History of the Palace
The earliest information we have for a cinema at the bottom of Belle Vue Road in Cinderford is a lease dated 31st December 1910 for 10 years at £10 a year. This lease is to 'erect and complete within the space of three calender months from the date hereof.........the building intended for an Electric or Cinematograph theatre now in course of erection'
The lessee was Herbert H.Jacobs, brother of Montague (Monty) Jacobs who ran a Mens Outfitters in the Triangle in the centre of town next to the Midland (HSBC) Bank which traded until a fire in the 1980s.
It was originally called The New Theatre because there was already a theatre in Cinderford, The Empire in Commercial Street.
We are indebted to local historian Alec Pope for an article on The History of the Palace Cinema Cinderford that appeared in the Dean Forest Mercury on March 26th 1993 from which a good deal of the following is taken.
The building was single storey brick built with a dome on the roof either side of an open entrance that was closed by a concertina metal grille behind which was a hexagonal ticket kiosk just to the right of the centre. Either side of the entrance were boards which boasted THE NEW THEATRE - PICTURES AND VARIETY, with Comedy-Drama-Instruction on the left and The World Before Your Eyes on the right.
In the early days the doorman or commissionaire was Harry Knight, part of whose duties was to shout out the details of the film programme to the public in the street, just as the 'barkers' would do at the Bioscope picture shows in the travelling fairgrounds in previous years.
His wife was the pianist, providing musical accompaniment for the silent films, a difficult job needing the musician to rapidly match the music to the action on the screen, which she performed until the 'Talkies' came along in about 1930.
Free miner Henry Roberts, whose mother Olivia (Southgate) was a box office cashier from opening, remembers that there were two musicians, a piano and a violin, separated from the front row of seats by a 5ft wooden partition. Mains electricity did not come to Cinderford until 1928 so the cinema had its own Crossley single cylinder gas engine attached to a generator sited in the room where the gents toilet is now. When a tender love scene was being shown on the screen and the quiet music of the violin played to a silent audience, then the PHUT PHUT of the engine outside tended to spoil the illusion.
The action in silent films was interspersed with sub-titles to explain what was going on. Often the words were too small to be read by those in the back rows but they were helped by patrons, often elderley ladies, reading out loud for everyone to hear. Imagine how that would go down nowadays !
Henry continued, there were two performances each evening, films changed on mon and thur. The 'last house' finished about 11pm and on the walk home there were hazzards, not of being attacked or robbed, but of walking into obstructions on the roads or pavements as often the sparse gas lighting in the streets was extinguished at 10pm. There were no lighted shop windows and often the town donkey could be found in recessed shop doorways and there was a risk of walking into a protruding head....
During March 1912 the Forests coal mines had been on strike and at the end of the month the cinema offered films at Strike Prices of 2d, 4d and 9d for adults and 1d, 2d and 6d for children. Films were changed twice weekly, except on special occasions, a notable one being THE TITANIC DISASTER in May 1912 which played for a whole week. Afterwards the manager Mr E.W.Juson declared 'We are Pioneers of Cinematography in the Forest of Dean.
Adverts for 3rd and 30th July 1915 show the cinema closed for repainting and a new screen and a change of manager, Mr George Rogers. A photo from about this time shows the addition of a wooden porch on the front of the building, presumably to help keep out the winds resulting from Cinderfords hilltop position. It also shows the roof domes gone, anecdote from other cinemas suggests they were always diificult to keep watertight.
Disaster struck in 1919 when the building was badly damaged by fire. While the cinema was out of action film showings were transferred to The Empire until this too caught fire on 6th July 1919, never to re-open.
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