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The Norwich lad who opened a cinema when he was just 14

PUBLISHED: 20:02 18 February 2020 | UPDATED: 20:02 18 February 2020

Two young cinema pioneers in Norfolk of the 1930s. Alfred Warminger and his usher and friend Walter Nichols. Photo Family collection.

Two young cinema pioneers in Norfolk of the 1930s. Alfred Warminger and his usher and friend Walter Nichols. Photo Family collection.

From family collections

Today most of our cinemas are run by big business...but there was a time when a young Norwich lad opened his own picture palace and also took to the road showing films across the county.

Family memories of young Alfred Warmingers cinema in the 1930s. Picture: From family collectionsFamily memories of young Alfred Warmingers cinema in the 1930s. Picture: From family collections

Thank you for all your memories of the Saturday morning shows for us kids but some of you reminded me of a certain Alfred who, before he became the king of the recycling world, was famous across the land for his cinema.

It was back in the 1930s when 14-year-old Alfred Warminger hit the headlines in the national press when the Lord Mayor of Norwich at the time, Aldermen Frederick Jex, opened the Enterprise Cinema in Northumberland Street.

Many years ago he told me 
how, as a boy growing up in a Norwich public house during the 1920s, he listened to what the "grown-ups" were talking about.

His parents, Arthur and Mottie, ran a pub in what was then a very rough and tumble Elm Hill in the city.

Alfred Warminger, the young cinema pioneer who established one of the biggest recycling plants in the country – in Norwich. Photo: Archant library.Alfred Warminger, the young cinema pioneer who established one of the biggest recycling plants in the country – in Norwich. Photo: Archant library.

"It was a good education. People don't realise that the child standing nearby has ears, and so often ignored him," he said.

Young Alfred listened well.

"In those days Elm Hill was very run down, nothing like the Elm Hill we know now, and was on the cards for slum clearance. It's amazing what one learns of life itself, of people and character," he said.

The pupil at Avenue Road School set to work on opening the Globe Cinema in a wooden hut behind the Globe pub, where his parents had moved to.

The Enterprise opening with the Lord Mayor Fred Jex shaking the hand of the young boss Alfred Warminger, Also in the picture is his father Arthur, his sisters Emily and Ivy and commissionaire Leonard Britcher. Archant library.The Enterprise opening with the Lord Mayor Fred Jex shaking the hand of the young boss Alfred Warminger, Also in the picture is his father Arthur, his sisters Emily and Ivy and commissionaire Leonard Britcher. Archant library.

Alfred was the manager, operator and cashier. He was helped by a young friend who wore an eye-catching uniform of chocolate and gold,

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How the children loved the place.

It cost a penny to be transported into another world. "It was good timing. I could get quite good old films, Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. Just what the children wanted," he said.

Within a year, with support from his family, he opened the much grander, purpose-built, 250-seater Enterprise Cinema, a fitting name for quite an enterprise.

The stars of the opening gala night with the Lord Mayor were the children of Norwich. Thousands turned up on the night and it was covered by the national newspapers.

Alfred advertised the screenings on his pony and cart, his sister Emily was the cashier and his friend Leonard Britcher was the commissionaire.

"By 1936, it had lost touch, it often happens with children," said Alfred who took to the roads with his travelling cinema.

And it was at Hingham where he met and fell in love with the girl he would spend the rest of his life with - Ena. They had children, Max and Jan.

Alfred went on to be a distinguished pilot in the 
Second World War before returning to his beloved Norwich to develop his big Ber Street waste-paper and recycling 
empire. He was also a city councillor, former sheriff, top glider pilot and truly great and much-loved Norfolk character.

Today his memory is kept 
alive with Warminger Court on the site of his old recycling business.

Oh, and as for the old Enterprise... it became the Oh So Easy slipper factory.

With thanks to Jan Warminger and Philip Yaxley.

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