The City of Worcester is an extremely special place. It is famous for its Sauce, the fine Bone China and even its magnificent Medieval Cathedral.
The City is also passionate about theatre and entertainment too. If you take a look at the Cornmarket, it is hard to imagine that the City Guilds once owned a building here to organise Plays and Pageants for the citizens. Pageant House also had a yard, where wagons and stages were stored. In the Middle Ages the Corpus Christie Plays were said to be most spectacular.
Most pubs also advertised small back yard theatres. If you look down the City Arcade opposite the Guildhall, you will notice several Copper fans. These represent Oyster Shells that were consumed as snacks during these theatre productions. Archaeologists have found Middens, or rubbish pits, in the yards of most pubs in the City.
By the 19th and 20th Century Music Halls, large theatres and even Cinemas for the new moving pictures were all embraced by Worcester folk. Many of these buildings are fondly remembered and people have a strong passion to ensure they are not lost forever. This can be seen by the reaction to the recent news regarding the closure of the Gala Bingo in Foregate Street. This building was once the Gaumont.
The Gaumont was one of several places of entertainment in Worcester and I have met many people who say it was the best location for theatre, concerts and also film. An entertainment centre to escape day to day life.
The Gaumont opened its doors on the 28th October 1935, when Britain was still recovering from the effects of the Great Depression. The Building was state of the art and owned by the Gaumont British Theatre chain. Provincial Cinematograph Theatres built the building in a street which was also contained a Music Hall.
The building was designed to be a place of comfort and entertainment. A place to impress people with its modern design. Five large windows allowed sunlight to shine down upon a 100 seater restaurant and an Art Deco foyer that would match any of the Great Theatres in the West End. Most of these features can still be seen beyond the modern fruit machines and Gala Bingo signage that will soon disappear now Gala has ceased trading.
Inside was a comfortable 1,740 seater Cinema, an extremely large stage to hold orchestras and song concerts and a fine quality Compton Illuminated theatre organ. The first film to be shown inside the Gaumont was the 39 Steps starring Robert Donat and Lucie Mannheim. Tickets ranged from 2 Shilling 6 Pence to just 6 Pence for cheaper seats.
The most memorable history of this building were the concerts that took place in the 1960s and early 1970s. Well-known names played at the Gaumont including The Beatles, Freddy Mercury, Buddy Holly, Jimmy Hendrix, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and Roy Orbison.
Sadly everything came to an end in 1974 when the building closed and became a Rank Organisation Bingo Club. This in turn developed into the Gala Bingo Club until the Covid-19 Lock Down led to its permanent closure. When the closure was announced people began to call for its return to a Live Music and Entertainments venue. Most of the original features remain so with some careful restoration and a huge amount of funding something may be possible. We will have to watch this space with fingers crossed.
By Paul Harding – Discover History
Find out more
- Discover History Facebook Page
- Discover History Website
- Revive The Gaumont theatre Facebook Page
- Revive The Gaumont theatre Campaign Page
- The Truth Co Facebook Page
About Discover History
Discover History was founded in 2003 to bring History to life in a fun and interactive way. Over the years they have become a multi-faceted business working from the City of Worcester. The team deliver award winning educational workshops, Living history presentations and reminiscence sessions for care homes and elderly organisations. Talks, media work and walking tours are also available. The team are extremely passionate about their home City and will do all they can to highlight the heritage in the area. Both Helen and Paul also write regular features for the Worcester News and other publications in the County. You may hear them talk about topical subjects on BBC Hereford and Worcester Radio too.
‘The City has seen all the great chapters in British History and in some cases World History.’
For further details please visit – http://www.discover-history.co.uk/