Opened in 1890, the Grand Hall Olympia, in London, was the largest roller skating rink ever constructed with a skating area measuring 68,000 square feet.
An assortment of rinks had opened many years before this but by now “Rinkomania” was firmly established and roller rinks began to open further afield as this new “fad” radiated outward from the capital.
Skating equipment was advertised for children as well as adults, and the rinks became a new opportunity for men and women to socialize.
By March 1909 Ipswich had its first rink, “The Palace”, and in much the same way as multiple buses arrive at the same time, just four months later a second, “The Empress”, had opened for business.
“The Palace” was built in just 19 days on the site of the Old Provision Market in Falcon Street. It had a Maplewood “skating” floor measuring 140 x 50 feet and was illuminated by fourteen large gas lamps.
“The Empress”, on the corner of Portman Road and Portman Walk (the area now occupied by the car park behind the Sir Bobby Robson Stand) was a much grander affair and boasted an orchestra, tea-rooms and a pleasure garden.
Despite initially impressive attendance figures – opening night at “The Empress” had attracted 3,000 visitors – by 1920 “The Palace” had closed and I assume, “The Empress” was gone soon after.
Addendum June 14:
After reading this post my good lady was at pains to point out the popularity of roller skating in the USA that ran in tandem with its success in England and continued long after it.
As a pre-teen, my wife, along with her friends, was a regular visitor to the Riverview Roller Rink, Chicago.
She, incidentally, owned a pair of “Chicago” roller skates (virtually identical to those shown in the gallery) and was impressed to learn that their manufacturers are still in business today.
The Riverview Roller Rink had first opened in 1904 and enjoyed a run of sixty plus years before burning to the ground in suspicious circumstances in 1971.
It was at this rink that cousins of my wife won a number of championships. She’s not sure of the exact period, although it would have been sometime in the 30’s or 40’s, or whether they were local, state or national competitions.
More on that to follow.