Imperial Picture House

Fore Street,
Saltash, PL12 6AR

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In Saltash, Cornwall (just over the River Tamar from Plymouth, in Devon) the Imperial Picture House was operated by Imperial Animated Pictures at the Guildhall. The company name was a rather grand title for the local family firm of John Henry Quick & Son.

The operating box was installed in the gallery. It was a wooden-framed structure clad in steel sheeting, fixed in the centre of the gallery and “smoke proof from the main hall”. The proscenium was 15ft wide.

It is not known when the Imperial Picture House opened, but the plans for the adaptation of the Guildhall were submitted in March 1916 and the Imperial Picture House was operating by 1918.

On Friday 20th April 1928 a fire resulted in many hundreds of pounds damage. It started in the projection box, after hours, as the flames were only spotted by a resident at the Star Hotel, which adjoined the Guildhall. Fortunately, the Fire Brigade’s prompt arrival prevented the fire from spreading, although part of the roof fell in, and the interior was extensively damaged. (Several rooms in the hotel were also badly damaged.)

The damage was repaired not long before the ‘talkies’ arrived, and a British Thomson Houston [BTH] sound system was installed.

The Imperial Picture House met its end in April 1941, when the building was destroyed during a heavy German bombing raid on nearby Plymouth.

Contributed by David Simpson
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