BENEATH masses of scaffolding lies a hidden gem known as Harwich’s Electric Palace Cinema.

With a £750,000 restoration project to prevent the cinema’s ceiling from collapsing, the Gazette was able to get a unique view through the keyhole to see the work underway.

The historic building, in King’s Quay Street, has stood as one of Britain’s oldest surviving purpose-built cinemas for more than a century.

The venue opened in 1911 and has seen acrobats, comedians, signers and hypnotists grace its stage.

But trustee David Looser said the partial collapse of the Apollo Theatre’s roof in London in 2013 triggered the renovation.

The incident alerted the industry to the dangers of old plaster ceiling and as a result of a 2014 inspection of the palace, the trustees were informed the ceiling needed to be strengthened.

Mr Looser said: “It should all be finished next May.

“We are beginning to talk about the programme for the grand reopening and we hope to have a week of celebrations.

“We will have been closed for a year and want to make a big splash about it.”

The building is covered in scaffolding while ceiling work is underway so it will last for another 50 years.

The auditorium, stage and toilets will also be improved, and the electrical switchgear will be replaced.