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Road named 'Wright Avenue' after former council chairman

By Jordan Reynolds | Newport | News | Published:

A town road has been named "Wright Avenue" in tribute to a former council chairman and cinema owner.

The late Ernest Wright moved to Newport in 1913 to work in a garage where he came across an old projector.

Mr Wright was given the projector as part of his pay. He then re-built it and started showing silent films across the district.

Soon afterwards he realised its popularity and opened the picture house in the Market Hall.

His brothers also opened cinemas in Wellington, Oakengates and Whitchurch.

In 1921 he took over the rest of the Market Hall, which included a garage with a large generator that supplied electricity for many of the shops in St Mary Street.

Mr Wright's granddaughter Marie Whitefoot, of Alton Grove, Newport, said that in 1919 Mr Wright was elected to Newport Urban District Council.

"He was immediately offered the chairmanship but declined, as he wanted to gain experience of public office," she said.

He became chairman in 1928 and remained in that position until his death in 1932.

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Mrs Whitefoot, 61, added: "In his obituary it says that as both a councillor and chairman he rendered 'magnificent service' to the town.

"He 'profusely gave his time' to accomplish what he believed to be in the best interests of the town. What stood out 'par excellence' was his service on the Town Improvement Committee.

"He did not believe that 'men should live in hovels' and set his heart on erecting houses 'suitable to the means and purpose of the working man and self respecting citizens'."

Mr Wright was also on various other committees including the bowling club, the town band, the Newport Outing Club, the literary institute, the Sir John Leigh Lodge, the British Legion, the Ambulance Society, the War Pensions Committee, the Hospital Committee and the Newport Board of Guardians.

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"He was also an accomplished cyclist, being one of the finest riders in the Midlands, winning many prizes – no doubt he would have thoroughly approved of the Newport Nocturne," Mrs Whitefoot added.

"He was highly unselfish in his public life and of an extremely generous disposition. This was demonstrated for example by giving free entry to the picture house to inmates of the Poor Law Institution and during the war to the wives and children of soldiers on active service.

"He also privately gave assistance to people in unfortunate circumstances and had a 'heart full of sympathy for the underdog', according to his obituary."

He fathered 11 children and his sons continued to run Newport Picture House after his death.

Mrs Whitefoot said: "It was an extremely popular and historically significant attraction in Newport until it closed in 1962.

The street which has taken Mr Wright's name is home to a new housing development.

She added that the family were thrilled to see the street named after her grandfather.

She said: "I feel very proud and pleased, I've been trying to get this to happen for quite some years as my grandfather and his family were so important to the community.

"We're really really proud that it's finally happened. I feel very strongly that when new developments come in the area it's important that local history is recognised in some way, it's good that the names reflect the history."

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Reporter for the Shropshire Star covering Shrewsbury and the surrounding areas.

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