Updated: Nov 17, 2020
Owned by local entrepreneur Micky Burns, one of Carluke’s most well-known buildings, The Windsor Cinema, was officially opened at 3pm on Christmas Day 1937 by County Councillor William Grossart, JP. It replaced Burns’s earlier cinema, The Alhambra, which had been destroyed in a fire on 8th January 1936.
Known all over for its unique style, the Windsor’s architect was Mr. J.H. Fraser Stewart, a native of Lanark. The Hamilton Advertiser, in true journalistic style, stated that ‘the seventh wonder of the world is in danger of losing its place’. The exterior was described as a Moorish fortress with defensive walls, battlements and a gatehouse topped by one of the glazed domes from the Winter Garden on the Cunard liner ‘Mauretania’. The acoustics were described as perfect, possibly the result of the ceiling’s unusual triangular shape, and it had a seating capacity of 1518.
The unusual bricks came from near the Shawlands Roadhouse (now The Radstone Hotel) near Larkhall. Micky had demolished a brickworks and its kilns, and he used his lorry, driven by his son Victor, to transport the bricks to Carluke. The local firm of Bryce & Symington did the brickbuilding. William Russell was the roughcaster while the foreman joiner was Mr Smith from the company store at Castlehill but much of the work in building and decorating the Windsor was done by the Burns family themselves.
At the opening ceremony both Mr. Grossart & Mr. Fraser Stewart, the architect, were presented with a gold pen & pencil in a case and a Data clock by Miss Dorothy Ann Josephine Burns, Micky’s daughter.
Following the opening ceremony, there was a programme of specially selected shorts, including the King’s Speech. King George VI’s voice was thus the first voice to come from the Windsor stage. This was done at the suggestion of Captain Houldsworth of Coltness House, Wishaw.
The ceremonies over, the Windsor’s doors officially opened to the public at 6pm with the first film showing at 6.15pm. It was ‘Elephant Boy’ starring Sabu, the Indian boy actor. Mr. ‘Buff’ Prentice, the doorman, wore a turban to add to the excitement.
Throughout its time as a cinema, the posters, photo stills and times for the daily shows were displayed in the special cases at the cinema entrance.
Managed by Micky’s son Emmet, the Windsor provided employment for several local people. Numbered among the usherettes, who wore smart blue and gold uniforms with pillbox hats, were Elizabeth Devine, Nancy Muncie, Betty Fisher and Effie Anderson while Jimmy Muncie and George Fordyce held the roles of ice cream boys.
By 1940 the Windsor’s proprietor was no longer Micky Burns but instead the Gourock Picture Houses Company.
It continued to operate as a cinema until 25th June 1960, the last films being ‘Cinderella’ supported by ‘Treasure Island’. Mr. T.S. Paterson, the manager, gave the reason as falling attendances. Over the previous two years audience figures had dropped by 50% especially in the final three months. With the cinema’s closure 18 people lost their jobs.
While its life as a cinema was now over, the Windsor continued to play a role in Carluke’s entertainment scene as a Variety Theatre. By 1961 it had been taken over by M & F Productions (McMillan & Findlay) and they were running variety shows, concerts and talent contests there as well as bingo sessions. Among those appearing on its stage were Jack Milroy, one of Scotland’s well-known comedians, and the Alexander Brothers, two Cambusnethan lads who went on to become known across the world for their renditions of many Scottish songs.
Sadly, this iconic building in Carluke was demolished in 1988, over 30 years ago. It does, however, remain alive in the minds and hearts of the people who were either customers or employee