One of the sad realities about the Finchley Gaumont is that some of its most striking features have ‘gone missing’ and are no longer available for the public to enjoy. While we were doing our research we stumbled upon a number of leads – some rumours, some from more reliable sources – on the whereabouts of a few items.
The Compton Organ
Firsty, we have to confess that in our exhibition we got one major fact wrong – the current location of the Compton Organ, which accompanied silent films from the opening of the cinema in 1937 until it was removed to make way for the ‘talkies’ in 1967 and sold to a private owner. The organ was installed in a pub in Hertfordshire and we thought that it was still there. However, we were corrected by a knowledgeable member of the public, who attended the exhibition.
According to our source:
“The organ was indeed sold and installed in The Plough, Great Munden, Herts and was in situ there for longer than it was in the cinema and was the only public house in the world to contain such an instrument.
The pub changed hands a couple of times and the penultimate owner did much to promote the organ. However his sudden death lead to its sale to a person who had no interest in the organ and it was removed – being sold to a couple of members of the Cinema Organ Society. It remains in store awaiting a new home.
The Plough has since been demolished and a house now stands on the site.”
The Bas-Relief Panels
At the beginning of our research, we came to understand that the Portland Stone Bas-Relief panels, crafted by Newbury A. Trent, which graced the front of the Gaumont building, had been demolished. However, close observation of the archive photos in sequence suggests that the panels were removed before the demolition.
An artsdepot staff member who keeps his ear to the ground believes that the panels were sold on the black market to a private owner. They are rumoured to be in someone’s back garden in West London. It is also thought that the panels, were made of marble as well as Portland stone.
We were delighted to discover that over the years, Barnet Council had preserved some of the large brass lettering, which was used to advertise film listing on the front of the Gaumont. The letters are now being stored by the North Finchley Town Team.
In addition, we discovered that antique sellers, Doe and Hope, in Bedfordshire also sourced a glass circle sign & a cast iron seat end; three Mahogany side chairs and a section of carpet with the Gaumont British Insignia. These were up for sale on the antique seller’s website at the time of writing.
The search continues…