Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Eltham Cinema and a word to the wise

Now here is a building that just passed me by.

Eltham Cinema, 1913-1968
It is the Eltham Cinema and was on the corner of the High Street and Westmount Road.

It was opened in 1913 and demolished in 1968 which means I must have seen it countless times on my way to school at Crown Woods but even now it does not register with me.”

Like so many of the early cinemas it proved “not fit for purpose” when the newer plusher and more modern looking picture houses came along later in the century.

Holmfirth Picturedrome, 1912
A few of these old palaces of dreams do survive like the Picturedrome at Holmfirth.

It is was opened in 1912 and is a big enough to seat a couple of hundred people, has a double set of doors, with a veranda above it and must have made you feel special each time you went to watch that magic of light and moving pictures played out in the dark.

It was so at our cinema and the memories of some of those who attended the Eltham Cinema have been recorded but it is a pity that the building was lost.

There will be somewhere more pictures of the place, and perhaps even images of the inside along with the odd bit of furniture.

Palais de Luxe, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 2013
And these can turn up in the most surprising of places.

I was reminded of this when I persuaded the staff of the local Co-op to allow me upstairs into the warehouse floor.  The building had been opened as the Palais de Luxe in 1915 and converted into a supermarket in the late 1950s.

But upstairs high in the roof space at one end of the building was all that remained of the plaster mouldings which stood above the cinema screen.*

Palais de Luxe, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 1924
Of course such finds are increasingly rare and most of us are now forced back on those old photographs and picture postcards.

These are themselves not always readily available.  Some are stored in local history collections and others appear picture books.

There is a fine collection in the book Eltham In Old Photographs.**

And one in particular caught my eye of that part of Court Yard now dominated Grove Market Place.

I say dominated but that is not completely accurate because the small shopping area is undergoing redevelopment and it was while reading about the controversy surrounding the plans that I realized I had no idea when it was built.

There on page 78 as the answer.  It was opened in 1967 and once again I realized that another bit of Eltham’s history had passed me by.

I have either forgotten or was totally oblivious to the demolition of the old properties and building of the Market Place.

This is all the more appalling when within two years I was using the bank on the corner and for years after Dad went to the shop opposite for his paint.

All of which reinforces that simple rule, never take anything for granted, watch for the news of a new planning application and always have a camera with you.

Pictures; Eltham Cinema, courtesy of Thisiseltham, Holmfirth Picturedrome and interior of the old Palase de Luxe Chorlton from the collection of Andrew Simpson



** Eltham In Old Photographs, John Kennet, 1991, Alan Sutton Publishing

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