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Author Topic: Empire Theatre, Chatham  (Read 36096 times)

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Offline peterchall

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #50 on: April 11, 2013, 17:31:22 »
I'm sure that it was a wind vane on the top, in the shape of some sort of ship.
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

Offline smiffy

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #49 on: April 11, 2013, 15:56:52 »
A picture of the Empire taken, I think, shortly before its closure. Over the entrance on the left the sign says "Empire Cinema". Above that is seen "Restaurant Kowloon" which I can only assume is the Empire's take on a Chinese restaurant - perhaps one of the earliest in Medway? The sign "Espresso" is also given some prominence.
Next door on the left is Hobdays - Hamond Hill Tool Stores. This building is featured in its later guise as a record store in the first photo in this topic, along with a couple of remaining pillars from the Empire's leftmost entrance. I'm wondering if anyone knows what that is on top of the dome and if it has any significance - it looks to me like some kind of stylized Viking ship.

Offline Lyn L

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #48 on: April 11, 2013, 09:31:03 »
Welcome to the forum amundsen1912, and many thanks for sharing these memoirs  :)
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life tryi

Offline peterchall

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #47 on: April 11, 2013, 08:16:09 »
Hear, hear to that :)
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

Offline pr1uk

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #46 on: April 11, 2013, 08:00:15 »
amundsen1912 what an interesting read and thank you for sharing
To be contented in life you must learn the difference between what you want and what you need
-Peter

amundsen1912

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #45 on: April 11, 2013, 00:12:02 »
Hello - I'm a new poster on here and based down in Southsea. I thought the following regarding 'The Empire' may be of interest!
 This is an extract from my late g/father's  WW1 Trench Diary (Royal West Kents),  and was written whilst stationed at Fort Horsted and awaiting transfer to France;

''After 1630 hours we did all the things that all normal morons of our age do, so we’ll leave it at that;  except that I think that the “Flea-Pit” requires a paragraph or two of its own…..
Opposite the Cadena Cafe in the main street through town was the Chatham Empire; a very unprepossessing building, and stood on a corner of a road that led down to the dockland. The cafe was a favourite for entertaining ‘flappers’, but on Saturday evenings we used to savour the rather unsavoury delights of “Empire” - known locally as ‘‘The Flea-Pit”. It was a low-down music hall and its clientele was chiefly servicemen; Naval ratings, Army rank and file, pub crawlers, louts and other “Hoy-Polloy”.
Every performance was supervised by Naval, Military and Civil Police, and heaven help you if you ever got into trouble. All performers who sang sob-ditties and love lullabies were applauded vociferously to High Heaven. But others not so lucky were the recipients of eggs, tomatoes and carrots; plates of porridge too - on one occasion I can recall. This is what we went to the ‘Flea-Pit’ for and many at a time one had to duck hastily in the stalls, as a barrage of odds and ends descended from the occupants of the gallery.
Scuffles were interminable as the Red Caps (Military Police) waded in and took their toll of the Audience. If things got too bad we thought it advisable to leave''.


Offline Peterj

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #44 on: October 31, 2012, 16:48:46 »
I only went to the Empire Cinema once, in the the 1950's, to see the Pinocchio film.
Re previous post from Bob Dunford6, my mother Winifred (Sampson) Jewell also worked at the Gem in King Street in the early part of the last century!

Offline pr1uk

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #43 on: October 30, 2012, 13:01:45 »
I too remember the Empire Theatre, being taken there by my mother to see the Panto's in the 1950's. Also being taken to the cinema to see the 'Al Jolson Story' and having water come through the ceiling and having to move seats.

Oh yes, the cinema was run down, that's for sure, but as a youngster if I had a shilling I could go to see a film for 9 pence and get 2 ounces of sweets, happy days. The posh cinema's without leaks and holes in the seats, cost an earthly 1/3 just to get in so 1/6 was needed to see a film and get sweets and saving sixpence was a big deal then.
To be contented in life you must learn the difference between what you want and what you need
-Peter

Offline Troyboy

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #42 on: October 29, 2012, 20:07:10 »
I too remember the Empire Theatre, being taken there by my mother to see the Panto's in the 1950's. Also being taken to the cinema to see the 'Al Jolson Story' and having water come through the ceiling and having to move seats.

Offline Bryn Clinch

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #41 on: October 28, 2012, 19:23:21 »
Great Story, bob.dunford6!

Have you any photos?

busyglen

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #40 on: October 28, 2012, 19:02:14 »
Interesting story, bob.dunford6. :)

bob.dunford6

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #39 on: October 28, 2012, 17:36:29 »
I will have to go back to the Gem Theatre, Gillingham, 1911. My Grandfather Charles S. Sampson came up from Devon, married a Sittingbourne, Kent lady and came to live in King Street, Gillingham, where he was waiting to go into the Chatham Dockyard as a Shipwright. While waiting, he was working as a Caretaker for the Gillinham Council (Census 1911). He lived in 23 King Street, Gillingham with his family. In Gillingham they had a theatre called the Gem which an American by the name of Coly Goodman bought. Now Coly Goodman's best friends were Charlie Chaplin and his brother Sid Chaplin who, when one of their silent films was being shown, would do tricks and his funny walk outside of the Gem to bring in more customers. Now he and his brother would stay in King Street for a few nights at a time, sleeping there. So my Grandfather got to know them quite well and some of his Daughters (my Mother and Aunts) would work for Coly Goodman, selling tickets in the Gem, seeing people to their seats, cleaning and making cakes to sell in the foyer. Gillingham High Street was the top in those days, Londoners would come down by train to ride on the new electric tram which ran along the High Street. The shop owners along the High Street would play the latest music for the visitors. So they would have a meal, walk down King Street to see a show, then catch the train back to London. The Chatham Dockyard would send up a horse drawn carriage to bring people from the Dockyard to see a show in King Street. Now when one of my Grandfather's daughters, Eva, grew up, she married a Mr William J. Bance, who was a musician and played in the orchestra of the Empire Theatre, Chatham. And taking notice of her father, Eva Sampson/Bance bought a house at number 6 Albany Terrace and changed it into a guest house for the stars performing at the Empire Theatre. When I was about ten years old I used to visit my Aunt Eva in Albany Terrace and help her out. A lot of the stars wanted some shopping done. So I used to go out and buy whatever they wanted. One day going out, a man sitting on the stairs shouted out to me and said “I understand you do some shopping for us staying here”; I said “yes what do you want?” He was smoking a roll-up cigarette and asked me if I could buy him some roll up tobacco. When I came back to the Guest House my Aunt met me and said “have you bought the tobacco for Mr Tommy Cooper, a very good gentleman? So many stars I met there. I told this story to the Medway Council, who checked most of it out and said go onto the Kent History Forum and tell your story. This is great, so I have my aunt’s place number 6 Albany Terrace, which was the guest house the council said they found my aunt living there in 1955, but cannot go back any further, and the Kelly’s Directory is for 1957, 1959,1965, 1968, so they have not got a trade directory for 6 Albany Terrace, which is a great shame. My aunt would give all the stars staying there a card telling people about the guest house for the stars, which many of them kept. I thought this history should be told. My grandfather Charles S. Sampson finished up living in 21 Star Hill, Rochester, Kent. His family still live there today.
From Bob Dunford, his grandson.

Offline pr1uk

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #38 on: April 12, 2012, 11:47:56 »
I saw Des o Conner and Marion Ryan on ice at the empire when I was a small boy. The wardona at Strood was also called The Bug Hutch.

Greyuncle

I saw a pantomime in the theatre in 1956 it was Aladdin with Des O'Connor I know that because someone told me years later that Des O'Connor was in it. All I know was it was my first pantomime and I was so impressed I never saw another one.  Looking back on the net a lot of the big names back in the day appeared there and it more then often sold out the last performances before it shut was cancelled as the owners never paid the electric bill and got cut off.
To be contented in life you must learn the difference between what you want and what you need
-Peter

Offline Greyuncle

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #37 on: April 11, 2012, 22:19:01 »
I saw Des o Conner and Marion Ryan on ice at the empire when I was a small boy. The wardona at Strood was also called The Bug Hutch.

Greyuncle

Offline pr1uk

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Re: Empire Theatre, Chatham
« Reply #36 on: April 11, 2012, 10:25:34 »
One of the features of its programmes was the 'serial' - usually a western about about 15 minutes long ending with the hero, or someone close to him, in a dire situation. So you just had to go the following week to see how he got out of it, which was often by some implausible means that caused groans from the audience. I think when one serial had run its course the next one began the same week, so that there was no gap in the nail-biting endings.

And I still say that its proper name was the 'Picture House' :)

I think your probably right with it's real name but we always called it the Empire or Bug Hutch and as for those serials oh yes i remember them. At the end of these short films the hero had just fallen off a cliff or something but when you saw the next episode he had not fallen off but had caught hold of something and saved himself. We were easily pleased back then but you got value for the money with Pathe news, serial and a B film before the main one and the news was great as most of us never had TVs at home.
To be contented in life you must learn the difference between what you want and what you need
-Peter

 

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