The Wellesley is an excellent example of a small town cinema. The Wellesley Cinema was opened on 12th July 1937 with Shirley Temple in “Dimples”. It was designed in Art Deco style by local Wessex architect Edward de Wilde Holding and had a seating capacity of 472 (now seating 400) in stalls and circle.
The Wellesley was the third of a trio of cinemas designed by Edward de Wilde Holding for the Wessex Kinema Company Ltd. The first was The Devonia Cinema, Honiton, Devon and the second was The Cerdic, Chard, Somerset (opened on 14th June 1937 with Shirley Temple in “Dimples”). All three cinemas provided seating for 470 in stalls and circle and a feature of the trio was the stepped ceiling in the auditorium which had troughs that contained concealed lighting. The concealed lighting still in use today.
All three cinemas were almost identical. The Wellesley is the last of the three to still be used as an operational cinema. The Cerdic in Chard closed in 1962 and became a D.I.Y store. In 2002 the D.I.Y store had closed and building was converted into a pub operated by the J.D. Weatherspoon chain. It still has the original ‘Cerdic’ name sign on the front facade of the building as the pub is named ‘The Cerdic’. There is little information available about the Devonia in Honiton, only that it burnt down in a fire and only the front remains.
The Wellesley has had a chequered history of different owners and managements and several closures and re-openings over the years.
In the 1970’s the building was acquired by the WAA who formed the Wellesley Trust to look after the interests of the building. Because of this, The Wellesley remains a rare example of a 1930’s single screen cinema that is virtually untouched.
The building is currently leased to Merlin Cinemas, who run the building as a fully operational independent cinema, equipped with the latest digital projection equipment, including 3D capability and Dolby Digital Surround Sound.
For more information about the Wellesley Cinema, please visit their website: www.wellesleycinema.co.uk.