2. Electric Palace Cinema
Early Cinema in Deptford, London
Located on the corner of Deptford High Street and Hyde Street, where Shades Snooker Club stands today, is the building which once housed the Deptford Electric Palace cinema. It first opened its doors on December 24th 1910.
In the publication Two Sixpennies Please: Lewisham’s Early Cinema, Ken George writes:
“The front elevation of the cinema had little to commend itself, presenting a flat brick front of two storeys over the entrance foyer. Not that the appearance could have bothered the prospective patrons. I would imagine their chief concern would be to purchase a ticket, be shown into the friendly darkness and enjoy the picture show.”
I included this site in the [Captioning Lewisham] trail to highlight how cinema was once accessible to both deaf and hearing children. Indeed, when the Electric Palace opened, silent films were shown, with simple text cards displayed between the action. Deaf people could have visited the cinema not needing to think about access; with no spoken soundtrack, they could enjoy it in the same way as hearing patrons.
In 1915 the Electric Palace introduced a grand pianoforte which added a manual sound accompaniment to films, but the action screen would have remained accessible for a deaf audience for many years. It wasn’t until 1930 that the cinema introduced a sound film motor-generator, constructed in its roof, to enable a ‘talking picture show’ in time for Christmas.
In Two Sixpennies Please: Lewisham’s Early Cinema, Ken George writes of the cinema:
“Special children’s shows would take place on Saturday afternoons, which relieved mums of their offspring while they did the shopping. (I would think this is an excellent idea from a kid’s point of view.)”
Over the years many children would have enjoyed the ‘pictures’ at Deptford’s Electric Palace. It’s wonderful to imagine deaf and hearing children watching films together on a Saturday.
George, K., 1987. In Two Sixpennies Please: Lewisham’s Early Cinema. [London]: [Lewisham Local History Society].