OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 31, 2018
Webpage updated: July 31, 2018

        

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BELGRAVE ELECTRIC THEATRE

The Belgrave Hall in Belgrave Road just off Mutley Plain was built around 1908 on the site of some stables at one time known as the Devon and Cornwall Horse Bazaar.  In July 1911 a Mr W Dobie, of Messrs Dobie's Electric Theatres Ltd,  was granted a cinema licence for the premises, which went under the name of the Belgrave Hall Electric Theatre.  Later it was known as the Belgrave Electric Theatre.

The Belgrave Cinema, Plymouth

It was reopened, after conversion to a proper cinema, on Monday September 11th 1911 with the films "The Cattle Herders" and "Call of the Open Range".  Prices were 3d and 6d with children under the age of 14 being charged 2d or 3d.  The resident manager was Mr Frank Seymour.  Afternoon tea was provided free of charge.

Mr Joseph Mont Gilpin acquired the licence in 1914 shortly before he went off to serve in the Great War leaving his staff his staff to run the business.  In 1920 he had the Hall reconstructed and the wooden seats removed.  The architects were Messrs Thornely and Rooke, of Plymouth. 

The Belgrave Picture Theatre (Plymouth) Ltd was sold by auction on Tuesday March 17th 1925.  The sale documents confirmed that the site had been used as a cinema since 1911 and that the premises had been reconstructed in 1921 at a cost of over 6,000.  The building had a frontage of 40 feet and an area of 4,520 square feet.   It could seat 541 in the pit and 132 in the balcony, making a total of 673.

Amongst the equipment included in the sale were two Kaleo projection machines and a re-winder plus in the theatre itself, 4 gas radiators for the winter and 5 electric fans for the summer.   The brochure also stated that the Belgrave 'has always successfully catered for high class family shows, drawing its patrons from the best Residential Districts of Plymouth'.

It was purchased by Mr Thomas Hoyle for 5,550 but licensed to the manager, Mr R D Nichols.  When Mr Hoyle died in 1926 his son, Mr Ernest Bertram Hoyle, became the licensee.  He continued until 1951 when the cinema was bought by Embassy Cinema (Plymouth) Ltd and run by Mr John Prance. 

The Belgrave Cinema closed on Saturday March 26th 1983, showing the Sylvester Stallone's 1982 film "First Blood".

Mrs Margaret Carlin, the daughter of Mr John Prance, told the author in 2005 that their Commissionaire was Mr Walter Hirons, of whom she says: 'Grown men trembled at the memory of Walter disciplining the lines when they were little boys.  He even shone his torch on me having a cuddle with one of my first boy-friends when I was a teenager'.  He wore a gold braided uniform and cap.  The Projectionist was Mr John Clements.  'All my father's employees were part of the family', added Mrs Carlin.

Her father was most reluctant to sell the Cinema and after it became a snooker hall he never went back there.  In fact, he moved to join his daughter in Australia and died there in 1994.  She says of him: 'My father due to his delightful gentle nature and ability to listen to and treat each of his customers as a special person was able to overcome the years of difficulties caused by the advent of television and survived as Plymouth's only independent cinema for many years'.

After being used as a snooker hall for many years, the Belgrave Electric Theatre was demolished during the week of Monday July 9th 2018 to make way for a block of student accommodation.