Granada / ABC Cinema Castle Street

Demolition of Granada Cinema, Castle Street, August 2014. Part of the original decorations were still in evidence even though some local councillors stated otherwise. AS

Demolition of Granada Cinema, Castle Street, August 2014. Part of the original decorations were still in evidence even though some local councillors stated otherwise. AS

August 2014 and the once grand and prototype Granada Cinema in Castle Street was demolished.  Interestingly, a similar art deco building in Tooting has the grade I listing while one in Walthamstow has grade II and both have been returned to their former glory.

In January 2014, the owners,  JD Wetherspoon were served a legal notice by Dover District Council under section 2.1.5 of the Town and Country Planning Act. A Wetherspoon spokesman said, at that time, that the company is presently sourcing quotes for work to be undertaken. In reality the chain of public houses, following being served with a section 2.1.5, sold the property to Dover Heritage and Regeneration Ltd, The Studio, St Nicholas Close, Elstree, Hertfordshire 3D6 3EW. They put in an application to demolish the once grand old lady of Castle Street through Dover Demolition Company, off Astley Avenue, Long Hill, Dover and according to the planning application work should have commenced on 21 August 2014 but started before.

The comment from one group of local elites, before the demolition process was started, was that the building was an eyesore and that internally nothing was left of the precious original art deco. In reality, this was a lie as the photo above shows. Another example of the destruction of Dover especially as Dover is crying out for a full size theatre for the town’s highly commended local theatrical groups.

Granada Cinema, Castle Street, in its heyday. Adeline Reidy

Granada Cinema, Castle Street, in its heyday. Adeline Reidy

Why was the building so special? Sidney Bernstein (later Lord Bernstein) loved travel and was particularly enthralled by the grandeur of Granada, Spain. He was 23 when he inherited eight cinemas and music halls and three years later, in 1926, bought what had been Leney’s brewery barrel yard.

The inter-war period had seen the economy lurch from one depression to the next that ordinary people were desperate to escape. Bernstein asked architect Cecil Masey and theatre designer Theodore Komisarjevsky to crate ‘a picture palace reflecting the vast extravaganzas of Moorish and renaissance architecture where the working class could be royally entertained…’

Granada Gala Opening Front Cover of programme 8 January 1930, Eveline Robinson

Granada Gala Opening Front Cover of programme 8 January 1930, Eveline Robinson

The exterior was white stone and mottled brickwork with a front elevation dominated by a huge glass window. Two pairs of mahogany doors led the way into the white marbled floor vestibule which contained the cashier booths and decorated in ‘bright modernist’ style. The white marble flooring and the ‘modern style’ of decoration continued through swing doors into the foyer, which was designed as an ‘intimate rendezvous’ lounge.

The circle was reached by a grand marble staircase on either side of which were a series of scarlet-coloured square fluted columns with Corinthian capitols. These were carried up to the barrelled ceiling and on the plain walls were Venetian mirrors.

The cinema itself was in a Spanish-Moorish style with a seating capacity for 1,800. The ventilation system gave a continuous supply of 3,000,000 cubic feet of washed air every hour. Both silent and talkie projection was available and in order to put on theatrical productions, there was a large stage with dressing-room accommodation and full lighting installation.

Granada Cinema in its heyday. Thanks to Justin Preston

Granada Cinema in its heyday. Thanks to Justin Preston

The cinema also boasted of a Christie organ built by William Hill & Sons and Norman & Beard Ltd, London and placed in the centre of the orchestra pit on a rise and fall lift. It had 2,800 pipes, 3,000 silver contacts, 600 soldered joints, 35 miles of electric wire, 51 stops, nearly 100 ‘effects’ and was controlled from a three-manual console designed by Art Decorators, Keeble Ltd.

Building contractors were Bovis (1928) Ltd. and work started on 14 May 1929, but making the dream a reality was not without problems. The main one was the river Dour, which ran through a 22-foot (6.7 metres) wide culvert under Castle Street and diagonally across the planned cinema site. Either side the land was boggy. The whole had been covered with metal sheeting, topped by paving and aggregates. To carry the weight of the proposed cinema, the Bovis engineers erected concrete walls on either side of the Dour and further sets across the boggy land, which they then drained and filled with aggregates. The whole was then spanned with steel work and concrete and the metal frame of the cinema was anchored in the concrete. In some places this was only 18 inches (0.45metres) below ground level but it worked.

Bovis employed a number of local companies to help with the building, but imposed a time-penalty clause in the contracts. Delays, for whatever reason, resulted not only in the loss of revenue for the company, but a hefty fine. Albeit, at a time of high unemployment it provided much needed work.

Granada Cinema Gala Opening programme - 8 January 1930. Eveline Robinson

Granada Cinema Gala Opening programme – 8 January 1930. Eveline Robinson

The cinema opened by the Mayor, Alderman Hilton E Russell on Wednesday 8 January 1930 with Norma Shearer’s first talkie, ‘The Last of Mrs Cheyney.’ The Manager was Noel Hobart, Assistant Manager F Fryer, Stage Manager S Williams, Musical Advisor E J Barber, Conductor Leonardi, Organist H Morton and Chief Projectionist G Short. In the adjacent car park were the parking attendants one of whom was Rosa Harman, wife of Dover’s late historian, Joe Harman.

The weather was cold and frosty but the crowds turned out … and so did members of the Lord’s Day Observance Society as the cinema advertised that it would be open on Sundays. Initially the council refused to licence Sunday opening but Bernstein retaliated by having the cinema lit up and staff on duty but not allowing customers in. Customers complained and eventually the council relented.

Granada Cinema Manager, Sidney L Sale - Dover Characters c1935

Granada Cinema Manager, Sidney L Sale – Dover Characters c1935

The reputation quickly spread and customers came from Canterbury, Folkestone and further afield.  When Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, queen consort to the exiled Spanish King Alfonso XIII of Spain stayed at the Lord Warden Hotel in January 1933, she made a point of making an official visit the cinema. The cinema was sold in 1935 to the ABC group but the name was retained.

The long-term manager was Sydney Sale who during World War II had overall responsibility for the Plaza in Cannon Street as well. In July 1941, Sydney was one of those who discovered the murdered body of the Plaza manager Richard Roberts. Leslie Hammond, the 18-year-old projectionist at that cinema was arrested and found guilty at the Old Bailey. He was sentenced to hang but was commuted to life imprisonment.

Granada being repaired following shell attack in September 1942

Granada being repaired following shell attack in September 1942

On 23 March 1942, the packed Granada was shaken by a bomb that landed some 20 yards (18.3 metres) from the cinema wrecking the shops in nearby Market Square. Six months later, on Saturday evening 6 September 1942, shelling caused serious structural damage to the Granada. The film was stopped but without any panic, the audience filed out of the building. As soon as sufficiently repaired, the cinema opened again. Two years later, on 3 September 1944 the Granada again suffered from heavy shelling and badly damaged. Again, it was repaired and reopened.

ABC Cinema, Castle Street. Dover Library

ABC Cinema, Castle Street. Dover Library

Following the war, the Granada retained its popularity and in January 1953, to celebrate its 23rd birthday, the cinema played host to a wide range of shows and produced a detailed souvenir programme. However, with the advent of television, audiences began to decline. In an effort to cover costs, the Granada became a major venue for popular bands, groups and singers as well as entertainers.

Renamed A.B.C. cinema in March 1960, given a makeover and with a personal appearance of Cliff Richard, television was winning the popularity war. Efforts were made to try to win audiences back from competitions to late night films and all-night specials showing five or six films non-stop but audience numbers continued to dwindle. On 30 October 1982, the last film was shown. Throughout the decline, Dover Film Society Chairman, John Roy, unsuccessfully campaigned to have the cinema turned into a 2 or 3-screen multiplex.

From April 1983, David Chalk, from Hardres near Canterbury, invested a considerable sum to turn the building into a nightclub using the art deco theme. The seats were removed and replaced by a massive dance floor. Opening as the Images nightclub it received a Public Entertainment licence in 1985.

The once majestic Granada cinema, Castle Street, today. Adeline Reidy

The once majestic Granada cinema, Castle Street, today. Adeline Reidy

Images was followed by Snoops nightclub, and in 2003, J D Wetherspoon, the pub chain, bought the building. Their stated intention was refurbishment but instead left it to deteriorate.

Granada Cinema resplendent with Banners on local touris attractions. October 2013

Granada Cinema resplendent with Banners on local touris attractions. October 2013

On the initiative of Adeline Reidy, banners were erected on the front of the cinema. The posters advertise the towns tourist attractions such as the Roman Painted House,  Transport Museum, Maison Dieu House, Dover Museum Bronze Age Boat gallery, Dover Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover.

In January 2014 JD Wetherspoon were served a legal notice by Dover District Council under section 2.1.5 of the Town and Country Planning Act. A Weatherspoon spokesman said at the time that the company were sourcing quotes for work to be undertaken. In January 2014 JD Wetherspoon were served a legal notice by Dover District Council under section 2.1.5 of the Town and Country Planning Act. A Weatherspoon spokesman said at the time that the company were sourcing quotes for work to be undertaken. In reality they sold the building to Dover Heritage and Regeneration Ltd,  incorporated on 22 June 2012 with the registered office located in Hertfordshire and in August 2014 demolition began.

The former Granada cinema site, Castle Street, now a car park for workers on the St James development. Note the black polythene protecting adjacent buildings that has been there since the cinema was demolished in 2014. AS March 2017

The former Granada cinema site, Castle Street, now a car park for workers on the St James development. Note the black polythene protecting adjacent buildings that has been there since the cinema was demolished in 2014. AS March 2017

Spring 2017 – It is now well over 2 years since the palatial Dover Granada was demolished. The site remained derelict up until the beginning of this year and is now a car park for workers on the nearby St James development site. The adjacent flats on Castle Street have had black polythene tacked to the full length of the wall that was joined to the old cinema. This remains and can be seen in the accompanying photograph. Of interest, those who screamed for the Granada’s demolition are now, not surprisingly, quiet over what has been left behind. Perhaps they see potential rich development  pickings?

WALTHAMSTOW – FORMER GRANADA CINEMA and a different attitude. 

Thu 23 May 2013

Walthamstowe former Granada Cinema

Walthamstowe former Granada Cinema

Today the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, upheld Waltham Forest Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the former Granada Cinema in Walthamstow to be turned into a church. There has been a sustained campaign to save this beautiful Grade II* listed building and to reinstate it as an entertainment venue for the benefit of local and London-wide audiences and as a catalyst for economic regeneration and job creation. This decision opens the door to do that.

Published:

  • Dover Mercury: 19 & 26 May 2011

 

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About Lorraine

I am a local historian, whose love of Dover has lead to decades of research into some of the lesser known tales that this famous and beautiful town has to tell.
This entry was posted in Buildings, Granada Cinema Castle Street - Wetherspoon's neglect, Granada/ABC Building Castle Street, Roads & Streets, Wanton Destruction. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Granada / ABC Cinema Castle Street

  1. I am please to say that the EMD Walthamstow, the second purpose-built theatre for Sidney Bernstein’s Granada Circuit, has been saved!!!!! See the McGuffen News’ link here for the full story:
    http://mcguffinfilmsociety.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/emd-cinema-verdict-announced-2/

    Let us hope that will inspire the citizens of Dover to stand up and support a campaign to save the old GRANADA THEATRE DOVER.

    This theatre holds a special place in cinema history: it was the first theatre especially built for Sidney Bernstein and has Cecil Aubrey Masey as its architect and Theodore Komisarjevsky, the GREAT Russian designer/director/etc etc as the designer of the interior.

    This is a special building and should not be allow to sit and rot.

    I suspect that many do not realise either the importance or the value of this building.

  2. I have just finished writing my piece, THE GRANADA THEATRE WALTHAMSTOW, which is a companion piece to my other piece, THE GRANADA THEATRE DOVER, both of which appear on my website:

    STORIES OF LONDON at stories-of-london.org

    I hope readers of this site will take a few moments to visit the site and look at these pieces. Each is liberally illustrated with photographs, collages and musical pieces.

    I would be happy to learn your thoughts on the pieces.

    Thanks.

    Charles S.P. Jenkins

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