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Bethnal Green’s former Essoldo cinema—where Krays grew up—to be luxury flats

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 May 2015

Computer image of how former Essoldo, also known as the Rex, will look when remodelled as flats

Computer image of how former Essoldo, also known as the Rex, will look when remodelled as flats

City Innovations

One of East London’s famous art deco cinemas once frequented by the Krays which closed half-a-century ago is being redeveloped as luxury apartments for the property market.

The Rex (later Essoldo) in its pre-War heyday showing Dorothy Lamour's 1939 flick 'St Louis Blues'The Rex (later Essoldo) in its pre-War heyday showing Dorothy Lamour's 1939 flick 'St Louis Blues'

City Innovations developers have been given planning consent by Tower Hamlets council to turn Bethnal Green’s former Essoldo, once known as the Rex, into 21 apartments with retail and commercial space on the ground floor and a landscaped courtyard.

It is currently used by Frankle Trimmings as a fashion trade warehouse, since 1990.

The refurbishment designed by architect and broadcaster Maxwell Hutchinson, former Royal Institute of British Architecture president, retains the façade and some of the Art deco features.

“We are reviving a significant East End landmark,” he said. “Its façade and other parts of the cinema, one of the first in Britain to show talking pictures, are being preserved.”

City Innovations aim to achieve a 45 per cent carbon reduction target during construction as well as a Code for Sustainable Homes four-star rating.

City Innovations director Sam Dickson said: “It’s an opportunity to breathe a new lease of life into a special building in the heart of Bethnal Green.”

The notorious East End gangland twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray, who grew up in Vallance Road a few hundred yards away, would spend their weekly pocket money at the Rex and later Essoldo. They were six years old when Dororthy Lamour’s St Louis Blues flim was shown there in 1939.

The cinema opened as Smart’s Picture House in 1913, with its auditorium seating 865. It was rebuilt with an art deco façade by architect George Coles in 1938, becoming the Rex through the War years until 1949 when it was bought by the Essoldo chain.

Essoldo comes from the first names of company founder Solomon Sheckman’s family—his wife ESther, himself SOLomon and daughter DOrothy.

It closed in 1964, reopened as a Bingo hall until 1990, then sold to BK Frankle & Sons as a large warehouse.

Frankle’s itself is older than the cinema building. The company, established in 1910, was careful to retain the original art deco grandeur during renovation of the façade in 2005.

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