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The Windmill Theatre, Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth
Formerly the Gem Theatre

The Windmill Theatre, Great Yarmouth in 2009 - Courtesy Paul Willetts.

Above - The Windmill Theatre, Great Yarmouth in 2009 - Courtesy Paul Willetts.

The Windmill Theatre, Great Yarmouth in 2007 - Courtesy Charles Bowman.The Windmill Theatre in Great Yarmouth was originally built as the Gem Theatre and is one of Britain's earliest surviving Cine Variety buildings.

The Theatre was designed by Arthur S. Hewitt, who also designed the Empire Theatre in the town the same year. The Windmill was built for C.B. Cochran and opened on the 4th of July 1908 with the odd proviso that men and women had to sit on opposite sides of the auditorium.

The Theatre was built as a Cine Variety Theatre and in the early decades of the 20th Century was providing the number two variety bills in Great Yarmouth, and later, in 1948, when it was renamed the Windmill Theatre, it was regularly used for summer shows, a policy which continued into the 1960s.

Right - The Windmill Theatre, Great Yarmouth in 2007 - Courtesy Charles Bowman.

Theatre use did continue into the early 1980s but eventually the building went over to use as a children's play area, and later became known as the Odditorium which was an exhibition of weird and wonderful things similar to 'Ripley's Believe it or Not' exhibitions, although there was now a Cinema in the upper part of the building.

Currently the Theatre is in use as an Amusement Arcade and miniature Golf Course, and although the building is Grade II* Listed much of its internal decoration is hidden by false walls and hangings.

For some internal photos of parts of the auditorium see here, here, here, here, and here.

Much of the above information was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

The Regent Theatre, 85-87 Regent Road, Great Yarmouth

Later - The Regent Cine Theatre / Top Rank Bingo / Mecca Bingo

The auditorium of the former Regent Theatre, Great Yarmouth - Courtesy Paul Willetts.

Above - The auditorium of the former Regent Theatre, Great Yarmouth - Courtesy Paul Willetts.

The auditorium of the former Regent Theatre, Great Yarmouth - Courtesy Paul Willetts.The Regent Theatre, Great Yarmouth, opened on the 26th of December 1914 as a Cine Variety Theatre and was designed by the architect Francis Burdett Ward and constructed by Crotch & Son. Included in the original design was a striking restaurant with wood paneling and ornamental plasterwork which had its own separate entrance on street level.

The Theatre was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in 1929.

Surprisingly this Theatre, despite changes of use over the years including its current Bingo incarnation, which began in 1982, have not altered the fine auditorium which was decorated in the Louis XVI style on two levels, stalls and circle with boxes, and seated 1,679. The Theatre's stage house, 30 foot deep, is still intact and although there is a modern proscenium covering up the original, the building could be reverted to theatre use again without too much trouble given the will and finance. Consequently the Theatre's Grade II Listing which was applied to the building during its Bingo conversion in 1982 is well deserved.

Right - The auditorium of the former Regent Theatre, Great Yarmouth - Courtesy Paul Willetts.

The Theatre was able to be visited with guided tours, as part of the Heritage Open Days event every year, but sadly since Mecca closed its Bingo operations there in December 2011 it has been boarded up and apparently has issues with damp.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

The Theatre Royal, Regent Road, Great Yarmouth

The Theatre Royal, Great Yarmouth, was originally constructed in 1778 and opened on the 4th of December that year with a prologue spoken by a Mr. Griffith. The Theatre was remodeled and almost entirely rebuilt in 1820, and appearing on its stage over the years were, amongst others, Kemble, Batley, Edmund Kean, Bellamy, Fisher, Charles Kean, Charles Matthew, Sims Reeves, and John Hollingshead's Gaiety Company.

The Theatre was again renovated and redecorated in 1869 by the Lessee W. Sydney and his manager J. F. Young, and reopened with a production of 'The Wife's Secret.' However, in 1888 the Theatre was offered for sale by auction.

In 1892 the Theatre Royal was extensively altered by the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham. The ERA reported on the Theatre's reconstruction in their 20th of February 1892 edition saying: 'At this theatre extensive alterations and additions are being carried out under the direction of Mr Frank Matcham, architect. New exits have been made from all parts of the theatre. The ground-floor will he fitted up with stalls with upholstered seats, and from here two separate exits to the side streets are made. The dress-circle has now two separate exits. The upper circle has been greatly enlarged, and a wide promenade added, with retiring-rooms and new saloons; this circle has now two separate exits. The gallery seating has been rearranged, and this part of the auditorium has been supplied with two separate exits. The principal structural alterations are near the stage end of the building, where four new shops have been erected. New dressing-rooms and property-rooms have been built, and every convenience for the artists has been provided. A new pay-office and manager's room have been built at one side of the vestibule, and a refreshment saloon at the other. Hydrants are to be fitted up, and the theatre will be entirely redecorated, the ceiling being panelled with mouldings and rich scrolled ornaments. The fronts of the circles and gallery are to be ornamented with raised fibrous plaster enrichments, and two new draped entrances to the stalls are to be formed under circular-fronted and canopied private boxes, handsomely decorated. The present side entry doors in the proscenium will be ornamented with mouldings, scrolls, &c., and draped with plush. A new act-drop and plush tableau curtains will he hung. The gas arrangements and fittings will be rearranged, and the whole of the auditorium and entrances artistically decorated and upholstered. The work is being pushed on rapidly, and will be finished in a few weeks.

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 20th February 1892.

The Theatre was eventually demolished and a new Theatre, the Regal, was built on the site in 1934.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

The Regal Cinema, Regent Road, Great Yarmouth
Later ABC / Canon

A photograph of the Regal Cinema, Great Yarmouth, during the run of the Les Dennis 'All Laughter Show' in 1986 - Courtesy Martin Hough

Above - A photograph of the Regal Cinema, Great Yarmouth, during the run of the Les Dennis 'All Laughter Show' in 1986. This was the last summer show to be staged at the Regal. Also on the Bill were Roy Walker, Vince Hill, the Toby Tubs, Pavlovs Puppets, Ray Cornells, and Julie Hedley - Courtesy Martin Hough.

The Regal was built as a large Cinema with stage facilities on the site of the former Theatre Royal, Great Yarmouth. It was designed by F. Howard and T. Darbyshire of the architectural firm Yates Cook and Derbyshire, and opened on the 1st of January 1934 with the films 'The Private Life of Henry VIII' and 'The Air Hostess.' Although built primarily as a Cinema it did stage various stage shows especially in the summer, and then later in its life became host to various music events such as pop concerts.

The Regal was taken over by Union Cinemas in 1936 and then from 1937 it was run by ABC and renamed ABC in 1961. By the late 1980s the Theatre was being run by Cannon Cinemas but closed in May 1988 with a final showing of the film 'Eddie Murphy Raw'. The Theatre was then demolished and shops were built on the site.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

The Hippodrome, St George’s Road, Great Yarmouth

The Hippodrome in 2007 - Courtesy Charles Bowman

Above - The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome in 2007 - Courtesy Charles Bowman

A postcard of the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome sent in 1917.The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome was built by the Circus showman George Gilbert in 1903 and designed by the Architect R. S. Cockrill. Since it opened the venue has been used for Circus with water spectacles, variety shows, Cinema, and Cine Variety, and during the war years as shooting range for the military.

Right - A postcard of the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome which was posted in 1917.

The Theatres Trust says of the Hippodrome: 'A building of outstanding importance. There are only two purpose-built permanent circuses in Britain still in full working order and probably only four or five operational pre-1950 circuses in the world... The Yarmouth example, like the Blackpool Tower Circus, is a true Hippodrome, whose traditional sawdust ring can be flooded for water spectacles.'

 

An early postcard depicting the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome.The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome has an auditorium formed into an arena with seating situated around a central ring of some 42 foot and because of its excellent acoustics it is also an ideal home for orchestral concerts.

The Grade II* Listed building also still has its original stables and outbuildings and can accommodate 1,200 people.

Left - An early postcard depicting the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome.

You may like to visit the Hippodrome's own website here.

 

 

The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome in 2009 - Courtesy Paul Willetts

Above - The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome in 2009 - Courtesy Paul Willetts

If you have any more information or images for this building that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

The Empire Theatre, Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth

The Empire Theatre, Great Yarmouth in 2007 - Courtesy Charles Bowman

Above - The Empire Theatre, Great Yarmouth in 2007 - Courtesy Charles Bowman.

A detail of the facade of the Empire Theatre, Great Yarmouth in 2009 - Courtesy Paul Willetts.The Empire Theatre, Great Yarmouth was built in 1908 and designed by the Architect A. S. Hewitt, who also designed the Windmill Theatre in the town the same year.

The Theatre's auditorium was built on two levels, Stalls and one Horseshoe shaped Circle which curves round to almost reach the proscenium.

Right - A detail of the facade of the Empire Theatre, Great Yarmouth in 2009 - Courtesy Paul Willetts.

The Theatre was equipped with dressing rooms and a band room under the stage which was 40 foot wide by 48 foot deep, and had a proscenium opening of 25 foot, and a fly tower with grid and fly rails which are all still in existence although the building is no longer used as a Theatre.

For a while the Theatre was being used as as a nightclub called Zen until that closed down in 2009. Since then it has been left empty and unused and apparently is full of pigeon mess, and the downstairs area (most recently used as a cocktail bar) has been repeatedly flooded.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

Royal Aquarium, Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth

Later - The Royalty Theatre / Hollywood

The Aquarium, Britannia Pier, and the revolving tower Great Yarmouth - From a postcard c.1920s

Above - The Aquarium, Britannia Pier, and the revolving tower Great Yarmouth - From a postcard c.1920s

 

The Aquarium on Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth was designed by the Architects John Norton & Philip E Masey and originally opened as an aquarium in 1876. The building was converted into a Theatre by the Architects Bottle & Olley in 1883 and renamed the Royalty Theatre.

Another smaller Theatre also opened in part of the building in 1925 but this and the main house were converted into Cinemas in 1970. Although the building is now used as a Nightclub and has four Cinemas, parts of the original glass tank fronts of the aquarium are said to still remain behind the walls of the main auditorium.

If you have any more information or images for this building that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

Arthur Lloyd in Yarmouth

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed in Great Yarmouth in 1870, 1886 and 1887 - "Mr Arthur Lloyd will Commence his Annual Tour of the Provinces on Monday, 15th August, at Yarmouth, with a Company of Select Artistes. Elegant Stage Fittings, Costly Dresses &c. No expense spared to render this the Best Entertainment travelling." - The Era.

Notice in the ERA of the 14th of August 1870 - Mr. Arthur Lloyd is accompanied by a select company of artistes, and will visit the following towns the ensuing week: - Yarmouth, 15th, 16th, and 17th; Lynn, 18th; Boston, 19th; and Great Grimsby, 20th. Business Manager, Mr W. Morton. - Courtesy Emmi Birch.

Above - Notice in the ERA of the 14th of August 1870 - Mr. Arthur Lloyd is accompanied by a select company of artistes, and will visit the following towns the ensuing week: - Yarmouth, 15th, 16th, and 17th; Lynn, 18th; Boston, 19th; and Great Grimsby, 20th. Business Manager, Mr W. Morton. - Courtesy Emmi Birch.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.