Islington Buildings: The Carlton Cinema, Essex Road
By abi_silvester | Wednesday, May 04, 2011, 15:24
In a new series looking at Islington's historic buildings, we turn our attention to the old Carlton Cinema building on Essex Road. Once a cinema, then a bingo hall, the future of the imposing Art Deco building is currently uncertain, and recent plans have evokes much hostility from residents.
The currently vacant cinema on Essex Road [pic: jordi.martorell]
Designed by English architect George Coles in 1930 and now a Grade II listed building, the Carlton is Islington's answer to the Coles' other notable landmarks: the Troxy in Stepney Green, and several other Odeon cinemas across the UK.
Typical of Coles' style, the façade of the building is in the form
of an Egyptian 'pylon' temple and is decorated with Egyptian iconography
including lotus flowers and buds. It is faced with brightly-coloured
Inside, the is building decorated with Empire style fittings, with more Egyptian-style
touches in the auditorium. It was equipped with plush balcony seating and a cafe for patrons, and once housed a large organ to be played during silent movie performances.
At the time of its opening, the cinema was owned by C&R Theatres, but it was later taken over by ABC Cinemas until its closure in 1972. After this is operated as a Mecca bingo hall, which ran right up until 2007.
Since then, at least one application to develop the former cinema into conference rooms and flats has been attempted, but the most recent submission was thrown out on the grounds that it was of poor quality and "did not address Islington Council's need for more affordale housing" [source].
The rejection was welcomed by Canonbury Conservation Society, which had been openly opposing the scheme from the outset. However, it is believed that that current owners - a non-denominational Christian Church - will submit a new planning application, expected to be another mixed-use concept including a space for worship.
The plans have been met with much opposition from the Council and local residents alike, particularly after members of the church group are said to have "violently evicted" a group of artists who were squatting at the vacant site in May 2010. A detailed account of what happened in the "siege" - in which 40 churchgoers armed with makeshift weapons threatened squatters - can be found here.
What do you think of the current plans for the Carlton and how would you like to see it used?
Visit the site of the cinema at 161-169 Essex Road, Islington, London, England, United Kingdom N1 2SN [map]