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Gaumont Palace/Mecca

A Grade II Listed Building in Exeter, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.7228 / 50°43'21"N

Longitude: -3.5341 / 3°32'2"W

OS Eastings: 291806

OS Northings: 92583

OS Grid: SX918925

Mapcode National: GBR P0.PYX8

Mapcode Global: FRA 37H5.DZ0

Entry Name: Gaumont Palace/Mecca

Listing Date: 5 September 2000

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1384990

English Heritage Legacy ID: 485449

Location: Exeter, Devon, EX4

County: Devon

District: Exeter

Town: Exeter

Electoral Ward/Division: St David's

Built-Up Area: Exeter

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Central Exeter

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

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Listing Text

SX9192NE NORTH STREET
871/2/10172 12
05-SEP-00 Gaumont Palace/Mecca

GV II
Former cinema, built 1931-2 for the Gaumont Palace/Albany Ward/Provincial Cinematograph Theatres consortium. Architect: William Henry Watkins (job architect, Percy Bartlett). Builders: McLaughlin and Harvey. Brown brick, stone and render. Roof of auditorium not seen. Complex plan. The cinema stands at the far end of a courtyard opening out of North Street. A screen wall closes off the courtyard and provides continuity for the building line. Auditorium with balcony and stage, set behind curving foyer.

EXTERIOR: At ground level, the screen has double gates of scrolling metal, flanked by stone walls containing panels for film advertisement posters. Above the gates is an illuminated canopy. The upper level of the screen is in brick and stone and treated as a series of superimposed square panels flanked by fluted pilasters topped by stylised Ionic capitals. In the centre is a tall narrow area of render, which once supported an illuminated display for the name of the cinema. The symmetrical facade of the cinema itself combines subdued Classicism with Moderne features. It has a recessed central area with a single-storey entrance breaking forward between two towers set at angles. The towers stand on moulded plinths from which rise vertical features enclosing four square windows, separated by panels comprising superimposed squares. Each tower has a broad stepped frieze, capped by a large pyramid roof. The recessed area between the towers carried a horizontal Moderne window divided into square and rectangular sections and enclosed by a broad frame. Metal window with small square panes. The towers run back to meet the rear wall of the auditorium. The return and stage walls were not intended to be seen; they contain exit doors and windows for hallways, stairwells and lavatories.

INTERIOR: Curving foyer in Moderne style with streamlined mouldings on the ceiling and a cornice incorporating simplified triglyphs. The surviving stylised Ionic capital is one of several which formerly surmounted mirrors and advertising frames, now disappeared. Large, almost square, double-height auditorium of the stadium type, i.e., with stepping at the rear instead of a supported balcony. Large saucer dome in the ceiling enlivened with fluting and, in the centre, a subsidiary dome with a large and elaborate rose of scrolling plaster. The corner angles of the main ceiling are decorated with roundels surrounding lunettes bordered by simplified rinceau. Stage behind proscenium, which stands before three superimposed coves with ornamented frames. Narrow splayed ante-proscenium walls carrying tall slender niches with inset tops and having ornamented frames of scallop and wave mouldings. The dado opens into short `aisles', while the string is detailed with a Moderne moulding loosely based on the Greek fret. The side walls are framed by rusticated pilasters which then turn ninety degrees to form a boarder beneath the cornice. Entrance to the auditorium is access through two side vomitories, having swing double-doors with original door furniture and small octagonal glazed apertures.

ANALYSIS: A large super cinema of the 1930s with much surviving decoration. The courtyard planning, dictated by the impossibility of building a show facade to the main street, is most unusual. The cinema has been a bingo club since 1963.

SOURCES:
David Ewins: `W H Watkins, a Bristol Architect', in Picture House, the journal of the Cinema Theatre Association, No 5, Summer 1984, pages 3-31 (the Gaumont Palace is mentioned and illustrated on pages 12 and 16-18).
Allen Eyles: Gaumont British Cinemas, Cinema Theatre Association, Burgess Hill, 1996, pages 53, 55, 206.
Richard Gray: Cinemas in Britain, Lund Humphries, London, 1996, pages 87 and 138.

Listing NGR: SX9180692583

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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