Pavilion Cinema, Hailsham.

Pavilion Cinema, Hailsham.

George Street,

Hailsham, BN27 1AE


Owners:  Shipman & King Cinemas Ltd.

Date opened:  Monday 28th November 1921.

Date closed as a S&K cinema:  Saturday 22nd May 1965.

Architect:  Henry W. Coussens of Hastings.

Opened by:  A.K. Burtenshaw JP.

Original seating capacity: 397.

First film shown: “The Kid” starring Charlie Chaplin.

Date re-opened as a cinema:  Tuesday 1st February 2000.

Architect:  Tony Sherwin.

Seating capacity:  203.



Alf Shipman and Sam King acquired a site on George Street, Hailsham that was owned by Dr. Nicholson and Dr. Gould. Previously the two young  friends had had experience in showing films, having leased a room (The old Corn Exchange) at the rear of the Crown Hotel/ pub in Hailsham. However, the Pavilion cinema was to be their first purpose built ‘picture palace’.

The company, Shipman & King Cinemas Ltd was registered in 1920.

Alfred Shipman & Sam King.

Alfred’s brother Mick joined them as booking manager. There was some resistance when the designs were submitted to the District Council. Many believed that precious building materials and craftsmen would be better deployed building much needed houses following the end of the WW1 instead of a ‘new fangled upstart of a cinema’.  The small site certainly tasked the architect to provide even a modestly sized 397 seat cinema. However, eventually plans were somewhat reluctantly approved in December 1919. The company, Shipman & King Cinemas Ltd was registered in 1920. The newly formed business commissioned Henry W. Coussens, a Hasting based architect, to draw up plans for their new purpose built silent cinema, with local builders commencing construction. Working within the tight boundary of the site, the architect directed as much space to the auditorium as possible. Little space was allocated to the entrance foyer and other necessary rooms. As construction continued, troublesome Councillors demanded that the work be halted. This put financial pressures on the builders.

The Pavilion’s front elevation has been described as having “a classical style facade, and is possibly one of the most elaborate small provincial cinemas ever built”. Resembling a library or museum rather than a place of entertainment.  The two storeys in height frontage contained three prominent circular windows in moulded architrave surrounds at first floor level.  Two ornate plaster feature moulding of a flower girl and a boy carrying a basket of bread and fish were positioned either side of the centre window. Each window, flanked by slender Ionic pilasters. Quoins features edged the building and borders. The cinemas name set permanently in stone  between the centre window  and the on high arched feature. Two street level windows and the centre stepped entrance were flanked by pilasters.

The cash desk was located immediately in front of the entrance. Patrons accessed the auditorium by two passageways positioned left and right of the entrance foyer. Surprisingly, despite room being a premium in the entrance, a fireplace had been included.

The cinema was rectangular with no splay walls towards the screen. The floor sloped downwards towards the screen.  The auditorium originally had a capacity for a
total of 397 patrons, with the seats placed nearly to the wall backing on to the cash desk. No kiosk, stairs, or ladies’ toilet existed at that time. The paintwork was in pastel tones of pink, yellow with decorative wall panels edged in gold leaf. The barrel ceiling featured a series of ornate ceiling roses, some serving as ventilation ducts. Ornate circular side windows also provided a source of fresh air. Some interior panelling was oak and the front doors were french polished. The proscenium was a mock shallow frame around a screen that was a masked white painted wall. A later addition were red velvet curtains (tabs) in front of the screen and were originally operated by hand.

A Grand Gala Opening of The Pavilion took place on Monday 28th November 1921. The Hailsham Town Band led their way through the streets and played before large crowds gathered in front of the new cinema. The person asked to perform the opening was a one time opponent to cinema in Hailsham, chairman of the Parish Council, A.K. Burtenshaw JP.

The first feature film shown to a full auditorium was “The Kid” starring Charlie Chaplin. This film ran for just three days and was replaced for the remainder of the opening week by “The Heart of a Child” starring Nazimova.

Sarah Castle was one of the first to play the piano here together with a small orchestra providing the musical accompaniment and effects for the silent films. Often Alf Shipman himself would be seen playing the piano at weekends.


A group of children from mixed ages visiting the cinema in 1924.

Sound was introduced at The Pavilion during August 1930 when Picturetone Sound was installed, only to be replaced within a few years by the better known Western Electric system. Alterations were necessary to accommodate the speakers, which required an aperture puncturing the back wall with a horn chamber extension being built behind. A screen frame was erected allowing a perforated screen to be hung in front of the speaker assembly.

The Pavilion opened every day (a Sunday licence was obtained during the war years when Canadian troops were stationed in the area).

There was plenty of choice provided by S&K management with  programmes changing on Mondays and Thursdays, with a ‘one day only’ film usually selected for Sundays.

When Cinemascope was installed during 1955, it was necessary to create a new proscenium to house the wider screen frame. A plain wall spanned the front of the auditorium with the rectangular opening required for the new format. Lighting was by footlights.  The first Cinemascope film shown on Monday 12th September was “Three Coins In a Fountain”.

Click on the above frame to play the Cinemascope trailer.


Like many cinemas in the sixties the Pavilion struggled against competition from other forms of entertainment, in particular television. The building closed as an S&K cinema on Saturday 22nd May 1965. It remained closed until a planning application to change it’s use to a Bingo Club was passed, re-opening in 1967 with five year permits renewed until 1982. In 1973 a conservation grant for renovation of the facade (under the 1962 Act) recommended re-painting of the general elevation in magnolia, with recesses in mocha and embellishments in pale lilac. Prior to this the facade had always been painted in one colour – cream.   Fortunately a Grade II listing was placed on 25th August 1981. Bingo continued until 1985 when that business ceased and the building was abandoned. Left to the mercy of the weather, vandals and pigeons. However, during August 1992, concerned over the old Pavilion’s condition and knowing that the owners of the building were then in receivership, Wealden District Council moved quickly and issued a compulsory purchase order and arranged for necessary ‘boarding up’ work to be carried out to make the building weather proof and secure.  It was imperative to many that before the building was lost completely that organised action was required.

HOPS president and co-founder, June Bourne, presenting cheque to the new chairman of the Board of Hailsham Pavilion, Sue Knight

This happened in 1993 when the Hailsham Old Pavilion Society was established by former Mayor, June Bourne. It took her organisation, the Hailsham Old Pavilion Society, six years of campaigning before, at the turn of the millennium, enough money from various sources  had been raised to restore the Pavilion to its former glory.

Click on the above frame to play the history & restoration of the PAVILION.

A “peppercorn rent” was arranged by Wealden District Council for HOPS to make the facilities available as an amenity for Hailsham and the surrounding district.

The Pavilion was officially opened on Tuesday 1st February 2000 by June Bourne. Speaking to a capacity audience she proudly stated “that my dream had now come true. Standing here today brings back a lot of happy memories from the days when I used to visit this cinema and it is really exciting to think that the present day residents of Hailsham and the surrounding area will be able to come to their own cinema once again and enjoy big screen entertainment”.

Architect Tony Sherwin was chosen to restore the cinema into a venue that linked the past with the present, that would provide movie exhibition together with facilities for live performances and concerts.

Live appearances at the Pavilion.

With the building and major restoration completed, the Pavilion opened it’s doors again on Tuesday 1st February 2000 signalling the start of a new era for the cinema.


In a 2021 Time Out survey for the best cinemas in the UK the Pavilion was rated 5th, ahead of the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square that was placed 6th. An important milestone was achieved on 28th November 1921 when the building celebrated it’s 100 year.

Celebrating over a hundred years in Hailsham. The sparkling Pavilion was rated 5th in the Time Out Best Cinemas in the UK 2021 survey.

Superbly restored. The HAILSHAM PAVILION CINEMA.


With thanks to HOPS for permission given on some material used in this article.