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Not Brentford

Brentford Theatres and New Electric Cinema

A cluster of queries and information relating to theatres and an old cinema in Brentford arrived within a few months of each other during 2011. It is fortunate when this happens as looking into one area often uncovers relevant bits of information about another and also several heads are better than one.

Starting point

The story started at the Brentford Local History day in June 2011 when Diane Lockie mentioned her great great grandma owned the cinema in Brentford Market Place in the early 1900s: she thought it was unusual for a woman to run such a business at the time.

In August 2011 Christopher Browne wrote about a small factory, 'E A & W H Browne Western Pattern Works', opposite the White Horse public house, Market Place, a business started by his grandfather, Samuel Houghton Browne sometime between the wars. "He converted an old silent movie cinema by levelling the floor and installing machinery for Engineer Pattern making."

"The works office was housed in the projector room and instruction to the workers below were relayed via the flap where the projector used to poke out."

Christopher thought the the pattern works probably operated to around 1974. It was known to be operating in 1939: they made parts/patterns for Hurricanes and Spitfires.


New Theatre, Brentford

A few days after Christopher's email, Brent Fernandez wrote about the New Theatre, Brentford, as part of his research into theatres for Matthew Lloyd (see Matthew's British Theatre website

Brent had access to playbills referring to the New Theatre, Brentford in January and February 1821 but no details of where the theatre was situated. ( Brent also has links to the Zoffany family - but that is a separate story).

Brent later sent an extract from 'The Daily News', 15 December 1884 about a Sotheby auction which includes references to Edmund Kean, actor (wikipedia has more details):

... unique set of 304 playbills of Edmund Kean, including one of his mother Nance Carey, at Scowton and Morrell's show at Brentford, May 1800; one, undated, in which he is styled Master Carey, and plays at" Richardson's new theatre, Market-place, Brentford, during the fair"...

Was this an early Brentford theatre building later used as a cinema, and then a factory?

Peter King, seeing Christoper Browne's query, forwarded details of his research into the Brentford Electric Cinema in September and then in October Janet McNamara forwarded an extract from 'Bell's Weekly Messenger' Sunday September 18 1831:

At Brentford-fair on Monday evening, the whole of the gallery of Scowton's pavilion, containing 200 or 300 persons, principally women, through the props giving way fell; several of the women were carried out sverely injured.

Peter King added: Following on from recent info have just found the following which appears in "Leisure in the Industrial revolution c 1780-1880 by Hugh Cunningham

The growth of Leisure " The process of decline however was halted and from the late eighteenth century until the 1830s Richardson and other showmen infused new life into St Bartholomews and other fairs with elaborate spectacles in melodrama and pantomime. Richardson together with Gyngell and SCOWTON travelled what might be called the Southern circuit starting with the London fairs. The route can be traced precisely from a sale notice for Richardsons theatre in 1826 and it is worth quoting to indicate the range of places which would have the opportunity to see drama in the great PORTABLE THEATRE"

It goes on to list numerous towns etc including in the following order ..."Ealing Green, Fairlop, BRENTFORD, Staines, Chertsey.

Peter adds "I think this would have taken place as part of the fair in the Butts area".

So this early Brentford theatre was not in a permanent building. The first known theatre building in Brentford was in Walnut Tree Road, 'The Brentford Theatre', established by Thomas Beach in 1886. See 'Brentford Past' by Gillian Clegg for details of this and later theatres and cinemas in Brentford and Janet McNamara's piece about Brentford Market and fairs.

New Electric Cinema

Fortunately Peter King had researched the Market Place cinema building, charting its usage from 1910. Thanks to Peter for sharing this information:

Brentford UDC Minutes

  • Page 35 24th May 1910
    "Building Plan..Plan of a proposed cinematograph theatre in the Market Place, New Brentford, for Mrs Newman, was approved subject to 14 inch walls being provided to the gas engine and dynamo shed."
  • Page 74 5th July 1910
    " Revised plan of a Cinematograph Theatre, in the Market Place, Brentford, for Mrs Newman, showing the w.cís in an altered position."
No details have come to light re the seating capacity etc.

Rate Books

The theatre first appears in the local rate books for October 1910, when it is has a rateable value of £43 making a rate payable of £3.18.10.

The occupier is Mrs Kate Newman and Mr A Goddard is the owner. A list of details extracted from rate books follows:

Oct 1911 Kate Newman A Goddard £43
Apl 1912 " " "
Oct 1912 " " "
Apl 1913 " " £50
Oct 1913 " " "
Apl 1914 No Name " "
Oct 1914 Pinnington & son " "
Apl 1915 " (now described as workshop) " " £34
Oct 1915 " " "
Apl 1916 " " "
Oct 1916 " " £29
Apl 1917 " " "
Oct 1917 Broda Jenkins (Cartoon & caricature film producers) " "
Apl 1918 - Apr 1920 as Oct 1917 " "
Oct 1920 " Broda Jenkins "
Apr 1921 " " "
Oct 1921 " Simper or Semper Nova Films "
Apr 1922 Simper or Semper Nova Films " "
Oct 1922 " (Described as workroom old cinema_ " "
Apl 1923 " " "
Oct 1923 Barnes Barnes "
Apl 1924 " " "
Oct 1924 " " "
Apl 1925 " " "
Oct 1925 " Billiard Saloon "
Apl 1926 " " "
Oct 1926 Empty Byewater Haulage "
Apl 1927 " " "
Oct 1927 J C Dobbin " "
Apl 1928 " " "
Oct 1928 " " "
Apl 1929 Brentford Boy Scouts & Solvit H R Bohee "
Mch 1930 West London Metal Refining Co (described as hall) " "
Mch 1931 " " £41
Mch 1932 J C Dobbin Re Sol Vit (workshop) Agents Bradshaw Brown "

The opening

To date no detail has been found re the actual opening, but the Middx Independent newspaper of 5th Nov 1910 carries the following advertisement:

Market Place Brentford
Will be
From 6pm till 10 pm seats 3d children 2d
All monies left over after expenses have been paid will be given to
the Brentford Philanthropic.
SWEETS to be given on Saturday Afternoon to all children.
Admission 1d

The following advert appears in the Mddx Independent of 8th July 1911

Continuous Performance Nightly from 6.30 till 11 oíclock
Of the

Look out Mind the Wasp (Comic)
The Ruby (Drama)
Dustmanís Marriage (Comic)
Bessies Wreath of Roses (Drama)
Valley of Aosta (Travel)
Elixir of Bravery (Comic) and the
Fall of Troy (Drama)
Prices as usual : 2d, 3d, and 6d

Every Saturday 2.30 till 5
Admission 1d.

In the 1911 census 'Electric Theatre' is noted on the census enumerator's list for Brentford Market Place as a 'Building not used as dwelling' category.

The Fire

A fire in the early hours (2.15 am) of Tuesday the 22nd October 1912, is reported in the following days edition of the Middx Independent. According to the report:

" Two pianos, a gramophone, the picture screen and front of the building were all irretrievably damaged, as well as the office, the flooring of the theatre and a number of chairs"

The report states that the local fire brigade had the fire extinguished "by half past three."

Charges in respect of fire brigades attendance £4.2.3d. An entry in the Council Minutes 21st Nov states that a claim for this amount sent by Brentford Council to the theatres insurers, Phoenix Assurance co.

An ad re: a benefit performance appeared in the Middx Independent for Saturday 29th November 1913. A further ad appeared in the Middx Independent for 6th December 1913, and this appears to be the last time that the cinema featured in the local press.

The rate book for April 1914 has no name listed under "occupier", and by April 1915 the building is described as "workshop".


Page published November 2011