In 1881 a local surveyor, William Rawlinson Atkinson, acquired
for £625 a parcel of land on part of which stands the Picture
House. It was inherited in 1897 by his daughter, Mrs Leila Eveleen
Measures who purchased the adjacent plot in 1905. Ten years later
plans for a proposed cinema submitted on behalf of Mrs Measures
were rejected by the Buildings Committee of Uckfield Urban District
Council on the grounds that they did not conform to the by laws or
public health regulations enshrined within the 1909 Cinematograph
However, on 7th May 1915, the plans were approved
subject to alterations. The architect was Walter Long. A list of
Architects held by the RIBA mentions a W.H. Long of Leeds and
although Long is not thought to have been local, the exterior
treatment of the building suggests someone more fully conversant
with the vernacular revival style employed in rural areas across
south east England than might an architect from Yorkshire.
The building opened in 1916 but at first it operated as a
garrison theatre for the troops stationed in the local area.
Films were already evident in Uckfield, from possibly as early
as 1904, at the converted Foresters Hall in Harcourt Road. This
cinema was operated by a local magistrate and although we don't
know how true the story is, legend has it that he may have been
reluctant to grant a licence to a rival establishment.
Films commenced at The Picture House in August 1920 and have
continued ever since.
Mrs Measures bequeathed the cinema to her daughter, Mrs Leila
Alicia Corbett Neale and she inherited it in 1925. A letter of 1931
surviving in the East Sussex Records Office is from her tenant
William Harper (who lived in Forest Hill, London). It informed Mrs
Neale that he was "contemplating putting in a talkie very
shortly ….. I am compelled as silents are not being produced …. the
electric is in the town, without the electric current (the) talkie
was out of the question. I have been bothered by agents to sell the
Picture House, (I) have ignored their letters saying I didn't
intend selling, they have come to my private house bothering
me". In the same year Mrs Neale sold the cinema outright to
For how long Harper ran the cinema himself we are not sure. We
have a copy of a lease dated 14th August 1958 in the
name of P.V. Reynolds, however there is another document dated the
day after for permission to carry out alterations to The Picture
House, namely the installation of CinemaScope. So it may be that
Reynolds held a previous lease.
Reynolds died either in late 1963 or early 1964 and his wife
Doris sold the lease to Roy Markwick on 1st February
1964. It has remained with the Markwick family ever since. In
September 1964 The Picture House opened on a Sunday for the first
time with the double feature Circus of Horrors and Conga.
The Markwick family have presided over the biggest changes at
The Picture House. Roy refurbished the cinema, which had fallen
into a sorry state of disrepair, in 1967. Installing brand new
Westar projectors and Peerless lamphouses, replacing the old
Walturdors and Ross Arcs which stood on the universal bases
originally equipped for sound on disc in the very early
The seating was also refurbished and reduced in number from 500
to 305 for increased comfort. The cinema was also extensively
As cinema admissions continued to fall throughout the seventies
Roy decided that The Picture house would have difficulty surviving
as a single screen. Ambitious plans were drawn up to convert the
cinema to two screens, and in
December 1978 the single screen version of The Picture House
closed down with a performance of Death Wish. Doug Tourle of MTC
Brickwork did a fantastic job of converting the cinema and Screen
Two opened for business on 19th March 1979 with the
Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose.
The conversion was simple but very effective. A wall was
constructed in the centre of the old auditorium and the circle,
which in fact was a stadium or raised section, became number two. A
new box was constructed on the old stage and shot the picture on to
the new dividing wall, under a new false ceiling. A new toilet
block was erected in what was the back of the old stalls, the top
of which forms the stage in number two. The toilets were a major
factor in deciding to convert. Before the twinning the Ladies had
been one cubicle and the Gents had been outside. The Gents became
the new boiler room. Number One theatre opened in May with the
Robert Powell film The Thirty Nine Steps.
The twinning is what saved the Picture House from almost certain
closure. At once admissions began to rise and all was well. The
cinema was then refurbished again in 1989, when the foyer was
extended and the cinema had brand new seats for the first time and
was completely re carpeted. Computerised ticketing was also
introduced. Again the transformation in business was startling.
Dolby Stereo was installed in 1992 and a constant updating of
equipment has continued to this day. Dolby SR was installed in
number one for Jurassic Park in 1993 and number two had the same
installed in 1994.
Dolby Digital was installed in 1998 and DTS appeared in the
number two theatre in 1999.
Sadly, Roy Markwick died in 1994 and his son Kevin now runs the
The construction of a third screen began on September
1st 1999, when the back of the building containing the
old stage and the existing box for the number one theatre was
demolished. Over the next six months large excavations were carried
out to get the new theatre in at right angles to the building and
underneath the new box for number one.
The new cinema opened on Feb 11th 2000 with a performance of The
Beach. Further technical improvements are being made all the time,
for a better view of those have a look at our tech page.
Acknowledgement: Thank you to Richard Grey of the CTA for
information contained in the early part of this article.
Box office: 01825 764909
Box office open for personal callers or phone bookings.
Daily 10am - 9pm, 1pm - 9pm on Sundays.
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