None But The Brave was the last film shown at the Ritz in Stroud - and none but the brave could have fought the inferno which destroyed the cinema shortly afterwards.

So wrote one of my predecessors at the Stroud News & Journal in the edition that followed the burning down of the Ritz cinema in the summer of 1961.

That newspaper clipping and more were given to me by the Stroud Local History Society last week when I went to go see their summer exhibition.

Its prime focus: Stroud in the 1960s, brought to life with displays on, for instance, the Beatles’ visit to the Subscription Rooms before their rise to fame.

The whole exhibition was fantastic and a testament to the Society’s hard work, more of which can be seen on its website:

But back to the Ritz: “The 60s were an age of demolition, with very little control over saying what should have been saved,” according to Lionel Walrond, who used to curate Stroud Museum.

He probably did not have the Ritz specifically in mind when he wrote that in his memories of the decade, but the cinema’s rapid incineration - it took just an hour - must have added to his sense of dramatic change for the town.

The cinema opened on August 26, 1939 on the site of the old George Tap, now roughly where Home Bargains is in Merrywalks Shopping Centre.

But celebrations for the new entertainment venue were quickly overshadowed by the outbreak of World War Two only eight days later.

Nonetheless, the cinema proved a boon to Stroud’s film-loving public during the blackout period.

Among those offering their “deep and sincere regrets” to Mr Waters, the cinema’s owner, over two decades later was the Stroud War-time Entertainment Committee in a letter to the SNJ on behalf of troops and evacuees.

Disaster struck the cinema at around 10pm on the Friday, June 30, described at the time as a “beautiful mid-summer night” - moonlight from the cloudless sky was later lost in a “brilliant orange glow” from the flames.

It appears the fire started in the roof of the cinema - the SNJ suggests the culprit was an overheated electric motor operating an extractor fan.

In fact, before fire services were eventually alerted by two inspectors at the nearby bus station who had spotted smoke, people attending the last showing at the Ritz smelt burning towards the end of the programme.

It was not until 10.19pm - ten minutes after Mr Waters locked up the Ritz with just the cinema’s kitten, Tiger, left inside - that firefighters made their way to the scene.

And what they found: “great spurts of flame spouting in unimaginable fury,” according to the SNJ.

Residents - mostly teenagers - soon gathered to watch the spectacle.

Included in the crowd was Sid Griffith, who had just landed the job of chief projectionist at the cinema.

“I thought: Oh no, don’t say I’ve been burnt out of a job after such a short time,” he later recollected.

Despite the drama, the fire was successfully contained, with no lives lost or serious injuries.

And yes, that even includes Tiger, who was found hiding in the ruins of the cinema’s toilets the next day.