DOVER KENT ARCHIVES

Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 3 July 2003

 

 

BELOW: The once popular open-air pool on the seafront with indoor baths and cliff lifts bringing up the rear, an aerial view dating from around 50 years ago. See Jimmy Godden’s challenge to open-air swim enthusiasts on this page in our feature “From our Files” for 1978. Pictured right is the Metronome, previously the Savoy Cinema, see story below.
CINEMA enthusiast Eric ‘Ricky’ Hart, a “Memories” reader keenly interested in Old Folkestone is disgusted by the state of what used to be the Savoy Cinema - later the Metronome night spot in Grace Hill, Folkestone.

Ricky has a special interest in the cinema. For one thing he joined forces with the late Tony Thompson, another local history enthusiast, to put on record the history of Folkestone’s four main cinemas.

The results of their collaboration featured in an excellent large format paperback about local cinemas, “Picture Palaces Remembered,” published in 1987 in collaboration with the late John Roy, of River.

Profits from the sale of that attractively presented book, published by Glenton Publications, were donated to the East Kent Hospice.

But, more personal, Ricky treasures an important ‘relic’ of the Savoy. He saved the old Standaart cinema organ and somehow grafted it into his home in Chart Road!

To Ricky it seems criminal that the “Savoy” - later the Metronome - on Grace Hill, is “languishing in its sad demise and being allowed to rot away.

“A skylight with a loose pane of glass has given access to pigeons, as well as letting in rain. I recently caught a glimpse of the auditorium from the rear balcony exit, and was shocked to see how the penetrating damp has brought down some of the ornate
shame
ceiling plaster, which some years back had been restored at great expense to the ratepayers of the town and county,” he said.

“At this rate I imagine that it won’t be long before the demolition gang moves in,” he commented sadly. A sad state of affairs considering its history.”

June 29, he points out, marked the 74th anniversary of the re-opening of the Savoy super cinema after the disastrous fire in December 1928.

“This marked the debut of the Standaart organ there and, I’m proud to say it is still fully functional at home with me.”

‘Stunning shows’

The property was intended to become a music hall, but started as a motor garage, then became a skating rink and was finally converted into a fully fledged picture house, or cinema, in 1910, opening on May 3.

Cinematography was then still in its infancy and shows were somewhat primitive by modern standards, but, says ‘Ricky’ the impact of large screen viewing, for a full house of some 400 people at “The Electric,” as it was known, was quite stunning.

Competition came from shows at the Town Hall and the Victoria Pier Pavilion, where “animated” films were being shown. But it was June 1929 before seven-day licences were granted. Later more competition came from “The Playhouse” in
Guildhall Street and “The Central” in George Lane.

The healthy competition saw live shows introduced and there was keen bidding for the best films on offer.

In 1928 “The Electric” had become the “Savoy,” announcing a ‘scoop’ over the opposition - “Talking Films” as part of its programme, and proclaimed it was the first ‘proper’ cinema in Kent!

Sadly, 1928 was not a good year for the owners, the O’Connors, mother and son, who had a flat over the entrance.

Two months after showing a classic of the time, a feature called “Fire,” with quite realistic visual and sound effects, there was a real life drama.

Fire broke out at the stage end of the cinema, the flames soon shooting 40ft into the air. The O’Connors’ maid sounded the
alarm around midday, but soon the cinema was gutted. The rear wall was left standing, but split from top to bottom.

Happily the property was insured and the new “Savoy” opened only six months later. A vast improvement on the old, it had seating for nearly a thousand and, in keeping with a modern trend, a cinema organ was installed, built by the Dutch firm of Standaart, in Schiedam.

Arriving too early it became quite a crowd-puller stored temporarily in the former motor showroom of Martin Walter Ltd, in Bouverie Place.

At the time of the fire Ricky was six and recalls earning pennies to pay for cinema visits, using a cart made from a sugar-box and pram wheels. He helped neighbours by collecting bushel loads of coke from the gas works for their winter fires.
Compiled by Bob Hollingsbee
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From Our Files
 

Drenching demonstration by new steam fire engine!

| q/%qHYTHE's civic leaders had an impromptu shower when they turned out for a fiasco of an exhibition given by Hythe and Folkostoiio firemen to compare tho merits of the town's Merryweather manual firo appliance of 1866 and Folkestone's modem "George Spurgen" steam fire engine. When Hythe's old hoses were connected to the steamer they burst, spraying water over councillors much to the amusement of spectators, but the demonstration continued, ending cordially with supper - and the conviction Hythe too, needed a steam erl A new through express train from Folkestone direct to Liverpool via Reading began running on July 1, and new direct services between deal, Walmer, Dover, Folkestone, Sandgate, Hythe, Margate, Ramsgate, Canterbury and Hastings, in July, August and September. Trains leaving Folkestone at 11.30am were due to reach Hastings at 1pm, whilo a return 1rain would leave the Sussex town at 4.32 and return by 5.47pm. Now turbine steamer "The Queen' arrived in Folkestone to begin services, promis ing an end to soot-covered decks with a spark' arrester to 'clean' emissions from its engines.

 
Elephants join coronation celebrations on Marsh

f qfaELEPHANTS, including "Aga." star of 1930tiie film "Elephant Boy," and lions used in MGM's "Quo Vadis," wcro set to appear in the Coronation year Fossett's Circus show at New Romney in the first week of July as the fifth generation of family owners celebrated 150 years as touring circus promoters. The RAF rejected criticism of dive-bombing 'attacks’ on Folkestone by USAF and RAF jot fighters, a spokesman saying that in certain kinds of train ing this could not always be avoided. The coun try's future safety was paramount. Lyminge Methodists celebrated the completion of a replacement church to take the place of one destroyed by one of the enemy's flying bombs in 1944. There was a sad sequel to a Canterbury Road resident's funeral, the widow of the deceased collapsing with a heart attack after the ceremony and dying a few days later. The couple, both born in Dover, were Tom Foreman, 69 and his wife Nellie (nee Hammond,) who was 73 and the daughter of a Dover wholesale fruiterer and potato merchant. Tom had been a foreman bricklayer and was keenly interested in football and cricket. The couplo moved to Folkestone in 1914.
 
Parson launched Sunday cricket bowling first bali

■1 QOQBY voto t,le Town Council nave .LJ/^Othe go-ahead for tennis on Sundays, which was good news for those on lower incomes. Sunday golf had been .i fact of life for years simply because it was the well to clo who enjoyed the sport and also contributed to the expenses of the Church. Herald writer Felix wrote of the hypocrisy of those who opposed Sunday tennis whilo turning a blind eye to golf. Although respecting the Lord's Day. Felix said Sunday cricket featured in the book "Life of the Rev Thomas Wilson," back in 1672. George Swinnoche wrote of a tradition in a Kent village (Frittenden?) where the parson would open the cricket season, bowling the first ball on Easter Sunday, wearing his wnite surplice. Many local people feared a near monopoly gained by the East Kent Road Car Company, meant higher fares for public bus services than when there were several companies in opposition. Meanwhile there was a move to ban Soviet produced petrol in Shepway, but the town clerk, told some coun cils had imposed a ban, said a ban couldn't be enforced under British law. What councils could do was opt not to use it in their vehicles!
 
Dormobile works sheds 55 jobs as orders drop

Hi Q"7Q MARTIN Walter company Dormobile X7 I Oshed 55 staff because, it said, of a general reduction in demand for the coachbuiid-ing conversions it curried out. There had "even been a falling off in sales of its caravans in France," because of the falling value of the Franc. Spokesman Bob Baker, director and general manager, said the company was trying not to force redundancies and was looking for voluntary redundancies. Amusements boss Jimmy Godden challenged the public to prove it still wanted the open air swimming pool kept going by using it more, enabling it to pay its way, as he took it over and work began cleaning the pool ready for use. It's future was in the hands of the public, he said. Council plans for a skateboard park elsewhere seemed to rule out the use of the pool site for that purpose. One councillor suggested that if Mr Godden was willing to renovate the pool and its facilities and this didn't persuade enough people to use it, the council should consider a grant to help keep it open. The Sports Centre, he pointed out got a 60,000 a year subsidy. The editor wrote that a seaside resort without an outdoor pool was like a World Cup goalkeeper with only one arm.

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