Campbeltown Picture House archives get national treasure status

The Picture House's line-up of films being shown in 1960.
The Picture House's line-up of films being shown in 1960.
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A treasure trove from the archives of Scotland’s long-running cinema has been secured for the nation.


Artefacts kept by the Campbeltown Picture House dating back more than a century have been donated to the National Library of Scotland.

The Picture House's archives recall its early days under founding managing director Frederick Rendell Burnette.

The Picture House's archives recall its early days under founding managing director Frederick Rendell Burnette.

The gift has been revealed ahead of the cinema’s forthcoming reopening within the next few weeks after a £3.5 million makeover.

Architectural drawings for the 1913 building, which was designed by architect Albert Gardner, in the Glasgow School of Art Nouvea style, are among the objects donated.

They include a wealth of material relating to the Picture House’s first managing director, Frederick Rendell Burnette, a former painter, musician, actor, mind-reader and conjurer who led the creation of Scotland’s earliest cinemas.

The archive, which includes details of contributions made by the Picture House’s 40 original shareholders, provides a rare insight into the early days of cinema-going in Scotland.

The 1922 version of Rob Roy was one of the earliest films to be show at the Picture House.

The 1922 version of Rob Roy was one of the earliest films to be show at the Picture House.

Other items include newspaper cuttings heralding the opening of the cinema, early advertisements for film showings, a receipt for the sale of the Picture House’s piano after the silent film era drew to a close in 1933 and details of an accident involving a plane carrying reels of film for the cinema.

One of Scotland’s first purpose-built cinemas, it was closed in 2014, just over a year after marking its centenary while fundraising efforts were still underway to make way for a long-awaited overhaul.

Work on a project to restore the main auditorium, create a second new screen and cafe-bar, and restore its historic facade began last year after funding was secured from Historic Environment Scotland, Creative Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Ruth Washbrook, the National Library’s moving image and sound collections manager, said: “Campbeltown Picture House occupies a very special place in the history of cinema in Scotland which makes its archive all the more important. The archive will enrich our collections and add to the knowledge we hold about cinema in Scotland.”

Campbeltown Picture House is due to reopen later this year after a 3.5m makeover.

Campbeltown Picture House is due to reopen later this year after a 3.5m makeover.

Jane Mayo, chair of Campbeltown Community Business, which is leading the restoration, said: “We’re delighted our precious archive will become part of the national collection so that future generations can be inspired by the story of an isolated community determined to bring the latest technologies to their town.”