Electric Palace

Electric Palace

Opened: 1912
Closed: 1958
Address: 17 Highgate Hill
Demolished: Yes

Electric Palace Ltd was the name of a cinema circuit that started in 1909 and by the time they opened the Electric Palace on Highgate Hill in 1912 the circuit owned 10 other cinemas dotted around London, including Electric Palace’s in Brixton, Notting Hill Gate, Clapham and Stoke Newington.

The Electric Palace was well located situated just a few doors up from the then Highgate underground station – what is today Archway station. This purpose built cinema, designed by Gilbert W Booth, first opened its doors to the public in December 1912 and provided entertainment for around 800 people in a single level auditorium.

The outside of the building was very striking looking much like a seashell rimmed with electric lighting. It was popular with locals who described it as having ‘an arch with rows of electric lights and when they were switched on it looked like an Arabian Palace in a fairy tale book.’^

Like so many of the cinemas during the early days of silent film the Electric Palace had its own musicians to play along with the films who known as the ‘Palace Orchestra’. In fact it was the ‘Palace Orchestra’ who chose and played the music that accompany what was described 100 years ago as the ‘greatest photo play of the age’, Les Miserables,* when the film first opened at the Electric Palace on the 3rd of February 1913.

It’s believed that the Electric Palace ran into tax problems in the 1950s and on the 12 April 1958 the cinema showed its final film, ‘Sayonara’ staring Marlon Brando. The building didn’t last long as it was soon demolished to make way for the Archway Tower complex, which was completed in 1963.


^ Quotes from cinemagoers cited in Draper.  See Further Reading. (1989).
*Islington Gazette 31 January 1913.

Electric Palace Highgate Hill, 1922Electric Palace, 1922. Photographer unknown. Kind permission of Dick Whetstone


Leave a Comment →

  1. doreen, maunsell ;franklin,

    i grew up in Hargrave park ,went to school at St Joseph Highgate hill 1942 1952 .Lots of good times The Electric was called the shillings when we grew up .And the picture house down the rd was called the 10s because it was 10d to get in.My mum use to take us to the 10s three times a wk and the shilling once a wk .When we cauld not get in for being to young we use to stand out side and ask people to take us in .You cauld not do that these days.Happy days.

  2. Ernest Harris

    As a child in the 1950′s I remember going to the Electric Palace often. I recall being taken there with school parties from Hargrave Park School to see the colour films of the coronation and the conquest of Everest. One week I went there every day to see Charlie Chaplin’s GOLD RUSH. Later when I worked for the post office one of our inspectors who we knew as Wag Hemmings said that he had been an usher there during the Saturday morning children’s matinees. I don’t have the impression that it was particularly “Palace” like but it wasn’t a fleapit either.

Do you remember this cinema?

Do you or someone you know remember going to ‘the pictures’ at this cinema – was it a ‘palace’ or a ‘flea pit’? Where you there for its closing film? Or was it your regular Saturday night out or maybe you went on a Sunday for the matinee? Why don't you add your voice to this growing archive about Islington's Lost Cinemas.

Maybe you even have an old photo which we could include on the website, if so please email it to info@islingtonslostcinemas.com, all images will be fully credited.