On Sunday December 31st, 1933 a team of builders were not celebrating New Year’s Eve. They were working through the night to put the finishing touches to the new cinema in Bourne End, so that it could be formally opened on New Year’s Day 1934.

This cinema was the Royalty, built by private enterprise, and the last single-screen cinema to be opened in Buckinghamshire. The proprietors were Frederic Benton and his wife, and as reported in the Bucks Free Press “they were well rewarded on New Year’s Day when the people of Bourne End and the neighbourhood gave the opening performance an encouraging reception”. That first programme consisted of two feature films “I Adore You” and “Ex-Lady”, a romantic drama starring Bette Davis.

Unpretentious in appearance from the outside, the cinema was said to be “cosy and attractive”, the main feature being “the novel lighting effects” and a “three-coloured stage- lighting effect”.

The raked auditorium could seat 600 and the screen was “the largest telescopic size available”.

For people coming to the cinema from places south of the river Thames, who needed to cross the Cookham toll bridge by car, “the management had decided to refund the price of the shilling toll ticket - providing a reserved seat was taken”.

In 1937 the Royalty was taken over by Gilbert Church, who had his own film company and film-renting business in Wardour Street, London.

The cinema then enjoyed its best years up to the early 1950s.

The years of the second world war were particularly good for all cinemas. They provided an escape from the harsh realities of life in the days before television. Movement was restricted because of the black-out and a large army camp at Wooburn Green needed entertaining.

During the dreadful winter of 1947, when heavy snowfalls were followed by the sudden melting of the snow, causing extensive flooding in Bourne End, the first few rows of seats in the cinema were under-water. They had to be cordoned-off, but the show went on!

The popularity of cinemas declined during the early 1950s, since they could not compete with TV, and the Royalty was no exception. The conditions in the auditorium gradually declined, and it was not unusual to sit down in the dark on a seat with no back, or find the upholstery missing on the arms!

The Royalty soldiered on until December 14th, 1957, the last film shown being “The King and I”. After some refurbishment work it reopened briefly but closed for good on May 30th 1959 with the showing of the comedy western “Alias Jesse James” starring Bob Hope.

In 1962 the building was acquired by a local business and converted into a furniture store, also incorporating a small cafe where the stage was originally. The lease was then acquired in 1971 by the family of the present owners to establish a carpet retail business under the name Bucks Discount Warehouse. Suzanne, Maurice and James Saragoussi and Nigel Cohen now operate the business originally founded by Suzanne and Nigel’s fathers, Joseph and Morris Cohen.

Their families originated from Salonika in Greece then part of the Ottoman Empire, and originally came to the UK at the end of the 19th/ beginning of the 20th centuries.

They first settled in the East End of London before moving to West London after the First World War. Here they were part of a large community of immigrants from the Turkish Empire, many of whom traded in carpets. The two brothers started their own business in the late 1950’s and eventually arrived in Bourne End in 1971, having traded in Maidenhead for several years.

In 1983 the family purchased the freehold of the building and also acquired the adjacent retail unit, which was originally Donald’s confectionery shop, and some land at the rear for warehousing and car parking.

This year 2021 they are therefore celebrating their 50th anniversary in Bourne End and are doing so having just completed a major refurbishment of the premises. This has allowed them to diversify the business into selling a wide range of beds, as well as carpets and other flooring materials.

The showroom for the carpets and flooring materials is on the ground floor, and the bed department is located on an extended mezzanine floor.

The owners have been careful to ensure that the refurbishment has been carried out so as to be sympathetic to the history of the building and its original features. For example, the skylight in the roof has been restored and made a strong feature of the new decor. The lighting is soft and restrained, evoking memories of the “the novel lighting effects” mentioned in the original description of the cinema.

The business has been renamed Bucks Carpets & Beds. With James Saragoussi, grandson of Joseph Cohen, taking an increasingly prominent role in the management, they now look forward to the next 50 years.