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Cinema behind the shops

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Walk along Hoe Street from Walthamstow Central and stop outside 324. It’s a shop called The Pavilion. Except it’s not a shop but a banquetting suite! Until recently you looked into very large windows at  a reception area, but now they have broken the wall through and you can see a large space beyond. The Pavilion is host to all the large and lavish Pakistani weddings in the area and traffic is regularly held up on Saturdays as grand cavalcades arrive.

Now look to the right and through the alley you will see a large old brick structure occupying the yard. You are looking at what began life as The Queen’s Cinema Walthamstow. Opened in 1911 behind shops owned by the Good Brothers, local builders who were diversifying into the new medium of showing films. The thing is it looks nothing like a cinema, because it is neatly hidden behind a row of shops.

The Queen’s along with many other Walthamstow cinemas enjoyed steady audiences till the mid 1930’s when it closed due to competition, not from television but the local speedway track! It opened again but was showing it’s last film in 1940. The building was later used as a store and then remained empty for a long time until 1959 when it re-opened as a billiard and snooker hall run by Temperance Ltd.

Then more recently it became The Pavilion and once again a focal point for the local community which is predominantly Pakistani, established over a number of years.

Do you know of a cinema in an unlikely location?

The map on my polling card

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As I got ready to go and vote this morning, I looked at the map on my polling card. Nice clear map, then I looked again.

There was a box shape and the lettering Pol ho at the junction of Shrubland Road with the Lea Bridge Road. You will know from my earlier posts that my trusty 1915 OS map often reveals clues about the area I live in.

At this point on the 1915 map there is indeed a Police Station. It’s not there now, just some flats and windswept open space. The nearest we have to a Police Station now at Balers Arms is you sometimes see two Community Support Officers standing next to a paste table at the crossroads with a sign that declares “Information Point.”

The map on my polling card has served it’s purpose, it showed me where the polling station is and I have voted.  I decided not to tell them about the map.

St James’ Electric Theatre

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Next to St James Street station, on the Chingford branch, there is an impressive looking building,  it’s a dental practice.  But look again, do you see the steps …

You are looking at one of Walthamstow’s many lost cinemas. St James’ Electric Theatre was built in 1911 with 500 seats. During the First World War wounded soliders were admitted free.

It was said that when trains passed through the station, the projector trembled and drowned the sound.

The name was changed to Super in 1919 and to Regent in 1932. It went through the thirties being closed and re-opened till final closure in 1939.

Let us be thankful the grand old building has found use as a dental practice and not been demolished. Let us also shed a tear for the fact that here  in Waltham Forest, birthplace  of Alfred Hitchcock, we have no cinemas …

Where have all the pram shops gone?

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Walking along Hoe Street this morning, I stopped at the junction with Albert Road to take a look at what was going on. There is a big corner shop here that for many years was Sainsbury & Sainsbury the office equipment people. When they moved out it was used to sell satelite dishes. At the time of writing it is all boarded up and there are signs of a major refurbishment going on.

What took my eye was the shop sign. It had been peeled back to the original owners. McClanes, Prams, Cots, Toys, Wheelchairs all in red metal letters on a creamy background.

This got me thinking what happened to all the prams shops there used to be? I expect the use of buggies has a lot to do with it. You simply do not see people pushing prams anymore.

Do you remember your local pram shop? What s it used for now?

The Piano Factory in Grange Road

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The 1915 map of Leyton is all houses tightly packed together. Or is it?

I looked closer and saw the words Pianoforte manufactory, then I saw another one. Two piano factories and near where I live. So as part of my evening walk I, headed along Capworth Street, then Lea Hall Lane and before long I was at the end of Grange Road. My heartt sank as everything looked fairly modern, I had walked past rows of terraced houses but here …oh well I walked along Grange Road, most of it now taken up with a medium rise block of flats, and acroos the road a school occupied what would have been houses before.

I got to the end and recognised what had been the pub. Looked like more flats, but there was no mistaking the building, it had been a pub. I walked abck along Grange Road looking at the map for clues. Then I stoped and smiled. There was the wall at one end, then along the back butting onto the houses in the next road. I walked along and sure enough at the other end more wall. The piano factory had gone but the back and side walls had survived.

Then a friendly voice called out asking me if I was looking for somewhere particular? I walked across and spoke to this guy, telling him once there had been a piano factory here. We had a nice chat, he had been there some 20 years since the block had been opened. I pointed out the walls, we both smiled. I said good-bye and continued with my evening walk.

Imagine … they made pianos here in Leyton … someone might still have a piano made in Leyton

What was Keats doing in Edmonton?

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I am reading Claire Tomalin’s magnificent biography of Thomas Hardy. In 1887 Thomas and his first wife Emma went to Italy for six weeks,  after he had finished writing The Woodlanders. At one point they stayed in a place in Rome, that over-looked the house where the poet Keats died. It was all part of a pilgrimage that many did then and have done ever since; in the footsteps of the great poet.

Did Hardy know that he did not have to travel so far to visit a place of significance to the short life of Keats?

In 1810 Keats was apprenticed to the apothacary Dr Hammond of Edmonton for five years. During this time he decided to be a poet, rather than a doctor. Dr Hammond’s place was in Church Street near Lower Edmonton railway station. 

Hardy did however get close to this special place. In 1914 he married Florence Dugdale at St Andrews, Enfield. They were married at 8am and the first leg of the journey back to Dorset was by train from Enfield Town to Liverpool Street. The second stop is Lower Edmonton and the line crosses Church Street by bridge just as it enters the station. Did Hardy look to his right as the train slowed down?

Church Street is still a windy road, but the apothacary has long gone. There is a row of fairly characterless shops there now, though you get a clue as you notice Keats Pharmacy.

I am not suggesting you cancel your trip to Rome and head for North London. There is not even a plaque to mark the significance of the place. I walked past it every day for five years going to Latymer Grammar School and they never mentioned it. So much for education.

Now you know it is there, remember special places do not always look special.