CONDER, Cinema Cleaner at Letchworth, 1911

August, 2010




Keith Daniells (beedan @t from Australia writes: The 1911 census has my grandmother, Margaret Conder age 14, occupation as a Kinord Picture cleaner, at Letchworth. I have looked everywhere I think, without any luck. What is or was a Kinord? A company? a product?

The answer to your question is almost certainly connected with what was happening in the new town of Letchworth Garden City in 1911 and the clue is that first moving picture projectors were called Kinetoscopes - from which we get the word Cinema for the place where they were projected.

Picture Palace,

Eastcheap, Letchworth


From Letchworth - The First Garden City


Note that the entrance is between two shops.


The first "Picture Palace" in Hertfordshire was opened at St Albans in 1908 by Arthur Melbourne-Cooper of the Alpha Trading Company, who opened their second in Letchworth in 1909. The following brief extract comes from a longer account of the cinema published in Cinemas of Hertfordshire:

Film pioneer Arthur Melbourne-Cooper followed up the success of his Alpha cinema in St Albans by promoting the Palace at Letchworth. His architects were Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin. The builders were Bennett Bros. The unassuming frontage incorporated two shops and the auditorium seated 750 on a sloping floor (there were also eight boxes at the rear, seating up to five and costing 5/-). It is said to have been the first building in the town centre to have an electricity supply. There were plush 'tip-up' seats at 4d and 6d and plainer seats at 2d. Seats could be booked in advance. Bicycles were stored free. Programmes changed twice weekly. Melbourne-Cooper bowed out in February 1911 and J. F. Bentley took over.

The most likely explanation of the entry on the census is that Margaret worked as a cleaner at the "Kinema" and whoever filled in the census form was uncertain how her job should be described. Definitely a picture palace of 750 seats would need to employ at least one cleaner! At the time of the census she would presumably have been employed by J. F. Bentley.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

August 2010   Page created
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