Prince of Wales Theatre
82 St. Mary Street,
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Architects: William S. Wort
Firms: Willmott & Smith
Previous Names: Theatre Royal, New Theatre Royal, Playhouse Theatre
Built on the site of St Mary’s Church. The 19th century theatre on the site was redesigned on at least two occasions. Following a fire in 1877 it was rebuilt to the designs of Waring Son and W.D. Blessey. It had two entrances, the main entrance in a Gothic style is on Wood Street with a secondary set of entrances on St. Mary Lane at the rear, which has a rose window on its façade which has the outline of a church picked out in stone (hinting at the previous occupant of the site, St Marys Church). In 1920 the interior was re-constructed to the designs of the architectural firm Willmott and Smith and an additional entrance was created in a former shop unit on St Mary Street. It had a façade in a Gothic style, to match the main entrance around the corner on Wood Street. It had a seating capacity of 1,000 and it was re-named the Playhouse Theatre, which closed in 1925.
Re-opened in 1927, alterations were carried out to the designs of architect William S. Wort. The entrance on St Mary Street had its Gothic style façade re-done in a Greek Revival style. It was still named the Playhouse Theatre in the early-1930’s but was later re-named the Prince of Wales Theatre and . It offered live theatre use until 1957 when film shows were introduced. At first the programmes were subtitled or "art" films then re-releases.
For a time in the early-1960’s popular films were shown and when most of the circuit cinemas were occupied with "road-shows" there were a few "first runs".
Most locals remember the Prince of Wales for the subsequent period when the programmes were exclusively ‘X certificate products from Soho, London. The cinema closed on 30th June 1984 with the double bill;“Alexandra, Queen of Sex” and “Boys and Girls Together”.
Bingo was tried for a time and then it was converted into Caesar’s Nightclub which didn’t last long and the building eventually closed. It suffered badly during further short-term uses as a bargain store and a laser-game venue.
The J.D.Wetherspoon pub company took over and re-opened it as one of their chain of pubs in July 1999. The company carried out a very sympathetic restoration which gives some idea of how the Theatre looked following the 1920 redecoration.
The building is Grade II Listed.
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