Troxy Cinema, Stepney, London.

TroxyCinema, Stepney.

490 Commercial Road,

London, E1 0HX


Original Owners:  Hyams & Gale Kinemas. Philip and Sidney Hyams and Arthur J Gale.

Architects:  George Cole FRIBA , assisted by Arthur Roberts.

Construction Costs:  £250,000.

Original Capacity:  3,520 seats over stalls and balcony.

Wurlitzer 3 Manual / 10 Ranks Theatre organ installed.

Date opened: Monday 11th September 1933.

Opened By:  Bridget Hughes.

Wurlitzer Opened By:  Bobby Pagan.

First film shown: ‘King Kong’, starring Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong.

Acquired By: Gaumont Super Cinemas, from August 1935.

Notable Managers:  Maurice Cheepen. Denis Norden.

Full ownership transfer to Gaumont British Theatres, February 1944.

Closed As A Full Time Cinema:  Saturday 19th November 1960.

Final Films Shown:  ‘The Siege of Sydney Street.’, starring Donald Sinden and ‘Hello London’, starring Michael Wilding.

Grade II Listed by English Heritage in 1991.

Present Status:  Building Extant. Owners- Troxy London Limited- Deepak and Mohit Sharma.

In operation as a major live venue.



Brothers, Philip and Sidney Hyams, had built up a small circuit of cinemas which they sold off in 1928 to the newly formed Gaumont British. They quickly re-grouped and joined forces with Arthur John Gale to form the Hyams & Gale Kinemas, with the intention of building large quality cinemas around London.

One of their most ambitious ventures was to construct a vast cinema/theatre that would become one of the largest UKs cinemas, built at a cost of £250,000, well over £22 million in 2023 value. A large plot was secured on Commercial Road, on the corner of Pitsea Street, Limehouse, East London, occupied by the Commercial Brewery, together with houses at the rear and a pub on the corner.

A friend of the Hyams family, the architect George Cole FRIBA , assisted by Arthur Roberts was chosen for this important building.

With their plans drawn up and submitted and passed, building work commenced in earnest. Everything about this construction was massive. It took 1000 tons of steelwork that included transporting a 110ft girder from Barrow-in-Furness.

2.5 million bricks, 5000 tons of cement, 90,000 yards of wiring, and in excess of 8000 workmen employed on site to complete the yearlong construction of the Troxy. Much thought was given to the installation of a Wurlitzer 3 Manual / 10 Ranks theatre organ in the planning stages. With large apertures for the swell shutters concealed behind huge high ornate grillwork panels, situated either side of the stage on the splay walls. Behind these shutters were the organ chambers that housed the hundreds of pipes and instruments, all controlled by the organist as he played the opening notes on the huge Wurlitzer organ in thunderous tones as the console rose dramatically through the stage floor on a lift, with the lighting going through a dazzling colour change sequence, adding maximum impact. PR claims that the auditorium was to be designed around the mighty Wurlitzer.

Troxy Opening Day

The clean lines of the dignified cream faience façade with channelled effect offered a good frontage to the main road. Above the wide central entrance were three first floor large windows in a stone facing enriched surround that enhanced the geometric effect. A patterned frieze ran the width of the façade at parapet level with the Troxy signage centrally placed.

The main entrance was exceptionally lofty and spacious, accessed from the street by six sets of double doors, spanned by a projecting canopy.

Troxy entrance hall

On entering the building, patrons stepped into the magnificently decorated double height entrance hall that featured a travertine marble floor in bands of red corona and richly veined marble dado. The skirtings contrasting in black marble. Large chandeliers and cove lighting lit the large sweeping golden onyx staircase with central cast iron balustrade and large ornamental mirrors set into the facing walls. This staircase led to the stalls and balcony foyers that were given the same opulent treatment together with the first-floor café/ restaurant. Basement holding foyers were in place to accommodate queues rather than have them standing outside the building.

Troxy cafe

First impression impact value was intentional and important in preparing patrons as they reached the pièce de resistance, being the spectacular auditorium, that was described in the press as- “a gleaming Art Deco confection”.

Artistically applied plaster work to walls, ceiling and proscenium; side walls include large panels of delicate ornamental grillwork, decorated in various subtle warm tones. The vast, 3,520 seat auditorium was illuminated by a large 3-tier ceiling fitting, together with  auxiliary fittings and concealed cove lighting. The balcony front contained 24 pageant lights, controlled by the stage switchboard.

Behind the 60ft wide proscenium was a full working stage of 55ft x 30ft that included 3 revolves plus a full grid. There was a massive complete orchestra pit lift, piano lift to stage left and organ console lift to stage right.

Troxy Van Dam orchestra. The complete pit floor lifted to stage level. The organ on a separate lift.

Back stage facilities included 11 dressing rooms. This allowed cine-variety to be presented with lavish shows combining with big screen entertainment.

The Troxy was one of the largest and most palatial cinemas in the area, opening on Monday 11th September 1933. Outside was a blaze of lights and inside the large foyer a ribbon was cut by 14-year-old Bridget Hughes, who had been born in one of the houses demolished to make way for the cinema. The first customer to purchase a ticket was presented with a gold watch.

Click on the above frame to view the trailer of KING KONG

On stage the Band of the Scots Guards played the National Anthem. ‘The Mind Reader’, featuring Warren Williams and Constance Cummings was shown first, followed by organist, Bobby Pagan, playing the mighty Wurlitzer for the first time. The main feature film was ‘King Kong’, starring Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong.

Gaumont Super Cinemas took control from August 1935

As WWII broke out the Troxy was in a vulnerable position. Stephney was bombed heavily, with the surrounding areas around the cinema flattened.

The famous TV personality, Denis Norden, was a relief assistant manager at this period.

Although miraculously surviving damage, the Troxy found that its audience catchment had been seriously depleted. Shortly before hostilities ended the business came under the full ownership of Gaumont British Theatres during February 1944.

Maurice Cheepen, a flamboyant manager, staged away from site publicity to promote new films, tempting custom from outside the area. Maurice was a born showman, and got up too many tricks to publicise his stage and film shows at the Troxy. For those who remembered him, he was described as “all-round incredible”.

Troxy 1946

However, even with all his efforts, and the introduction of CinemaScope, wartime damage and slum clearance removed a major part of the local population and the battle to fill the immense amounts of seats eventually brought about the cinema’s demise.

The final films, ‘The Siege of Sydney Street.’, starring Donald Sinden and ‘Hello London’, starring Michael Wilding, were screened on Saturday 19th November 1960.

The building remained empty and unused for almost three years until 1963, when the London Opera Centre moved in. Operated by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the building was renamed the London Opera Centre and used for rehearsals on an extended stage which was an exact size of the Royal Opera House stage. The company vacated the premises during 1990.

Fortunately, the building was granted a Grade II Listed Status by English Heritage in 1991, and was converted for full time bingo as a Top Rank Club, later renamed Mecca. The bingo business ceased during May 2006 and the building was converted into a ‘Banqueting Suite’ in early 2007. At great expense many of the original fixtures and fitting were restored. However, it wasn’t very successful and by October 2008 the Troxy was put to use as a Concert Venue and Nightclub with a 2,500 capacity.

In 2009 the Cinema Organ Society announced plans to instal the theatre organ they had saved from the long-gone Trocadero Cinema on the New Kent Road in Elephant & Castle. A suitable home had been negotiated for the instrument in the Troxy, which had been the sister theatre to the Trocadero.  The original and smaller Wurlitzer organ at the Troxy had been removed when the cinema closed in 1960.

Cinema Organ Society video Click on the above frame to view~       Richard Hills at the Troxy Wurltizer.                 

Boasting to be the largest Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ in Europe, the £275,000 restoration and installation began in January 2011. The meticulous project took four-years to completion in 2015. This Wurlitzer now has four organ chambers housing 1,777 pipes, that range in size from 16 feet to 1 inch, together with effects including drums, cymbals, xylophone, glockenspiel, marimba and piano. The console has four keyboards with 241 stops and a pedal board.

The building was purchased in April 2012 for £10 million. The Troxy’s new owners, Deepak and Mohit Sharma of Ashburn Estates, immediately began a programme of renovation, initially with an investment of £500,000.

To celebrate its 80th birthday, the management booked in ‘King Kong’, the film shown on its opening night in 1933.

The Troxy began to pick up prestigious awards, such as ‘Venue of the Year in 2013’, ‘Best London Event Venue of 2017’, with many other important industry recognitions in between.

During the Covid lockdown, thanks to further substantial investment by the owners, major work was carried out to transform the venue back to the high standard of finish that made the Troxy a leader in entertainment.

The results are inspirational, with the Troxy now a major player on the London venue scene. This bold art deco building has done more than survive – it’s thrived!



Relevant websites to this article

Troxy, Stepney~        

Cinema Organ Society~