More about Beecholme

Beecholme is also the first postwar "mixed development" housing scheme in Hackney, with a mixture of houses and flats with the taller block having five storeys and containing one-bedroom and bedsit accommodation. It is featured in Volume 15 of Hackney History and was the site of Beecholme House, the family home of Maj. John André (d. 1780), who was executed as a British spy in the American War of Independence.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Historic cinema under threat

..and not just any old cinema but one of
the earliest surviving and rare
"Cinematograph Theatres"
(not extensively remodelled in the 1930's deco as many were)

The Clapton Cinematograph Theatre was one of the early cinemas established in response to the Cinematograph Act of 1909, which required film presentations to be shown under controlled and licensed safety conditions, due to the highly inflammable nature of nitrate film and built before Charlie Chaplin began his movie career and when Hollywood was still under cultivation as olive groves.

A planning application has been submitted to Hackney Council for the cinema at 229 Lower Clapton Road - in the Clapton Pond Conservation Area.

Ominously there is no mention of the fate of the building's many historic features in the planning application..

...which would sub-divide the building's auditorium and create a battery of rooflights along the top of the building

with the loss of the original barrel-vaulted ceiling with richly decorated gilded plaster-work
 to be replaced with a coloured polycarbonate arch and dome, tinted glazed units and aluminium windows.

 The facade would no longer would resemble the historic cinema but would visually quite closely match the church in Axum in Ethiopia:

The 2011/3486 planning application drawing
for the front elevation:

Of course, this objection is not with the church's design but with materials proposed, the sub-division of the auditorium & roof with the loss of the original barrel-vaulted ceiling with richly decorated gilded plaster-work and the historic facade.
The planning application also includes major new building works at the rear.


The Hackney Society have nominated the building for inclusion in the Council's new list of local heritage buildings as one of the country's earliest purpose-built cinemas and a listing review is being carried out by the Department of Culture Media and Sport.

Meanwhile the building remains vulnerable.

There is still the opportunity to make your views known on this planning application

Comments should be sent to Caroline Ozor at Hackney Council

1. by emailing:

quote planning application reference no. 2011/3486

and give your name 
or your objection won't be registered

2. by post to:

Caroline Ozor
Planning Department
London Borough of Hackney
1 Hillman Street
E8 1DY

NOTE: although the official statutory comment period has ended, planning officers will take comments & register objections right up until such time a decision is reached. 

You can also sign up to the petition to save the cinema on the

Friends of Clapton Cinematograph website.

or go straight to the
Save The Clapton Cinematograph Theatre

NOTE: Your signature on the petition will not be registered as an objection to the current planning application, so please do email Caroline Ozor as well.

 The Cinematograph Theatre
(currently white-washed)

When in 2009 the newly established Friends of Clapton Cinematograph Theatre gained access to the building they were delighted to find so much of the historic fabric had survived, including the original barrel-vaulted ceiling with richly decorated gilded plaster-work which had lain hidden under a false ceiling for many decades.

The building has been known to successive generations of Hackney residents under various names - Clapton Cinematograph Theatre, The Kenninghall, Dougie's and the Palace Pavillion and it still retains many Edwardian features such as a gilded decorated barrel-vaulted ceiling and an original proscenium arch.

Part of the cultural life of Hackney for over a century, the Clapton Cinematograph Theatre was built before Charlie Chaplin began his movie career and when Hollywood was still under cultivation as olive groves.

When it opened its doors at 229 Lower Clapton Road in December 1910, it was proclaimed in the pages of the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette as "the most luxurious and up-to-date theatre in the district".
However this little Edwardian picture palace, which was later known as The Kenninghall, was soon eclipsed by the grander super-cinemas with capacity for up to 3,000 people which were built in great numbers during the 1920s and 30s, one of which was the Ritz cinema which opened less than a hundred yards away from its smaller neighbour.
The Ritz was demolished in the 1970s to make way for a block of flats - a fate which was to befall so many cinemas as audiences declined with the emergence of home video.
However The Kenninghall survived, although it was used as a nightclub from the 1980s.

The 1910 facade.
Early promotional material for the cinema shows a highly decorated facade, to reflect the decorative mouldings on the adjacent public house, the White Hart.

Today, the now "Clapton Hart" public house is being restored, so will again portray something very close to its original Victorian decorative frontage.
ANTIC has gone to some lengths to research this.

The cinema’s original facade is substantially hidden behind the later additional frontage, but some of the cinema’s original mouldings may be seen (though painted over) on the part of the original facade still visible.
  (part from:

Perhaps a full exploration could be done to find out how much of of this original facade remains hidden under the current one.

The Friends of Clapton Cinematograph are currently involved in a project to record local people's memories of the old cinema

As eminent cinema historian Dr Nicholas Hiley has written on the petition:

"Such survivals from the earliest days of cinema are rare and should be preserved as an important part of British social history".

If you would like to contribute to the project
please contact Julia Lafferty at:
write to: 32 Ickburgh Road, London E5 8AD.

Church officials stated at a council NE Neighbourhood Committee meeting soon after the building's purchase, where they were warmly welcomed, that they wanted to restore the building and return it to its former glory (funds permitting), make it multi-use, so that other community groups could hold a variety of meetings and events and said they were looking at possibly including an educational media studio workshop.

More recently, however, the religious group has indicated to local councillors that they do not welcome visitors and failed to turn up to "the Clapton Conference" a public meeting on February 27 to discuss Clapton as a whole and their plans for the building, after saying they would attend.

The Clapton Arts Trust and the Hackney Society were refused access to the old cinema when they organised a heritage walk around the Clapton Pond neighbourhood last September and the church have not acknowledged subsequent emails asking when might be convenient. The church had earlier agreed to an "Open Day" before refurbishment/restoration started.

UPDATE: for more information
see the "Blue Plaque Hacks" new article about the cinematograph here

NOTE: Don't get me wrong, of course I have and will continue to welcome the church (in the building) and wish them every success, my objection is simply to the current planning application and loss of what is recognized by local  historians and heritage experts as an heritage asset.
by David White.     

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