Working at the Kingsway Cinema - Hadleigh

Alice Chafer's personal account

I started working in  “The Kingsway Cinema”  when I was 16½ years old.  This would have been in the latter part of 1947.  I was employed as an usherette, but also did ice cream sales in the interval, while the Compton organ  was being played.

Mr Forsyth was the Kingsway’s manager and Mr Lewis was the foreman.  Before we were given our duties and opened up the cinema, we would have to line up in front of Mr Lewis and be inspected!


It cost 6d, 10d. or 1s 9d to sit in the Stalls, and 2s 3d or 2s 9d in the Balcony;
{ 2.5p, 4p, 9p, 11p, 14p in current money.}

We had a doorman called Monty and a car park attendant called Mr Coleman, whose wife also worked at the “Kingsway”; she was an usherette.  Mr Coleman’s main task was to keep a look out for lads hanging around outside the cinema.  This was because one lad would ask an adult who was going into the cinema to take him in with his 6d, then in the interval he would sneak into the toilets and let his friends in via the Exit Doors!  Many a time we would find six or seven boys sitting where there should have been only one!

In 1948, a new manager took over the “Kingsway” – Mr Les Allen.  I had already decided to leave as I  was tired of working late nights and weekends. However, when Mr Allen heard that I could do shorthand and typing, he asked me to stay on as his Personal Assistant.  With the promise of leaving work by 8 o’clock during the week and no weekend work, I accepted.  I also agreed to help out as a part-time cashier when the two cashiers – Lucy Gibbs and Pat King were off.  I would also provide relief cover at “The Rivoli” in Southend, when staff were off sick.

I left in 1949, when a new manager – Gus Keeling took over.  Mr Keeling did offer me my job back in the 1950s, but by then I was married with children.

It would be lovely to hear from other “Kingsway” staff from those days and perhaps find some undiscovered photos for my album.  Perhaps the photograph below will jog someone’s memory?

The Kingsway Cinema Staff 1949:

Back Row (Left to Right)
George Bissett (Doorman), J Banbury (Organist), Monty Weldon (Doorman), Charlie Middleton (Doorman)

Second Row from Back (Left to Right)
Dot Matty (Usherette), W Lewis (Foreman), E Colman (Usherette), Stella Holloway (Usherette)

On the Left in white: Freda Mowday, on the Right Kathy Robertson, both in Sales

Bottom Row (Left to Right)
Gladys Bridge (Usherette), Lucy Gibbs (Cashier), Les Allen (Manager), Pat King (Cashier), E Hart (Usherette)

From Alice Chafer's Album

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  • Eileen,
    Thank you for mentioning the Roy Orbison show at the Kingsway. I was there too, and yes, what a fantastic night it was. I’ve tracked down the programme, see:

    In case this link doesn’t open up, the show was on 7 March 1967. and the supporting acts were:
    – The Small Faces
    – Paul & Barry Ryan
    – The Geoff Beck Group
    – The Settlers
    – Sonny Childe & the TNT
    – The Rob Storme Group

    What a line up for a one night show ! It was all very professional indeed and I’m so glad I was there…

    By Geoff Gonella (03/12/2018)
  • My mum Daphne Walters was an usherette at the Kingsway when she was courting my dad Dennis Guy. He used to frequent the cinema whilst mum was working. She always saved him a back seat telling a story that she saved a certain seat for a chap with a bad leg. This meant he had to walk in and out with a limp!! Would love to know if anyone remembers her and which years she worked there.

    By Susan Wells (15/02/2014)
  • For those that might want to know what the Kingsway Compton Cinema Organ sounded like, there are a number of videos on Youtube which can be seen by initially going to the following link

    in which Nicholas Martin can be seen and heard playing the old organ before it was moved in late 2013 to be renovated and relocated to a nearby church.

    By Terry Barclay (05/02/2014)
  • I remember the Kingsway Cinema very well indeed. As a child in the 1950s, I loved to go to the children’s Saturday Morning Pictures with my friends, always so exciting if rather noisy with all us kids shouting for our heroes. Gus Keeling was the manager in those days. Later on in the 1960s I recall going to see Roy Orbison live, a fabulous show for sure. Whilst I was giving birth to my daughter in June 1970, my husband was busy knocking down the Kingsway so, for me, it was a time of both great joy on the birth of our daughter but sadness to see the end of this lovely cinema.

    By Eileen Acreman (30/11/2012)
  • My dad had the petshop, 8 Kingsway Parade, opposite the cinema and Yeaxley’s. In their earlier life my mum and dad were professional entertainers and their manager was Gus Keeling, who became the cinema manager in the 50s. Because my dad put a flyer in his shop window we got free tickets to every show, so saw practically every movie ever made in those days. When we visited England in the early 90s from here in Australia, I was devastated to find the cinema gone, everything changed, no history visible, except for the Church and the castle. I had a great childhood in Hadleigh, such days of innocence.

    By Don Thompson [jnr] (19/11/2012)
  • Can anyone remember the name of the Kingsway manager around 1938. He was a family friend and took my Father and myself on a tour of the cinema and introduced us to Peggy Webber the organist, he also gave me a free pass to the cinema to be used anytime.

    By Ian Hawks (08/11/2012)

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