Debonair Jack Buchanan opened Cosham cinema

High Street Cosham 1977
High Street Cosham 1977

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The recent picture of High Street, Cosham, featuring the Classic cinema, brought back crystal-clear memories for 93-year-old Roy Downing.

He was 11 when, in 1934, his mother took him by tram from North End to Cosham for an event which has lived with him to this day.

Roy says: ‘It was to attend the opening of a new cinema. The ceremony was performed by Jack Buchanan, at the time one of the leading song and dance men in the Noel Coward/Ivor Novello era. He named the new cinema the Carlton.’

It went on to be called the Classic, Essoldo and ABC, among others,before it was demolished in 2011.

Roy, of High Street, Cosham, recalls: ‘At the front, just below the screen a huge organ would rise out of the floor prior to the start of the programme and at the interval and regale us with music. The intervals would be at least 15 minutes long to allow the ice-cream usherettes to complete their sales.’

He adds: ‘During the war enemy bombers would pass over the city on their way to other targets and occasionally drop a bomb or two to keep us out of bed and to disrupt the war effort.

One bomb dropped on the Highbury estate , one in the middle of Highbury Buildings and the third one right on top of the Carlton Cinema.’

Roy remembers that it was reported there were no casualties ‘but during demolition a few days later it was reported that a body of a young boy was found in the second row of the balcony’. It was later established that three people died in that raid.

He says that at the start of the war Cosham had three cinemas: the first, The Waverly, was almost opposite the Swan pub, then the Carlton and in 1937 the Ambassador, where Roy saw Paul Robeson in Sanders of the River.

‘On the circle, or balcony floor, was a dance floor which was very popular with the local young ladies and hundreds of American troops.

He concludes: ‘High Street has changed a great deal from a village street to a suburban street that has 11 eateries, 11 charity shops and three betting/gambling shops, but it is still Cosham and I have great memories of it.’