NOSTALGIA: Old Portsmouth cinemas brought back to life

The Odeon, Lonodon Road, North End, Portsmouth
The Odeon, Lonodon Road, North End, Portsmouth

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For most of us Portsmouth’s old cinemas are just a fond memory. To think, there were once more than a dozen whereas today there isn’t one left that I would call a ‘proper’ picture house.

But there’s someone out there who cares so much about our old cinemas that he makes intricate scale models of them.

Part of the auditorium and projection room of the Odeon,  North End.

Part of the auditorium and projection room of the Odeon, North End.

Model-making supremo David Barber contacted me about his hobby.

Now 73 he tells me: 'I am a great cinema building enthusiast, of the wonderful but sadly now all gone art deco cinemas that used to be in Portsmouth.

‘I also have built two working models of them, with LED lighting and they also take a seven-inch screen DVD player. ‘ 

David says he belongs to Portsmouth premier model railway club, Victory Model Railway Club, and has shown these working models at its exhibitions in the city and other locations to which they get invited.

One of the models made by Dave Barber,  The Essoldo, Albert Road, Southsea.

One of the models made by Dave Barber, The Essoldo, Albert Road, Southsea.

He adds: ‘The models have caused sensations with members of the public, who say it is something very original, as most model cinemas on model railway layout are just the front of the building in the high street. It goes to show what can be achieved.

‘In 2011 I did an exhibition of  four models I made which went on show at the Aspex Gallery. They were the Odeon North End, Majestic, Kingston Road, Essoldo, Albert Road and the Criterion Gosport.

‘In 2010 I also made a broadcast on Express FM with Robin Kay all about the cinema wonderful interiors. My models are all hand-made from scratch, copied from photos and my photographic memory. I am planning to build two more, the Odeon Muswell Hill in north London and the Gaiety, Southsea.’

And David made this plea. 'What I am trying to find, for my own personal use, for model-making purposes and my own record, are photographs of the auditoriums of the following Portsmouth cinemas. I have searched everywhere without success for photos of the stage, and looking back at the projection box.

Singing their hearts out are boys from HMS Vernon Cadets. Are you among them? Picture: Mike Nolan Collection

Singing their hearts out are boys from HMS Vernon Cadets. Are you among them? Picture: Mike Nolan Collection

‘The cinemas are: Tivoli, Copnor Road; Classic, Commercial Road; Essoldo, Eastney; Gaiety, Southsea; Shaftesbury, Kingston Road;  Forum, Stamshaw; Curzon, Waterlooville; Rex, Fratton Road, and the Plaza at Bradford Junction.’

If anyone can help David in his mission please contact him via david.barber434@gmail.com.

•I have no idea what year the choir on the facing page might have been singingin  but I am sure there must be someone who can enlighten me.

They are boys of HMS Vernon cadets in the years most of the local establishments had there own cadet section. Any information and names would be appreciated.