it merrily”. And once ready to set forth, initially you need only traverse the short distance to the nearest pillar, or perhaps request the help of one of our “capable staff instructors and instructresses”, who will be only too pleased to help you find your “rinking legs”.

And should you grow tired of skating, or perhaps prefer to leave its pleasures to the younger set, what could be more appealing than the concert hall upstairs? It can seat 300, and the décor here is a cool and tasteful blue. There will be concerts and “electric pictures” every night, and a complete change of programme twice weekly.

Those who crave technical detail will be astounded by the facts and figures. Six or seven miles of wire have been installed to power the lights and other electrical devices. The generator delivers 30 horsepower. There is a special switchboard to control the effects, and the whole effort – the whole magic of light, sound and pictures - has been installed by the men from the Union Hotel engine room.

Out of chaos”, as the Mayor so rightly said in his speech at today’s opening, has grown “a perfect little fairyland”.

Cornish Telegraph, 9th December 1909, page 4; Cornishman, 9th December 1909, page 5 (identical reports).

Advertisement: Cornishman, 9th December 1909, page 1

The rink was built without planning permission and, despite the mayoral approval, was deemed unsafe and had to be modified in 1910. Notwithstanding the improvements, it burnt down in a disastrous fire in April 1914, taking with it the adjacent laundry - which was rebuilt and took over the whole site.

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Penwith Local History Group
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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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Sally Corbet

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