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The Picture Palace

The Picture Palace was Braintree’s first cinema.

Fairfield Road, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3HA
This pub is the former Embassy cinema, built in the 1930s to replace The Picture Palace. This Wetherspoon pub has a long association with cinema. It all began in 1912, when The Picture Palace was built on the site of a sandpit and first opened its doors to the cinema-going public. As well as the delights of the silver screen, The Picture Palace also presented variety acts on its small stage.

A print and text about cinemas and films in the area. 

The text reads: The first movies shown in Braintree were at the Biograph. This was a portable booth situated on the Fairground site (later the post office) opposite the pub from around 1906.

The mixture of primitive auditorium, nitrate film, as well as projector and audience that both smoked, was a fire waiting to happen. As a result, fire regulations were introduced, which led to purpose built cinemas. The Picture Palace was Braintree’s first cinema building. The silent films were accompanied by a musical duet of piano and violin.

The Embassy replaced the Picture Palace, in 1935, when Braintree’s population was just 9,000. The first film shown here was Things Are Looking Up, starring Max Miller and Cicely Courtneige. The new cinema featured a magnificent Christie organ.

Above: The Picture Palace, Braintree c1910.

Prints and text about pilgrims and presidents. 

The text reads: Hoping to find freedom of worship, worshippers from various Protestant sects crossed the Atlantic in the 17th century to the New World, many of them from the Braintree area.

In 1632 a ship called the Lyon sailed from London to New England. Among those on board were Henry Adams, his wife, seven sons and daughter. Adams is reputed to have lived at Tabor House, Church Lane, Bocking. Two of Adams’ descendants went on to become presidents of the USA. His great-grandson John Adams was the second man to achieve the honour, and his son John Quincy Adams was the sixth.

Another famous emigrant was John Bridges, of Rayne Road, Braintree, Bridges founded a school at Newtowne, later Cambridge, Massachusetts, which became one of America’s finest educational establishments – the University of Harvard.

Left: John Adams Centre: John Adams, 1823 
Right: John Quincy Adams 
Below Right: Harvard, 1726.

Text about the silver screen. 

The text reads: Stars of the silver screen once enthralled audiences on the site of this pub. The first cinema, The Picture Palace, was built on the site of a small sandpit in 1912.

As well as enjoying silent films, patrons could enjoy various shows and variety acts on The Picture Palace’s small stage, including Alfred Lanham and Nicoli ‘the Russian dwarf’. They could plump for either hard wooden benches or luxury tip-up seats.

Between the wars, The Picture Palace was replaced by the Embassy Cinema. By then the movies had become so popular that a rival cinema, The Central, was built on the High Street, on a site later occupied by Townrows department store. In later years, both The Central and the more modern Embassy were in common ownership.

Prints of The Embassy, c1935.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

If you have information on the history of this pub, then we’d like you to share it with us. Please e-mail all information to: