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Plaster Panel, Gaumont Cinema, 1936

27th May 2020 / Collections, Museum

These plaster panels are a rare survivor of the once glamourous Art Deco Cinema that stood on the corner of Timber Street and Gladstone Road, Chippenham. Its construction began in March 1936, and 8 months later the Gaumont Cinema opened to the public on 14th November.

The building’s exterior was a 1930’s take on Georgian architecture, in keeping with the Gaumont house style and other buildings in the town. Designed by William Edward Trent, the exterior featured figures by the architect’s cousin, Newbury Abbott Trent, a renowned sculptor, evoking the spirit of cinema and her attendants light and sound.

From black and white images, it is hard to appreciate the vibrancy and grandeur of the interior. The entrance hall was decorated in various shades of ‘chocolate’, with gold and blue decoration and matching terrazzo floor. The gold theme continued into the main auditorium with 1,100 gold fabric seats on a cream carpeted floor. Promotional material at the time described how:

“Upon entering the auditorium one cannot fail to be struck by the sense of spaciousness… between the ceiling and the jade green dado, the walls are covered with horizontal bands of silk, varying in colour from light fawn at the top to deep orange at the bottom… richly modelled grille features with their large tubular lighting fittings form a connecting link between the walls and the wide proscenium opening.”

These plaster panels were part of the “richly modelled grille features”. Originally seven panels high, they stood either side of the screen, concealing speakers. They can be seen in the photograph above taken on the cinema’s opening day in 1936.

When the cinema was converted into the Goldiggers Nightclub, the grilles were reduced in height to just four panels. They remained in place until the club closed in 2000, when members of the museum team were able to access the building and salvage some of the panels for the museum collection. The Gaumont building was finally demolished and replaced with retirement flats in 2005.