Palace Theatre

One of Plymouth's finest surviving Victorian buildings, which could make a viable music or community venue, in an area targeted for regeneration.

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Address
121 - 123 Union Street, Stonehouse, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 3NB
Risk Rating
7 (Community Rating: 2, Star Rating: 2, Risk Rating: 3 )
Local Authority
Plymouth City Council
Owner
Manochehr Bahmanzadeh
Architect
Wimperis & Arber
Date of Construction
1898
Listing
Grade II*
Capacity
1,400 (estimated)

Significance

The Palace Theatre is a Victorian building of outstanding architectural quality. It was built for the Livermore Brothers to a design by Wimperis & Arber. Originally called the New Palace Theatre of Varieties, it played host to a multitude of acts. Externally, it is decorated with Art Nouveau tiles depicting scenes of the Spanish Armada. The nautical theme continues inside with plasterwork featuring ships’ lanterns, shields, swords, flags and wreaths. The Palace is not in a central location, but in an area targeted for regeneration. The city is well served with theatres, but the Palace could be viable as a music, community and live performance venue.

Why is this theatre at risk?

The Grade II* listed Plymouth Palace has lain empty since 2006. Significant investment and repair work is required to secure the building fabric and make it wind and weather-tight.

Current situation

In 2015, GO! (Great Opportunities) Together acquired the long-term leases on Plymouth Palace and the adjoining hotel property. The organisation, a youth support charity, began the process of restoring and repairing the building, but pulled out of the project in early 2017.

There is still substantial community interest in bringing this building back to life, and there have been several, unsuccessful, offers to purchase the building by private investors keen to restore the Palace for live performance. Theatres Trust has been involved in providing advice to interested parties regarding the necessary processes involved in bringing an historic theatre back to life.

Past discussions between Theatres Trust, Historic England (which features the Palace on its Heritage at Risk register) and the council have indicated that all parties have a similar desire to see the theatre and adjoining Great Western Hotel restored and reopened. Historic England is considering commissioning its own options appraisal and high-level viability study of the theatre and hotel to help provide baseline information on the heritage restoration and outline any potential for enabling development that may be acceptable on the site.

Meanwhile the building remains vacant and vulnerable to both deterioration of the building fabric and to unauthorised access. A series of break-ins to the building in 2018 resulted in the council serving a Section 215 notice on owner Manochehr Bahmanzadeh, the local businessman who ran the theatre as a nightclub prior to its closure in 2006. This requires an owner to carry out repair works to a building when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area. The necessary works have since been carried out, however there is continued concern regarding the overall building condition.

Image: Plymouth Palace, Theatres Trust