Hertford County Cinema

An Art deco gem

By S Williams

The County Cinema in 1979
Advert from The Mercury, 1933
Architect's plans, 1933 (HALS ref: ref Off Acc 1215)
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies, ref Off Acc 1215
Hertford County - cross section (HALS ref: ref Off Acc 1215)
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies
Lounge plan (HALS ref: ref Off Acc 1215)
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies
Poltergeist, one of the last films to be shown

Hertford’s impressive Art Deco County Cinema opened in 1933 and was far grander than the other cinemas in town.  Designed by Edgar Simmons, ‘The County’ was billed as a luxury place of entertainment.  It was built in just six months and boasted over 1000 seats, a café and car park.

The opening featured a double bill of ‘Blade Venus’ (in which Marlene Dietrich appeared wearing a gorilla suit) and ‘Undercover Man’ starring George Raft.

By the 1970s, cinema-going was in general decline.  In 1972 plans were drawn up to split the building and give half of it over to bingo.  Mecca was interested in buying it and converting the entire building for bingo but neither happened.  The cinema became drab and unfashionable and certainly not a desirable place to spend the evening.

The County was the first cinema I visited as a child around 1979 – my mum took me to see Sleeping Beauty and it was all very exciting.  In October 1982 it finally closed and the last film to be shown was horror flick ‘The Entity’, despite an 800 strong petition started by a nineteen year old film student.    At the time, it was the last cinema in East Herts.  One fifteen year old Bengeo resident said he had only been there 3 times in 3 years, mainly due to the fact that most of the films were x-rated.

Fairview Homes approached the council with a “sympathetic” scheme to convert the building in to offices but instead the whole building was demolished and replaced with a bland block that remained empty for some years.    Despite its Art Deco heritage, the building was not listed and in the 21st century, similar buildings are still at risk.  And Hertford still doesn’t have a cinema.

This page was added on 15/06/2011.

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  • When I was 16 the County Cinema was my first place of work. My mum was the cashier in the box office and got me a job in the projection room. Tha manager was Mr Wright and the Chief Projectionist was Percy Brinklow !!
    I spent a week painting all the canopy outside and every Monday we would have several seats to secure back to the floor that the yobs had ripped out on Sunday Ha ha ha !!
    I was there for 3 years before I moved up to Manchester and worked for Odeon

    By Barry Vaughan (17/03/2020)
  • Wonderful memories from Saturday morning pictures in the 50’s to early girlfriends in the 60’s

    By John Mansfield (14/07/2017)
  • The Country cinema was a lovely building & the cafe which was in the style of a Palm Court served cream teas etc. I recall that `Bambi’ was one of the first films I saw there in about 1946 but used to go almost every Sunday until I left Hertford in 1955. Although I have visited the area many times, sadly the town has been in decline ever since & now has little of interest to attract me back even though I was born in Bengeo.

    By Brian John Patmore (23/05/2017)
  • I think it was on the right hand side towards Ware, opposite Tesco car park where Yeomans Court now stands

    By S Williams (05/10/2016)
  • Yes I would like to know too. Address is in Ware Road but I can’t remember exactly where. I think on the left just before the Blue coats roundabout approaching Hertford from Ware,
    Also – what year was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid shown?

    By Judi Hayden, Hoddesdon (29/09/2016)
  • Fantastic article, but where in Hertford was the cinema located and what stands in its place now ? I would love to know, such a shame it doesn’t still exist.

    By Suzannah Foster (26/11/2015)
  • I remember the first film i went to see at the County Cinema. It the first Superman Film 1979 and I went with my sister I was about 17. It was winter so we went and sat over by one of the large radiators at the side of cinema. The funny thing was my sister had taken off her shoes and put her feet on the radiator, unfortunately half way through the film she went to take her feet off and her Nylon socks had melted and got stuck to the radiator.

    By Colin Gardner (23/07/2011)