The lost Portsmouth cinema famous for its fine orchestra and doric pillars

This is the latest cinema model from David Barber. It is of Portsmouth’s most ornate cinema, the Essoldo, formerly the Majestic.

By Bob Hind
Thursday, 10th October 2019, 5:41 pm
Another model of a Portsmouth cinema from the hands of David Barber, the Essoldo formerly the Majestic.
Another model of a Portsmouth cinema from the hands of David Barber, the Essoldo formerly the Majestic.

It opened its doors in 1921, designed by the well known city architect A E Cogswell and operated by Richard Stokes and cost £50,000 to build.

It had the most ornate auditorium of all Portsmouth cinemas, with wonderful plaster works on the ceiling and the walls.

The circle was semi-horseshoe shaped, with twin sets of theatre style boxes attached, accessed from the circle. I do not think they were ever used, just there for decor purposes.

It was always pronounced Broilcream but does anyone use Brylcreem anymore?

The cinema had a fine orchestra until the Westrex Sound system was installed in 1928.

I patronised it from the 1950s to 1972. The stage had doric pillars each side, lit from behind by pink lights in the intermission, foot and top lights of red, green and blue.

The twin square clocks each side lit orange, with adverts for Young's Victory Ales.

The former footbridge that once crossed Southwick Hill Road. The tram bridge crossed this side of it. Photo: The News archive.

The curtains of gold heavy satin were salvaged from the Apollo in Albert Road. A wide screen was on the stage, but it was a very tight fit, only the top mask moved down for cinemascope and up for normal.

In 1950 the cinema came under the Essoldo circuit until 1970 when it became the Classic. It sadly closed for good in 1973.

Do you remember the days when no self-respecting man or boy would go out unless his hair was smothered in Brylcreem and combed to perfection?

The photograph, above, comes from an advert in the Football Mail of 1947, but Brycreem still had years of wear ahead of it.

In the 1950s, Teddy Boys with their Tony Curtis haircuts with a Boston DA at the back would use the cream by the bucket load.

RAF servicemen were always called Brylcreem Boys. It was always pronounced ‘Broilcream’.  

Long hair fashions in the mid-1960s caused sales to fall. There was also competition from Silvercryn and Brilliantine. 

The Southwick Hill Road in Cosham once ran parallel with another bridge used for the trams of the Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway. The abutment can be seen this side of the footbridge on the photo above.

A path from QA Hospital ran from it’s grounds across the road and then continued alongside the London Road following the route of the former tramway.

The bridge had a height clearance of 16ft 3in so the lorry passing underneath had little to worry about. The tramway bridge was demolished in 1947, 12 years after the trams ceased running. In this photograph from 1978 we see the footbridge in good use, although it has since been taken down.