Arcadia Cinema, 16 Lewes Road (no longer exists)

by John Blackwell, St Peter's Area Editor

This was one of Brighton's earliest cinemas, opening in 1910. The site had previously been occupied as the stables of horse bus proprietor Walter Tilley who ran services from the Steine to Lewes Road Barracks and to the bottom of Stanford Avenue. He was put out of business with the introduction of the Corporation tramways in 1901.

In 1907 the site was let to a fairground animated picture operator and soon after small film booths were set up. A permanent cinema was then set up, known as the People's Palace. It was later re named Arcadia and had variety acts between films. Allegedly Harry Houdini the great escapologist appeared there. Closure occurred in 1957, and the building was purchased by the Brighton Cooperative Society and later rebuilt as the Brighton Trades and Labour Club.

This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
As a boy living in Lower Bevendean in the 1950s, I used to go to the Arcadia, although its popular name in those days was "The Scratch" on account of its delapidated state and undesirable fauna. The nearby Gaiety was much more respectable.
By Peter Field (11/01/2005)
Brings back memories, as I used to bunk in the back of cinema through toilets. Did not pay, though it was only 7 old pence entrance. Happy childhood days.
By Ray Barontini (17/04/2005)
Peter Field's comments about the Arcadia have brought back a host of memories, not least of these being the "undesirable fauna". We were not allowed to go there in the end, due to the "fauna" being taken back home.
By Glenys Roberts (17/02/2006)

Does anybody remember the tea trolley being wheeled around while film reels were changed? No Magnums or Cokes then at the Arcadia......  And, yes, you went home with more little friends than you arrived with........

By Richard (12/06/2007)

My sisters and I went to the Scratch regularly in the 1930s on Saturday afternoons when we could scrounge threepence from our mum. We walked down to the bottom of Elm Grove from our council house at 7 Firle Road, near the top of Freshfield Road, and spent a penny in the sweetshop for four ounces of 'nutty toffee', then the other tuppence paid for our admission. The best movies were with Bill Boyd as Hop-a-long Cassidy, with his black outfit and his white horse. The manager would come in with a big torch and tell us to "move along you boys, there's plenty of room for more here" because the seats had either no armrests or folding ones that could be raised to allow two seats to be occupied by three small bottoms. I don't remember ever being infected by the alleged 'undesirable fauna', but I do remember staying in our seats and seeing the movies a second time. Movietone News was also a favourite, until Herr Hitler started to spout his hatred in words we could not understand.

By Robert Green (used to be Robin Green) (10/09/2007)

I lived in a childrens home in Freshfield Road. Our 'escape' on Saturdays was the pictures and one of the venues, in the 50s, was The Arcadia which we nicknamed 'the fleapit'. I think we also told friends that we sat on orange boxes! I loved being able sit there as long as you wanted seeing the films as many times as you could. Also serials, like Zorro were on every week. I seem to remember they also showed a lot of cowboy films and the 'Bowery Boys'(?). Great times.

By Chris Troak (nee Morane) (20/01/2008)

As children, living in a just-liveable, partly bombed house in Henry Street, we often went to The Scratch, paying our 10 pence entry fee if we weren't lucky enough to get in through the back door. The wooden seats left a lot to be desired but Mickey, our pet dog, didn't mind when he came along, too. Oh Happy Days.

By Terry Lever (04/05/2008)

I remember the Arcadia - you went in with a jersey and came out with a jumper!

By John Dine (11/05/2010)

In the afternoon it was old ladies who never took off their head scarves or overcoats, dripping noses, thermos flasks of tea and brown paper bags of curled up cheese sandwiches, sometimes they were more interesting to watch than the 'Little Rascals'. I seem to remember for me as a kid it was sixpence to get in with either a penny or tuppence each way on the trolley bus from Richmond Street.

By C. West (28/08/2010)

The 'Scratch' was a must for young boys in the early 50's. It was very delapidated. I remember standing up to let someone pass me to a vacant seat and upon sitting down again, the entire row collapsed! Happy days!.

By Bob Munro (08/12/2011)

I was also guilty of bunking in round the back door of the scratch and remember the double wooden seats near the front which used to spring back with a loud bang when you stood up. We also used stay in there to watch the films around again.

By Dave Hamblin (20/03/2012)

Do you all remember the usherette walking up and down the aisle with a flit spray (DDT) to kill the fleas?

By HARRY ATKINS (12/07/2012)

Yes, my husband Tony Catt and myself both remember the Arcadia, which we also called 'the scratch'. I also remember my mother telling me that she used to go there with friends and one time someone set light to her fur coat and the spray used to smell terrible!

By kathleen Catt [nee cornford] (15/07/2012)

Hi Kathleen, I emailed you with a long email, regarding Tony and the pubs, a few months ago, but you never got back to me. xxx Bluey Atkins

By Bluey (18/07/2012)

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