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 Value: 2, Star Rating: 2, Risk Factor: 3 )
Local Authority
Plymouth City Council
Owner
Manochehr Bahmanzadeh
Architect
Wimperis & Arber
Date of Construction
1898
Listing
Grade II*
Capacity
Estimated at 1,200

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 ship lanterns, shields, swords, flags and wreaths.

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. Work was undertaken in 2013 and 2015 to make the theatre weathertight and further temporary weatherproofing has been put in place in the last two years, however photographs of the interior indicate ongoing deterioration. The theatre, together with the adjoining Great Western Hotel, also appear on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register as Priority A, meaning it is under immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric.

Plymouth Palace interior

Theatre potential

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 and the adjoining hotel, which interconnects with the theatre, used for a cross-subsidising activity.

Current situation

In 2015, GO! (Great Opportunities) Together acquired the long-term leases on Plymouth Palace and the adjoining Great Western Hotel. 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 about the necessary processes involved in restoring and reopening an historic building.

Past discussions between Theatres Trust, Historic England and the council have indicated that all parties have a similar desire for the theatre and adjoining hotel to be restored and reopened, and for a viable and sustainable reuse of the buildings. 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 repairs 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 about the overall building condition.

Theatres Trust will continue to liaise with both Historic England and the council to find a sustainable and viable outcome for Plymouth Palace that sees this important theatre building restored and reopened for the benefit of its local community.

Main photo Plymouth Palace, Theatres Trust