Odeon Forest Gate
292 - 296 Romford Road,
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Architects: Andrew Mather
Styles: Art Deco
Located in the east London district of Forest Gate. The Odeon was built for and operated by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, and was possibly a take-over building during construction as it bore little resemblence to a typical Odeon Theatre which were being built at the time.
It opened on 1st March 1937 with Max Miller in “Educated Evans”. The facade was covered in white Portland stone and was quite plain. In the centre were three tall windows and the only other decorations were a set of four stone carved figures of Pan at canopy level and two carved stone reliefs at a higher level, which depicted Art Deco figures. Inside the auditorium seating was provided for 1,110 in the stalls and 696 in the balcony. Wide recessed troughs in the ceiling contained concealed lighting and ornate grilles.
It was closed by bomb damage on 21st April 1941 when a parachute mine destroyed the almost adjacent Queens Cinema. The Odeon was patched up and re-opened on 4th August 1941 with Wendy Hiller in “Major Barbara” and Dennis O'Keefe “I’m Nobody’s Sweetheart Now”.
The Odeon was closed by the Rank Organisation on 31st October 1975 with Sean Connery in “The Wind and the Lion”. It was converted into a snooker club, using only the stalls area and with a false ceiling extending across from the underside of the front of the balcony to the proscenium. A former side exit was used as the entrance with the main entrance and foyer boarded-up. The building retained the ‘Odeon’ name sign which was located high up on the front of the building as it was probably too difficult and costly to remove. The snooker club closed in 1994.
The building then was converted into a Muslim centre and the figures of Pan on the front of the building were hacked off as were the two Art Deco style relief panels. I happened to be passing the building and watched as young men with hammers and chisels carried out this vandalism on the building. I believe the ‘Odeon’ name was also removed at this time. Since 2001 it has become the Minhaj-Ul-Quran Mosque and Adara Minhaj-Ul-Quran Muslim Cultural Centre.
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