Hither Green’s Lost Globe Cinema

On Staplehurst Road, to the north east of Hither Green station, and now part of the Old Biscuit Factory development, is a rather elegant building next to the shops.  Over the years it has been put to a variety of uses, but originally it was a cinema, as the OS 25” Map, surveyed in 1914 shows.Globe.3

The Globe Cinema opened on 27th November 1913 with a capacity of around 700 and included features that audiences had come to expect of the cinema – tip up seats and a sloping auditorium (1). It was one of a quartet of cinemas that spring up in Hither Green and Lee in the late Edwardian period, perhaps the golden age for the growth of the cinema.  The others were the Park Cinema, on the corner of George Lane and Hither Green Lane, and a pair on Lee High Road – the Imperial Picture Palace near Lee Green, and the Lee Picture Palace on the corner of Bankwell Road – Running Past covered the last of these a while ago, and will no doubt ‘visit’ the others at some stage.


The proprietor was Ethel Mary Smith; she was the landlord of The Green Man Hotel (see picture below) on Blackheath Hill.  She was originally from Seaford in Sussex and was married to Charles Smith who was a Bermondsey ‘boy’ and was an insurance agent – he seems to have been the Managing Director of the firm behind the cinema (2).  The earliest reference to Ethel at The Green Man was in both the 1911 Kelly’s Directory and the census of the same year.  The 1914 Kelly’s had her still there but she had moved on by 1917.  What happened to her after that is unclear, if only she had had a less common name ….

Source - ebay March 2016

Source – ebay March 2016

Presumably the Smiths felt that a cinema was a logical extension of the existing trade at The Green Man and the new inhabitants of Hither Green would want to come to the pictures.  Whether it was competition from the other cinemas, poor bills or poor management, the cinema clearly struggled from the outset – it was put up for sale and temporarily closed on 16th February 1914, only 10 weeks after opening. It was sold at auction in April 1914 for £2,500 (3).



The cinema re-opened on 23rd April 1914 as the Playhouse, opening with the 1913 film Spartacus (source for poster here)


The licencing authority, the London County Council, clearly had concerns about the cinema; probably centering around fire safety and refused to grant another when the licence expired at the end of May 1915.  While the Playhouse struggled for another few weeks, using non-flammable films, the request for another licence was refused and it closed around 19th July 1915. There were further unsuccessful attempts after the closure to get a new licence, the final attempt being in February 1916.

After closure, the cinema was taken over by what was to become Chiltonian Biscuits who seem to have already been on the site in the buildings behind the cinema (see the map above); this has already been covered by Running Past in one of the very earliest posts on the blog.


Photograph by David Simpson – made available on creative commons

The auditorium is no more; it was demolished as part of the development of the Old Biscuit Factory although is visible in the photograph above just before the building work started, however the front of the building remains.  It is currently vacant – the original intention was to create a restaurant after it had finish being used as the sales base for the site. There was a convoluted, but ultimately successful attempt to change the use to a mixture of residential on the first floor and retail on the ground – but as of July 2016 it still appears vacant.


  1. Ken George (1987) ’Two Sixpennies Please – Lewisham’s Early Cinemas’ p40
  2. Ibid
  3. ibid

Census and related data are from Find My Past; and the Kelly’s Directory information via the University of Leicester.


9 thoughts on “Hither Green’s Lost Globe Cinema

  1. Dean Blackie

    I was born in longhurst rd in 1959 used to buy my sweets from the newsagents which was called Squires, located next to the lost cinema, I remember the building belonging to a metal company in the 70s.

    1. Helen

      I know this a little late but in the 70s when I lived in Nightingale Grove, I too used to get my sweets and comics in Squires. I remember it being dark in there, the proprietor used to sit in a cubby hole under the stairs. My grandad worked at the metal works called Gardiner & Guilland, aspart of Smith & Welstood in the 60s and 70s, which made metal cabinets for the catering industry. I remember going to a Christmas party held for the employees families, held in the canteen (part of the old auditorium of the cinema) and climbing up a rickety, iron staircase outside, to get to it!

      1. Conrad Beattie

        I started work in the draughting office in September of 1970. The draughting office was located under the sloping glass roof portion. There were about a dozen of us working in there – typically a young person like myself teamed up with an older, experienced guy. We had to cover our drawing boards at night in case of rain as the sloping windows tended to leak. We did design work for a lot of government facilities and Post Office buildings, car plants (Ford, I recall) and others such as Woolworth’s. Fifty years on, I’m still designing commercial kitchens (and have done all over the world – I now reside in Dallas, TX). It was a great training ground.

  2. Sarah Crofts

    The other interesting feature of the building was the wartime camouflage paint. You can just see the faded remains (upper storey at the side) in your picture before the building was refurbished. It was a pity the developers cleaned it up. When it used to be the Drain Center (sic) I bought some guttering there.

    1. Paul B Post author

      Thank you – I wasn’t aware of the camouflage, it seems to have been done to quite a few buildings during the Blitz. Oddly, I am doing a post on a pub where this happened in a week or two. Thank you for visiting.

  3. Pingback: Imperial Picture Palace – A Lee Green Cinema | Running Past

  4. Pingback: A Walk through Hither Green’s History | Running Past

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