Heritage Trail Location 6
The “Flicks in the Sticks,” as Woodhall Spa`s famous Kinema in the Woods, was dubbed by the hundreds of servicemen who crowded into it during the 2nd World War, is unique. It is the only cinema in the country to operate by projection from behind the screen.
The building is highly unusual. Originally constructed in the late 19th century and known as “The Barn” by local folk who used it for meetings and bazaars, it had a verandah added from which spectators could watch cricket and tennis being played in the Spa grounds. It was also used as a concert hall with well known performers coming from various cities and the London stage, in Edwardian times. Then, at the beginning of the 1920s, Sir Archibald and Lady Weigall decided that a picture house was just what Woodhall Spa needed. The Baths were not doing well and the great draw for visitors, the Victoria Hotel, had burned to the ground.
Capt. C.C. Allport was put in charge and he remained so for 53 years! The new Pavilion Cinema opened in September 1922. Unfortunately, the film expected for the gala opening night (when high prices for admission of “8d, 1/6 or 2/4 inc. tax” were charged) did not arrive, so the expectant audience enjoyed a Charlie Chaplin film instead.
These were the days of silent films and local ladies, Mrs. Tyler of the sweet shop and Miss Enderby, who played the organ in the Methodist Chapel, were employed to play suitably atmospheric music on the piano to accompany the action. The “Talkies”, or “See and Hear” films arrived in the autumn of 1930 and this was when “The Pavilion KInema” became “The Kinema in the Woods.”
The Kinema was unusual, if not unique, in having deck chairs for its most expensive seats at the front. There was often a high class clientele of customers, even including Royalty, who were staying with the Weigalls at Petwood. On one occasion, Princess Marie Louise, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was heard to request a seat where she would not be kicked! At the back were benches, which were the cheapest seats. The nostalgic deck chairs had to be replaced in the 1950s because of safety regulations.
Mr. James Green took over the Kinema in 1973. He was able to purchase and install a Compton Kinestra Organ, which gives great delight as it emerges from under the stage in the interval of the film. The organ is played at performances by Mr. Alan Underwood, who (shades of Miss Enderby on the piano) also plays the organ in St. Peter`s Church.
“Kinema Too was opened in 1994, with the film “Four Weddings and Funeral.”
It is unusual, to say the least, that a village the size of Woodhall Spa has its very own Kinema (the name deriving from the kinematics rather than the cinematic projection technique).
Visit the 'Kinema in the Woods' website to learn more about this unique cinema and forthcoming films: www.thekinemainthewoods.co.uk
Heritage Trail locations
The trail can be started at any location, but we suggest you also visit the Cottage Museum to see the photographs taken by John Wield during the heyday of the Spa and items associated with this unique Victorian Spa town.
The Trail is just one of several projects in the hands of the Woodhall Spa Parish Council sponsored Heritage Committee. Click here if you are interested in the committee or their projects.
How well do you know Woodhall Spa?
See if you can identify the location of these architectural features and items of street furniture! Or find the Letterbox (coming soon).
Find out more about the Woodhall Spa Conservation Area.