Secret Cinema

You could have been living in London for more than twenty years. You might be in spitting distance from the place and still not know about one of London’s best kept secrets ‘The Cinema Museum‘.


A couple of weeks ago I had the rare privilege of being invited to the viewing of a film in this funny little place I had never heard of in Kennington. I was so taken by the artefacts on display from rare posters of Charlie Chaplin to huge cameras, ushers and usherette costumes and inspiring carpets from the cinemas of the 20s and 30s, I nearly missed the beginning of the film. This is a gem. Here you will find some of the things that often pop up at our Midcentury and Midcentury Modern shows (buy discounted tickets now for our next show Midcentury East on Sunday 11th May 2014 in Erno Goldfinger’s Haggerston school, Hackney). Old cinema seats, rare posters and some artefacts can be found by shopping in The Modern Marketplace.


The Cinema Museum started life in 1986 in Raleigh Hall in Brixton and since 1998 has been based in the administration block of the former Lambeth Workhouse where Charlie Chaplin himself spent some time while his mother faced destitution. It is a charitable organisation founded from projectionist Ronald Grant and Martin Humphries’ private collection of cinema history and memorabilia.



The museum is the best place to experience cinema-going from the outset to the present with examples of every gauge of film projector, professional and amateur, ever manufactured. Find tickets, ashtrays,  popcorn cartons, even sprays used to neutralise the bad odour that would often emanate from cinema clientele. Fresh water was not so available in Chaplin’s time and it was important to ensure cinemas did not come across as hothouses for disease.


The museum runs a programme of talks and events and is currently open by appointment for tours too. Don’t miss a chance to visit one of London’s most lovely museums and hang out in their bar voted the eighth best pub in Kennington. It certainly wins for atmosphere and Ronald himself is often behind the bar ready to tell stories.


Check out Michele Hanson from The Guardian’s You Tube film about Ronald Grant and his museum HERE


Inside Modernism – our behind the scenes blog

Destination Modernism – our travel blog for the architecture-loving tourist

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