Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The day I went to Brockley looking for a water trough and found a cinema

Now I like the way you start off on a story and end up discovering all sorts of things you never knew.

The Brockley Barge, 2008
So in my quest for water troughs across south east London I have had lots of people share their memories of ones they remember.

And yesterday Margaret Nash wrote that “I haven't thought about horse troughs for years but after your post it bought back memories of a very foggy evening in the early 50's. 

It was a real pea souper and I had a boyfriend who had a car, we were on our way to see friends at Honor Oak. 

As we slowly drove along Brockley Road we came up behind a vehicle so stopped for what seemed ages until my boyfriend got out to see what the long hold up was, only to come back to tell me we were parked behind a horse trough. 

It was at a point in Brockley Road where the road divides off to the right into what is now Foxbury Road. 

I wondered if my mind was playing tricks but googled street view and the horse trough isn't there anymore but a pub called the Brockley Barge stands where the road divides.”

And that was a challenge I couldn’t turn down and went looking for the pub and the site of the trough.

The Brockley Barge turned out to be the old Breakspear Arms which had opened in 1868 and was renamed in 2000 when it became a Weatherspoons, and according to that wonderful site London Pubology has appeared in the Good Pub Guide for six years.*

Having found the pub I found the water trough.  It stood just in front of The Breakspear and is there on the OS map for 1896 and was still there in 1952.

The pub, the cinema and the water trough, 1952
For those who want an exact date for when it was placed there I can’t offer one up although I do know it will have been sometime after 1872.

Nor do I know when it was declared obsolete and taken away, but at least we found it just where Margret left it, and although she never mentioned it the trough faced a cinema which I had no idea ever existed.

This was the Brockley Picture Theatre which opened its doors on September 27 1913 and underwent several name changes over the next 43 years.

According to Mr Ken Roe “It was re-named Palladium Cinema from 24th May 1915.

The Ritz, date unknown 
In 1929 it was under new independent ownership and had a change of name to Giralda Cinema. 

This only lasted until 1936 when it was closed on 2nd November 1936 for renovation. 

It re-opened as the New Palladium Cinema. By the 25th May 1942, it had been re-named Ritz Cinema.

The Ritz Cinema was closed on 14th March 1956 with Charles Drake in 'Tobor the Great' and John Derek in 'The Fortune Hunter'(The Outcast). It was demolished in April 1960 and the site was re-developed. In 2009 an MOT car testing centre and garage is located on the site.”**

And now the MOT centre has gone and the site is underdevelopment again.

Looking at the maps and comparing with an old photograph it was a big place with a 40 feet wide proscenium and a 16 feet deep stage and a massive entrance.

I had wondered why the place didn’t ring any bells but I would not have ventured into Brockley until the early 1960s by which time the cinema had gone and with it perhaps that water trough.

Pictures; Brockley Barge, July 2008 courtesy of London Pubology, and that water trough and detail of St Mary’s Road 1953 historical map extract courtesy of Southwark Council at Historical map extract courtesy of Southwark Council at http://maps.southwark.gov.uk/connect/southwark.jsp?mapcfg=Historical_Selection&style=historical&banner=historical.
 with mapping provided by Landmark Information Group and picture of the Ritz by courtesy of Martin Tapsell from the Ritz Cinema, Ken Roe, cinematreasures,


* London Pubology, http://www.pubology.co.uk/pubs/215.html
**Ritz Cinema, Ken Roe, cinematreasures, http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/27905

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