From Plaza to mosque – the cinema that led the way

The Gaumont Cinema at Bradford Junction in 1962.
 Picture: Barry Cox
The Gaumont Cinema at Bradford Junction in 1962. Picture: Barry Cox
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Some of you may have purchased my recent publication War Torn Portsmouth –Then, After and Now which I am glad to say has been very successful.

My publisher has asked me to produce another, before Christmas if possible and he is a tough taskmaster.

The former cinema and bingo hall today, converted to a mosque.

The former cinema and bingo hall today, converted to a mosque.

As we of a certain age all know, the western side of Portsea Island has altered beyond many people’s recognition and I have been asked to produce a book of then and now photographs from the past 50 years or so to recognise this fact.

I will be featuring a few of these then and now photographs I have already found in the coming days.

What was one of Portsmouth’s most popular cinemas started to see business go downhill when the television came into being.

Why go out on a cold winter’s evening when it was all there in front of you beside a lovely warm fire?

The Plaza, as it was called, at Bradford Junction, Fratton, opened on Saturday, September 29, 1928, with an especially-invited audience.

The entrance foyer was decorated in a Tudor style along with fireplaces and sunken carpets.

A total of 1,331 people in the stalls and 384 in the circle gave the cinema much atmosphere.

When the talkies first came to Portsmouth it was the Plaza that led the way by showing The Singing Fool starring Al Jolson.

The film packed them in for several weeks.

It was renamed the Gaumont on May 8, 1950, but closed by the Rank organisation in 1965. It became a Top Rank Bingo Club until 1997.

A Grade II listed building it is now a Jami Mosque.

Ironically, for a cinema that was to become a mosque, one of the earliest films to be shown was The Garden of Allah.

In the older picture you can see the three-sided shelter at Bradford Junction.