Grandad's Watton


I have mentioned earlier that talking pictures were first seen in Watton at the Wayland Hall, but this was not Watton's first cinema. That distinction belongs to a low, wooden building which stood almost opposite Brett’s Stonemasons' premises and on a site now occupied by a new residence. It was divided from the Vicarage gardens by the footpath which now leads from Priory Road to Norwich Road. That footpath in earlier years was a wide, hedge-lined public right of way called Betty Hogg’s Lane. I don't know who Betty Hogg was or what she was doing down the lane, but perhaps that's no concern of ours.,



The old cinema was completely typical of its kind in the early 1920's. The silent, often flickering film, the tinkling piano, the breakdowns caused by faults with the projector or faults with the projectionist, or sometimes both and of course the occasional major hiccup when the electricity generator failed completely. Here we saw such epics as "Ben Hur" and watched Harold Lloyd. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Do you remember any of those names'? You do'.' My word, you must be getting on a bit!!

A regular feature of the programme was the serial. "Six Gun City" and "The Adventures of Pearl White" were the favourites and each week we would sit clutching our seats, fearing the worst as poor Pearl was suspended over a cliff on a burning rope, or tied to the railway lines just fifty yards from the express train thundering towards her. Then, suddenly the picture would vanish and onto the blank screen would appear the word-. "Will Pearl White escape? Can Pearl be saved'? See next weeks thrilling instalment".

Later, much much later. Watton acquired a new cinema. The Regal. and this building is now the headquarters of R. Neave Ltd., removal and storage contractors. With the Regal came a new concept in mass entertainment in Watton. with up-to-date sound and visual equipment, the availability of new films as they were released, thick carpeting, heavy curtains, uniformed usherettes, and always keeping a supervisory eye on proceedings was Manager Peter Candler. impeccable in evening dress. There was some local excitement when what may well have been an inspired rumour swept the town that Gracie Fields was going to attend the opening night. Our Gracie was not there but displayed in the foyer was a "Good Luck" telegram from her, so we settled for second best.

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