Thursday, 13 April 2017

Off to the “flicks” in the winter of 1913 and a challenge for today

Now on a dismal Saturday afternoon in Eltham during the winter of 1913 I might well have decided to take myself off to the Picturedrome where I could have seen epics like the Battle of Waterloo, stories drawn from great novels like Zola’s Germinal or melodramas loosely based on the Old Testament along with documentaries about nature, disasters at sea and much more.

The Battle of Waterloo, 1913
The obvious choice would have been the Eltham Cinema on the corner of the High Street and Westmount Road, which was run by Mr Robert Frederick Bean and which had only been open for a few months.

But with the help of the tram I might instead of ventured off into Woolwich, Greenwich and even Plumstead.

And as much as the film might have attracted me so might the name of the cinema.

Some had names which reflected this new and exciting form of entertainment ranging from the Kinemacolor Palace to those incorporating the word “electric” of which my favourite was the Bijou Electric Theatre, while others traded on exotic places like the Trocadero, and the Alhambra Pavilion.

Germinal, 1913
Most also incorporated the title “Pictuedrome” and some went through frequent name changes.

But what they all had in common was that magic of sitting in the dark and seeing moving pictures many times life size telling stories of adventure, romance set in faraway places which for most people were just names on a map.

So with that in mind the choice was pretty wide.  I could have wandered over to Plumstead and visited the Imperial on Plumstead Road or taken a chance on the Windsor Electric Theatre on Maxey Road but equally could have been drawn to either the Globe on the Common or the Cinematograph at numbers 144-6 the High Street.

Greenwich offered up another three and Woolwich had six.

Judith, 1913
A century on I rather think it might be fun to go looking for these ten.  Sadly in the case of the Three Crowns, the New Cinema and the Premier Electric Theatre they are just listed as Woolwich, but the remaining seven have full addresses.

In Woolwich there was the Arsenal Kinema, Beresford Square, the Premier Electric Theatre, at 126 Powis Street, and the New Cinema at 93 New Road.

And that just left the Greenwich three, which were the Trafalgar Cinema, 82 Trafalgar Road, Chapman’s Pictures Bridge Street, the Greenwich Hippodrome, Stockwell Street, and the Theatre Royal, on High Street.

The Terrors of the Jungle, 1913
And there is the challenge.  Not that any will still exist, but armed with a modern map, a corresponding map for 1913 and a street directory for the same year it should be possible to do a bit of detective work.

Location; Eltham, Plumstead, Greenwich and Woolwich.

Pictures; stills from films available to watch in 1913, from  The Kinematograph Year Book*

*The Kinematograph Year Book Program Diary and Directory 1914,

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