The rich history of Hailsham Pavillion


- Credit: Archant

This hub of the community has a rich and intriguing history, as Alice Cooke found out

The Grade II-listed Hailsham Pavilion is a pupose-built cinema datingback to 1921. The first performance screened there was a Charlie Chaplin movie, The Kid. Before being redecorated after the war, according to, “the interior paintwork was primrose and pink and decorative wall panels were picked out in gold leaf. Some interior panelling was oak and the front doors were French polished. Curtains in front of the screen were red velvet and were originally operated by hand.”

The Pavilion stayed open as an operational theatre until 1965, when it closed and remained empty for a couple of years, before reopening as a bingo club. But in 1985 the business was deemed unsustainable and the doors closed once more. The Pavilion was sold at auction in 1987 and sat empty and unused, falling steadily into a state of disrepair.

When the owners went in to receivership, Wealden District Council issued a compulsory purchase order, and commissioned the necessary repairs to make the building both safe and weatherproof. They also leased the building to a group of people in the local community who called themselves HOPS (Hailsham Old Pavilion Society), who wanted to bring the building back into use.

In 1999 the Heritage Lottery Fund gave the project a £275,000 grant, and alongside the £100,000 raised by HOPS and a further £100,000 stumped up by local and district councils, the fund had in the region of half a million pounds.

Having worked tirelessly to keep the building as true to the original design of the building as possible, the restoration was completed in 2000, when the Pavilion reopened in its current guise.

Today the building still shows films but also plays host to theatre companies, social clubs and musicians, as well as amateur dramatic groups, operatic societies, local authorities and youth groups. Private functions, screenings and presentations are also available.

The performances may be cutting edge, but the décor and ambience is wonderfully traditional. Comfortable red velvet seating with miles of leg room, this is how theatres and cinemas used to be, in the most delightful way.

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HOP to it

Hailsham Old Pavilion Society, or HOPS, was established in 1993 in order to raise funds to restore the Pavilion cinema. They continue to support and raise funds for the venue today, and members can get 10 per cent off their cinema tickets, among many other benefits. All HOPS committee members and volunteers give their time for free, so if you are interested in helping with an event or joining the committee please go to

The charity continues to help to pay for the upkeep of the Pavilion, and around £15,000 is raised annually from various events and membership subscriptions.



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Everything you need to know about hidden Hailsham - This East Sussex town is known for its livestock market, which can be traced back to 1252. It also had the rather dubious honour of manufacturing hangman’s rope in days gone by. Nowadays it is a bustling little town with big plans for the future.