From silent movies to your TV screen

Kevin McCloud on Grand Designs.  PA Photo/Channel 4
Kevin McCloud on Grand Designs. PA Photo/Channel 4

It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride for the Doncaster family who have just moved into an old cinema.

And all the drama of their blockbuster project will be coming to your television screen tomorrow when the nailbiting conversion features in the first episode of the new series of Grand Designs on Channel 4.

Kevin McCloud with Katie and Gwyn ap Harri on Grand Designs.  PA Photo/Channel 4

Kevin McCloud with Katie and Gwyn ap Harri on Grand Designs. PA Photo/Channel 4

Gwyn and Kate ap Harri have converted the derelict 1920s cinema in Fieldside, Thorne, into the stunning family home of their dreams.

Despite having no building experience, facing spiralling budgets, the stress of dealing with red tape – as well as bringing up two young sons – the couple have managed to breathe new life into the old building, latterly known as Merlin’s nightclub.

The story started in January 2011 when they spotted The Old Kensington Picture House not far from where they were living in Queen Street.

Initially they wanted to build a new house with a garden big enough for their two growing sons, Jac, aged nine, and Dylan, six.

Although Doncaster Council planning officers wanted the facade of the historic building preserved, they said the couple could have free rein over the rest of the building.

Gwyn, who runs a software company for schools, said: “We noticed that the old abandoned nightclub was up for sale, and we enquired into the possibility of knocking it down and building a nice family home on the plot.

“It’s been a long process and it’ll be really nice to see it on TV. The crew came 10 to 15 times and Kevin about half of those.

“He is a really nice guy – a normal person, not a prima donna – and we had a right laugh with him.”

They bought the building for £90,000 and set themselves a budget of £350,000 and went £100,000 over that.

One of the striking features is a large folding glass canopy door opening over the back garden, manufactured by a company that normally makes them for aircraft hangars.

Gwyn runs a successful software company and could have moved anywhere, but chose to stay in Thorne because he loves the area and believes in its potential.

Kevin says tomorrow’s episode isn’t just about the house, but ‘about Thorne, the town and regeneration, the cinema and the process’.

Old picture house dates back to the General Strike

Thorne’s first cinema was built in 1912 but the building converted by the ap Harris was started in 1926 and completed the following year.

The new Kensington had seats for 1,000 movie-goers and remained open as a cinema until 1967, latterly renamed the Ritz by the owners, Star Associated Holdings.

The last film was shown in September 1967.

Long-serving manager John Austin had retired in January 1967.

He had previously been assistant manager at the Carlton in Goole and married one of the usherettes before moving to Thorne.

The Thorne cinema was then converted into a bingo hall.

What do you think? - Have you transformed an unusual building into your home?