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inaugurated. Westgarth is a small area in the south          had studied actuarial work, been connected with
          of Northcote, most recognisable for its predomi-             various insurance companies for ten years and
          nantly  Victorian shopping streetscape on High              worked for a trustee company prior to becoming an
          Street in which the Westgarth Theatre is situated.           estate agent.
          Westgarth is named after a revered English mer-                 In 1924 Yeomans was appointed Secretary to
          chant, William Westgarth, who derived an enor-                the Melbourne Cinema  Alliance. Mr George
          mous profit from 45 acres of land he had                      Giffiths, the managing director of Hoyts
          acquired in 1845 on the Brunswick side of Merri            Proprietary Ltd, was President.  The Melbourne
          Creek.                                                     Cinema  Alliance allowed a group of twenty-three
                                                                     cinemas to buy films in bulk without obligating any
          The Westgarth Picture Theatre                              of its members to screen the acquired product. The
          As early as 24 October 1920, the Board of Public           cinemas involved in the alliance were as follows:
          Health had stipulated its requirements for the new
          Westgarth Picture Theatre. The builder was 26 year  Hoyts De Luxe Bourke Street  New Ivanhoe Theatre
          old John Seccull of Barry Street Northcote. His son, Mr  Hoyts Gaiety Bourke Street  Westgarth Theatre
          Malcolm Seccull, recalled that to that date the Westgarth  Hoyts Camberwell      Star Theatre Preston
          Theatre was the biggest building project the Seccull firm had  Hoyts Canterbury  Ormond Theatre
          undertaken. Subsequently, Secculls would become known for  Hoyts Elsternwick (later the Renown) Glenhuntly Theatre
          building the Royal Melbourne Hospital.              Hoyts Essendon               Oakleigh Theatre
            The local community could take some pride in the emerging  Hoyts Richmond      New Ascot Vale Theatre
          Westgarth Theatre — not only was its creator a local, but  Hoyts Albert Park     Broadway Theatre Elwood
          the project in its entirety was financed locally to the tune of  Eclipse Pictures Port Melbourne  Sunbury Theatre
          £20 000. Directors of the new theatre were S Dennis  Waratah Theatre Ascot Vale  Glenferrie Theatre
          (Chairman), A Shands, W Horan and F Yeomans. Mr E C  Solway Theatre Fitzroy      Tooronga Theatre (not built)
          Yeomans was appointed Secretary and Manager. Sam Dennis  Clifton Theatre Clifton Hill
          was a well-known Councillor who later became MHR of
          Batman (1931-34). Arthur Shands was a local tailor whose  In 1924 “Son” Yeomans had a direct association with two
          shop at 88 High Street Northcote was situated almost directly  of the Alliance cinemas: Westgarth and the Broadway Elwood.
          opposite the Westgarth Theatre. Bill Horan would later acquire  Of the twenty-three cinemas that formed the Melbourne
          an interest in the Vogue Theatre Hawthorn and become lessee  Cinema  Alliance, it is remarkable that only the  Westgarth
          of the Glenferrie Cinema.                           Theatre remains open today. In 1939 Mr Yeomans was elected
            It is intriguing to note that no architect was employed in  President of the Victorian Independent Exhibitors Association.
          building the Westgarth Theatre. M E C ‘Son’ Yeomans told  The site of the new Westgarth Theatre measured 70 x 150
          Everyones in 1924 that another director and himself had  feet. The imposing facade is representative of a post World
          supervised the whole project without the services of an archi-  War 1 eclectic Free Classical architectural style, based on a
          tect. According to Mr Yeomans, the project cost £30 000, not  Renaissance Palazzo with three distinctive horizontal sections
          £20 000 as reported by the Northcote Leader in 1921. In fair-  — a street level base, the main central section and a parapet.
          ness to the Leader, it may well have relied on the theatre man-  The central part of the facade features arched, leadlight win-
          agement’s own best estimate at the time. Westgarth Theatre  dows above square windows. Flanking these are upper and
          employee of the 1920s, Mr Jack Nicholls, believes the cost  lower windows with a large, decorative section between them.
          was £27 000.                                        A small, rendered balconette with recesses formed to repre-
            The Yeomans family name will be familiar to those con-  sent balustrades has been placed at the base of each lower win-
          versant with the history of theatres such as The
          Grand Footscray and The Sun Yarraville which
          were operated by Yeomans. By the late 1930s,
          the family had shares in The Vogue Hawthorn,
          The Cambden Caulfield, The Broadway
          Elwood and the Glenferrie cinema. The Plaza
          Chelsea also came under the Yeomans banner.
          Eric Charles  Yeomans had been a land and
          estate agent at the nearby 70 High Street
          Northcote prior to the opening of the Westgarth
          Theatre. Born at Northcote in 1883. Yeomans

                                    Above and left:
                The entrance foyer of the Westgarth
              theatre abounds with fine architectural
                    detail: leadlight ceiling lighting,
           geometric decorative plaster work – some
             incorporating small sections of coloured
                  backlit glass, and a staircase with
              distinctive pillars and iron balustrading.
                           Photos: Adrian Maiolla.

                                                                               CINEMARECORD Autumn 2001 11
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