Monday, October 19, 2020

Chard, Somerset

Old and new

So you build a cinema in 1937 in the latest pared-back moderne style, all straight lines, plain brickwork, and strips of metal-framed windows. You decorate in a similiar style inside, with a stepped ceiling and concealed lighting, so that cinema-goers could imagine for a moment that they were in the latest picture palace in London, or Honiton anyway. And you call your cinema the Cerdic, after the first king of Wessex. It seems an odd mixture, but cinema was like that in the 1930s – and still is, one could say – using the latest technology and style, but equally at home in the worlds of science fiction and historical romance.

The Cerdic cinema was one of a small West Country chain run by the Wessex Kinema Company. There were others in Wellington, Somerset, and – yes – Honiton, Devon and, according the the excellent Cinema Treasures website, the buildings were almost identical. The architect was Edward de Wilde Holding (1886–1958), who was based in Northampton and form the evidence of this frontage had the idiom at his fingertips. The building doesn’t seem totoally out of place in the centre of the town of Chard – a place after all of old factories built of red bricks. As with so many cinemas, the exterior architecture is all about the facade. As you can see from my photograph, the rear of the building is a simple shed with a monopitched roof.

The Cerdic closed in 1962 and after a spell as a DIY store it was taken over by the Wetherspoon pub chain, who no doubt liked the combination of usable space and a long street frontage. Their popular pubs occupy numerous buildings (from old offices to spas) that might otherwise have struggled to survive in England’s town centres. This one was already filling up on the morning I passed by, as people took advantage of the building’s enduring mix of the old and the new.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Some say that CERDIC is really the same name as the Welsh CEREDIG, as in Ceredigion, which might mean that one of the Saxon invaders had a Welsh Mum. Does it mean "loved"? And were the Kinema company aware of this, I wonder?