Arthur Lloyd.co.uk
The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

The Trocadero Super Cinema, New Kent Road, Elephant & Castle, Southwark

See also in this area: The Elephant & Castle Theatre - The Elephant & Castle Estate, 1898 and Shopping Centre, 1965 - The Astoria Theatre, Old Kent Road - The Trocette Theatre, Bermondsey - The Old Kent Picture House - The Star of Bermondsey

The Trocadero, New Kent Road in 1930 during the run of Lon Chaney in 'The Unholy Three,' with the billing: 'All This Week on the Talkie Screen.'

Above - The Trocadero, New Kent Road in 1930 during the run of Lon Chaney in 'The Unholy Three,' with the billing: 'All This Week on the Talkie Screen.'

The Auditorium of the Trocadero - Photo from the CTA Plaque placed on the site of the Trocadero in 2008. M.L.The Trocadero Cinema was situated at the Elephant & Castle end of the New Kent Road, opposite the former Elephant & Castle Theatre, now the Coronet, and was built as a vast Super Cinema with stage facilities for the Hyams Brothers, opening on Monday the 22nd of December 1930.

Right - The Auditorium of the Trocadero - Photo from the CTA Plaque placed on the site of the Trocadero in 2008. M.L.

The Theatre was designed by the architect George Coles. The Hyams Brothers would go on to run the nearby, and smaller, Troc-Ette Theatre on Tower Bridge Road in 1932, also designed by George Coles. The Trocadero Theatre had a vast capacity of 3,500 and the largest Wurlitzer Organ to have been so far shipped to Europe. See Phil Hyams Obituary Here.

The Weekly Kinema Guide of December 1930 reported on the Theatre's opening saying: 'Another "Super Cinema" will be open by the time most of our readers have received their copy of this week's WEEKLY KINEMA GUIDE. This time it is at the Elephant and Castle. The Trocadero, it is said, will seat 6,000 and, as the newest of the "supers," it contains novel and useful features. Among such novelties not the least attractive is the large inside waiting-room...

An Advertisement for the Opening of the Trocadero Elephant and Castle - From the Weekly Kinema Guide of December 1930.

Above - An Advertisement for the Opening of the Trocadero Elephant and Castle - From the Weekly Kinema Guide of December 1930. Note the over stated 6,000 Seating capacity, which was actually 3,500, and the claim to being Europe's Largest Cine-Variety Theatre which may also be disputed.

... It is claimed that this Talkie Theatre, for that is what the management call it, is the largest in the world and that 10,000 men were employed on the building. The slogan of the management has been "Taking Piccadilly to The Elephant and Castle," and, from what one can see, so far, they have certainly given South London the comforts of the West End at reasonable prices. The programme with which they open includes the World's release of the new Gaumont picture, "Bed and Breakfast," starring Jane Baxter and Eichard Cooper, and "The Storm," featuring Lupe Velez and William Boyd. On the stage there will be Miss Lilian Burgess, and The O'Gorman Brothers, and etc.' - The Kinema Guide 1930.

The Trocadero, New Kent Road in 1963, shortly before its demolition - Photo from the CTA Plaque placed on the site of the Trocadero in 2008. M.L.

Above - The Trocadero, New Kent Road in 1963, shortly before its demolition - Photo from the CTA Plaque placed on the site of the Trocadero in 2008. M.L.

The site of the Trocadero, New Kent Road, in July 2008 - Photo M.L.

Above - The site of the Trocadero, New Kent Road, in July 2008 - Photo M.L.

Poster for Buddy Holly and the Crickets at the Trocadero, Elephant & Castle on the first night of their UK twice nightly tour beginning on March the 1st 1958. Also appearing were Garry Miller, The Tanner Sisters, Des O'Conner, and the Don Smith Orchestra. - Click for  the Melody Maker ReviewThe Trocadero began life as a Cine-Variety Theatre staging all the latest features and accompanying them with all the latest names in Variety with shows regularly lasting for four hours.

Right - A Poster for Buddy Holly and the Crickets at the Trocadero, Elephant & Castle on the first night of their UK twice nightly tour beginning on March the 1st 1958. Also appearing were Garry Miller, The Tanner Sisters, Des O'Conner, and the Don Smith Orchestra. - Click for the Melody Maker Review.

In 1931, the year after the Theatre opened, the Trocadero even experimented with Opera, the Bioscope Cinema Magazine reported on the event in their July 13th 1931 edition, which I have transcribed below.

"Popular" Audiences Like Opera!
Amazing Trocadero Experiment

For their courageous experiment at the Trocadero, Elephant and Castle, this week, Major A. J. Gale and the Hyams Bros., of H. & G. Kinemas, Ltd., are likely to reap a definite reward.

For the whole of this week the Trocadero presents, in addition to a double "talkie" feature programme, the full opera "IL Pagliacci," with a cast of 100 and a symphony orchestra of 50. We believe this is the first time that any cinema in the world has attempted such a terrific show.

The experiment gives full opportunities to T. C. Fairbairn, the producer, to tax the new lighting effects which form one of the most surprising and modern features of the Trocadero stage equipment.

Included in the cast of the opera are Arthur Cox (Albert Hall), Herbert Dunkerley (Covent Garden), Miss La Fosse (Scala, Milan) and Captain Reverley, Horace Vincent, Appleton Moore, Evelyn Birks and George Hancock (all of Covent Garden).

Major A. J. Gale and Phil Hyams - From the Bioscope Cinema Magazine, 13th July 1931.On Monday, at the opening performances, the whole of the vast auditorium was literally packed and the applause at times was deafening.

To the confusion of their critics, H. & G. Kinemas have proved, by the most daring venture, that there is among the "popular" public a real appreciation, not only for good music, but for grand opera.

Left - Major A. J. Gale and Phil Hyams - From the Bioscope Cinema Magazine, 13th July 1931.

It was truly amazing to witness the vociferous appreciation displayed by the Trocadero audience, which included masses of people drawn from the densely populated and democratic neighbourhood surrounding the Elephant and Castle. The staggering fact emerges that it had been possible to give this large audience a full 3½ hour programme, including two feature "talkies" and the opera, for prices varying from 6d. to 2s. 4d.

The undoubted success of the experiment is due in no small degree to the network of organisation of the General Manager, Mick Hyams, and the Manager, James Holland. Every member of A. Van Damm's large orchestra also deserves to share in the congratulations.

It is estimated that over 15,000 people attended during the opening day, and this fact gives the lie direct to the assumption that people drawn from the working and artisan classes have no room for anything but the most flippant musical comedy and cheap jazz.

The above Article on Opera at the Trocadero was first published in the Bioscope Cinema Magazine, 13th July 1931.

The Swedish Naval Band performing at the Trocadero, Elephant & Castle in 1931 - From The Bioscope Cinema magazine of 1931.

Above - The Swedish Naval Band performing at the Trocadero, Elephant & Castle in 1931 - From The Bioscope Cinema magazine of 1931.

In 1963 the Theatre was demolished for the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle area and an office building called Alexander Fleming House and a smaller Odeon Cinema were built on the site, both designed by the now well known 60s and 70s architect Erno Goldfinger.

The CTA Plaque commemorating the TrocaderoThe Odeon was itself demolished in 1988 and the office building converted into flats.

On June the 4th 2008 a plaque produced by the CTA, commemorating the Trocadero was officially unveiled on the site by Denis Norden in the presence of the Mayor of Southwark, Eliza Mann, Simon Hughes MP, and a gathering of some 80 interested people.

Left - The CTA Plaque commemorating the Trocadero which reads: 'Here stood the 'Troc' (as it was affectionately known), the South Londoners' palace of entertainment. It brought them the latest big screen entertainment, stage spectaculars and Britain's largest Wurlitzer organ.

Article from the Illustrated London News of April the 3rd 1965 on the opening of the then new Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre - Click to Enlarge.The creation of the Hyams Brothers, this vast building seated some 3,500 and was designed in opulent Italian Renaissance style by the eminent cinema architect George Coles.

Demolished for comprehensive redevelopment in 1963, the Trocadero was replaced three years later by a worthy successor, the Odeon.

Built in boldly conceived concrete and the work of the Hungarian Modernist architect Erno Goldfinger, it too, in 1988, succumbed to the wrecker's ball.'

Right - An article from the Illustrated London News of April the 3rd 1965 on the opening of the then new Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre - Click to Enlarge.

Charles Saxby at the Trocadero, Elephant & Castle in 1956 or 1957 - Photo by Stanley A. Long from the journal of the Cinema Organ Society, June 1970. - Click for the organ's specifications.

Above - Charles Saxby at the Trocadero, Elephant & Castle in 1956 or 1957 - Photo by Stanley A. Long from the journal of the Cinema Organ Society, June 1970. - Click for the organ's specifications.

David Williams - Plays the Theatre Pipe Organ - 'Buddy Cole Remembered'
David Williams - Plays the Theatre Pipe Organ - 'Buddy Cole Remembered'

The Trocadero's organ was rescued from the Theatre before it was demolished by the Cinema Organ Society who then installed it in the Edric Hall on Borough Road (see video right). The organ was later put in storage in 2004 but has now been moved to the Troxy in London's Commercial Road, Stepney and full details about the move, installation, and project to restore it to full working order can be found on the Trocadero Wurlitzer Trust's website here.

Right - David Williams plays a composition by the late organist Buddy Cole, called 'Morning Panorama'. The organ although now in storage, was the Wurlitzer originally installed in the Trocadero Cinema, Elephant and Castle London. Here it is heard being played in the Edric Hall of the South Bank University, London. Click here for another composition played on the Troc's Wurlitzer.

Melody Maker, March the 8th 1958

Buddy Holly & The Crickets at the Trocadero, Elephant & Castle

4,500 disc fans pack Troc - despite Elvis

Melody Maker for the 8th of March 1958British disc spinners get double value for their money with the current visit of the American group, Buddy Holly and the Crickets. These three barnstorming youngsters have two hits in the charts at the moment - "Peggy Sue," under Buddy Holly's label, and "Oh, Boy!" under the banner of the Crickets.

But there is really only one act - singer Buddy Holly, with his two sidemen Joe Mauldin (bass) and Jerry Allison (drums) to put the kick into beat numbers.

They add up to one of the breeziest packages to be imported into Britain. The million-plus teenagers who have bought their discs will not have any illusions dented.

Off stage they are a very cautious trio.

"We've been going a year," Buddy Holly told me, "and one always wonders how long it's going to last. But so far the public seems to like us and we hope that as long as we don't make any mistakes we shall be alright."

Gold dust

At the moment they are certainly right: they estimate they got "2,000 a night during their recent American coast to coast tour. And even with two managers and a booking agent to pay, that's still gold dust.

Poster for Buddy Holly and the Crickets at the Trocadero, Elephant & Castle on the first night of their UK twice nightly tour beginning on March the 1st 1958. Also appearing were Garry Miller, The Tanner Sisters, Des O'Conner, and the Don Smith Orchestra. I went to hear them at the Trocadero, Elephant and Castle, on Saturday where, despite a Presley film across the road, they drew 1,500 into the first house and 3,000 to the second.

And I might as well say now that, though it's an excellent show, I was disappointed that Buddy Holly and the Crickets were on stage little more than 20 minutes. With ticket up to 10s. 6d. shortweight is hardly forgivable. Still this was the first show.

Breaking the ice

Strangely enough, they unload all their disc hits with feverish speed. Perhaps they wanted to break the ice a bit. It wasn't really necessary.

Page 3 of Melody Maker for the 8th of March 1958 - Captions read: Buddy Holly - The public seems to like us. Holly's sidemen, Jerry Alison (drums) and Joe Mauldin (bass). - Bandleader Ronnie Keene seen here with Garry Miller, adds much to the show's success.In Britain the custom is for the best sellers to come as the punch line at the end. By having them at the beginning, the cat seems to end on an anti-climax.

They are fortunate in being able to sit both sides of the fence. Country and Western fans need to look no further than the best selling "Peggy Sue" - and Buddy Holly is every bit as good as the disc. And for rock-'n'-rollers "That'll Be The Day," "Oh Boy," "Rip It Up," and so on are given plenty of punch.

Right - Page 3 of Melody Maker for the 8th of March 1958 - Captions read: Buddy Holly - The public seems to like us. Holly's sidemen, Jerry Alison (drums) and Joe Mauldin (bass). - Bandleader Ronnie Keene seen here with Garry Miller, adds much to the show's success.

I didn't feel quite at home with Buddy Holly when he added the Presley movements. He seems so obviously out of his depth.

Screams

But - though I did detect a few scornful laughs - it produced the usual screams from the usual bevvy of teenagers.

There's no doubt about it, the out-dated Variety halls could learn a lot from these teenage coast-to-coast tours.

Supporting the Crickets, Garry Miller, bronzed from his visit to the troops at Cyprus, was in good form and went down well. Both he and the Tanner Sisters kept the atmosphere up to date with hits from the best-selling charts. And they were rewarded.

Big Tour

Backing them was the Ronnie Keene Orchestra, new to the big time ranks. It's been formed less than two years and this is it's first big tour. It won't be it's last.

Comedy - not the easiest thing to put over on this type of show - is brightly presented by Des O'Connor.

This is one of the best package shows to be presented for approval of teenage audiences. And judging by the reaction on Saturday the teenagers appreciate it.

It's strictly pop music but the customers are not likely to grumble about that. Buddy Holly says: "We like this kind of music - jazz is strictly for the stay-at-homes!"

Bill Halden - Melody Maker, March the 8th, 1958.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Elephant and Castle area is currently undergoing major redevelopment and a website featuring all the details and dates for the regeneration can be found here.

Other Pages that may be of Interest