THE silver screen had already faded to grey for the last time, bringing an end to more than 90 years of Cinema history in Whitefield.

And this week, the Mayfair building was finally razed to the ground.

Bulldozers have been at the Bury Old Road site for a number of weeks preparing the area for new luxury apartments.

But the familiar curved facade of the Mayfair that greeted furniture customers, children looking for fun at Alphabet Zoo and families enjoying a night out at the cinema, was the last part of the building to be demolished.

Cinema came to Whitefield on October 19, 1912 when the Three Towns Picture Palace opened its doors.

The three "towns" were Whitefield, Besses o'th Barn and Prestwich, and the location in Bury Old Road was chosen due to a large area of housing and pubs around the junction, all within easy walking distance of the cinema.

Later to become known as The Palace, in 1921, the cinema was taken over by Red Rose Cinemas Ltd in 1927 and a director of the company, Mr Hyman Woolf, became general manager. In 1928/9, continuous performances were introduced with two rounds of programmes nightly. It was said that people sat through two complete showings but the usherettes politely asked them to leave.

Large-scale building development and a growing population, plus improved transport, showed the need for a bigger and better cinema in Whitefield and the Mayfair was built on land next to the Palace.

Mr Woolf, known as "Hymie", was a very popular man and took over the running of the Mayfair, after the Palace closed on New Year's Day, 1936.

A busy venue, the Mayfair became an important part of the community, hosting Sunday charity concerts, whist drives and local amateur entertainment. But perhaps a little-known fact about the Mayfair was that it was used as a centre for Civil Defence activity, including a meeting place for ARP Wardens, as Whitefield, like the rest of the country, prepared for war in 1938/9.

In December, 1940, there was a severe attack on the Manchester area and damage in Whitefield was reported at Stand Unitarian Church.

However, it was believed another bomb was dropped on Thatch Leach Lane which failed to explode. Residents from nearby Sandgate Road were evacuated and temporarily accommodated at the Mayfair, and at Besses Congregational Church and Stand Girls School, until it was safe to return.

The Mayfair survived war damage but the first of two major fires struck the cinema on Friday, April 4, 1941. Audiences had seen Gary Cooper starring in The Westerner but by 11pm, the cinema was ablaze. The next morning, only girders and some brickwork remained.

The billiard hall next door was pressed into service, once more becoming a cinema eleven months later, the Mayfair Junior. It kept people entertained until June 5, 1956, when the new Mayfair officially opened with a gala showing of Carousel and a personal appearance by its star, Stephen Boyd.

The cinema remained, surviving another major blaze in 1978, which closed the doors for only six weeks.

Taken over by Tatton cinemas in the mid-1970s, the cinema prospered for another decade, despite the onset of home video. Ironically, it was the decline of home video and the growth in popularity of the big screen that spelled the end of the Mayfair.

Bought by Apollo Leisure in 1992, the Mayfair was almost immediately put up for sale. Competition from the multiplex cinemas meant that the Mayfair was weeks behind in getting new films to the audiences. People stopped going, preferring to see new films straight away at Warner Bros at Pilsworth, or Cannon, later MGM, at Salford Quays.

As audiences dwindled, Apollo's pledge to keep the cinema open until a buyer could be found died with the box office takings. On Thursday, September 29, 1994, the history of cinema in Whitefield ended with a performance of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

In December of that year, a £350,000 children's adventure playground centre called Alphabet Zoo opened in the empty cinema building. The following April, it was announced that the smaller auditorium was to be turned into an Indian restaurant.

The Mayfair name returned in 1999 when Prestwich-born businessman Chris Rustage bought the building for his furniture business. He ran the Mayfair Furniture Warehouse until 2001, when he announced plans to tear down the building to make way for 44 apartments. At the time he, said the original cinema building had a lot of wasted space due to its lofty ceilings.

Approval for a four-storey apartment block was granted in October 2002. It was estimated Mr Rustage would spend more than £1 million on the project.