Knightstone’s past explored in poignant new book

PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 July 2015

Knightstone theatre, pictured by Leslie G Sandys during an early 1960s Gaytime season.

Knightstone theatre, pictured by Leslie G Sandys during an early 1960s Gaytime season.


THE colourful history of a once-beloved Weston theatre has been explored in a ‘joyous and well-illustrated’ new book.

Former journalist Jonathan Shorey has spent much of the past two years immersed in researching Knightstone: The Story Of Weston-super-Mare’s ‘Island’ Theatre.

The fruit of that research has now been published, and serves as ‘a poignant and lasting reminder of summer holidays, Christmas pantos and autumn evenings spent shivering in England’s best-ventilated seafront theatre’.

The book recalls how Knightstone Pavilion And Opera House was opened amid great fanfare in 1902, and lovingly charts the 2,000-seat venue’s decades at the forefront of the town’s theatre industry.

It revisits long-forgotten shows and unearths bygone pictures and memories, including some shared by the likes of Weston-born comedian John Cleese, who fondly recalls regular family visits and the fact that ‘we always went to the pantomime’.

Performances by famous showbusiness names like Norman Wisdom, Ken Dodd, Morecambe and Wise, Max Miller, Oswald Mosley and Diana Fluck (later Diana Dors), plus the occasional royal visit, are all recalled in vivid detail.

Some 60 years of local opera, great impressarios and top-class variety are shared too, before attention turns to Knightstone’s inevitable sorry decline.

BBC televsion reached Weston in 1952, and ITV six years later. The two combined to sound the death knell for variety theatre.

While that meant the writing was on the wall for Knightstone, Mr Shorney writes that the venue’s decline was ‘complex and bitter – intimately hitched both to changing tastes and civic hand-wringing over the future of Weston as a resort, and the resources available to maintain and adapt an ageing building’.

As many Westonians will know, Knighstone was closed by 1991, and reborn in 2007 (after what Mr Shorney describes as ‘endless false starts’) as 26 flats and a café.

Although Mr Shorney is a Bristolian, his father Fred was born in Weston 100 years ago, while his great-great-uncle Jesse Shorney was one of Weston’s Victorian town commissioners, and his knowledge of – and passion for – Weston’s former theatre shines throughout.

Jonathan Shorney’s Knightstone (ISBN 978-1-908326-72-0) is published by Redcliffe Press and is available from Knightstone Island’s Stones Café, priced at £12.99.

More from Weston Mercury

58 minutes ago

The collected 30 something’s were partying like it was 2002 at Bristol’s SWX on Friday as post punk rockers A returned to Bristol to play the whole of their seminal album Hi-Fi Serious.

Read more

Venture into the wizarding world with the latest remake of one of J K Rowling’s books.

Read more

A woman who has vowed to complete 40 outdoor swims in her 40th year is just three challenges away from hitting her target.

Read more

More than £200,000 has been spent by North Somerset Council on redundancy payments in 18 months.

Read more

The plan to join up a walking and cycling route from Brean to Clevedon has moved a step closer.

Read more
Yesterday, 17:37

Homemade crafts and items were sold in aid of one of Weston’s best-loved sites.

Read more
Yesterday, 17:00

A determined Weston woman has completed a gruelling seven-month swimming challenge to raise money for Weston Hospicecare in memory of her partner’s mum.

Read more
Weston Hospicecare Weston-super-Mare
Yesterday, 16:00

The fun and fervour of this year’s carnival may only just have begun to die down, but 50 years ago attention focussed on bringing the event back to Weston’s streets.

Read more
Yesterday, 15:00

Entries are still being taken for this year’s Turip Prize.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:00

One of the hottest rising talents on the British music scene will be performing at a gig in Bristol in 2019.

Read more

Most Read News

Read Online

Read the Weston Worle and Somerset Mercury e-edition E-edition

Local Weather



max temp: 10°C

min temp: 4°C

Useful Links

Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Subscribe to the paper
Send Your Letters
Order Photos
Family notices
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Newsletter Sign Up

Weston Mercury twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Show Job Lists