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Latitude: 53.4319 / 53°25'54"N
Longitude: -1.3584 / 1°21'30"W
OS Eastings: 442723
OS Northings: 392977
OS Grid: SK427929
Mapcode National: GBR LXYR.PH
Mapcode Global: WHDDC.3ZDY
Plus Code: 9C5WCJJR+PJ
Entry Name: Former Regal Cinema
Listing Date: 17 November 2021
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1477769
ID on this website: 101477769
Location: Thorn Hill, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, S60
Electoral Ward/Division: Boston Castle
Parish: Non Civil Parish
Built-Up Area: Rotherham
Traditional County: Yorkshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): South Yorkshire
Cinema, 1934, by Blackmore & Sykes of Hull, used as a bingo hall from 1989, closed in 2021.
Cinema, 1934, by Blackmore & Sykes of Hull, used as a bingo hall from 1989, closed in 2021.
MATERIALS: a steel frame with brick facings and concrete, faience (all now painted over) and painted-brick dressings, all set upon a concrete raft structure embedded within the River Don riverbed. Original metal and replaced uPVC windows. Cast-iron rainwater goods, a corrugated-metal roof covering to the auditorium block, concrete floors.
PLAN: the building has a slightly irregular square plan with an entrance block fronting east onto Corporation Street, canted north-east and south-east corners, and an elongated south-west corner. To the west behind the entrance block is the auditorium block. The building is bounded to the north by a small car park, to the south by an unnamed alleyway/lane, and to the west by a pedestrian walkway above the River Don.
EXTERIOR: the building is of two storeys plus basement. The auditorium has a hipped roof, which is visible from a distance, but the entrance block's flat roof is hidden from view by the building's parapet.
FRONT (EAST) ELEVATION: the principal east elevation facing Corporation Street is of a wide five bays, the central three bays of which form a faienced (now - 2021 - painted cream) frontispiece containing the main entrance to the ground floor. The whole of the east elevation has a faience plinth (now painted black), which continues around the north and south returns of the entrance block. The centre bays are flanked by simplified pilasters with reeded detailing, which each have a torch-shaped flagpole holder at the top with carved rays of light behind. To the ground floor are three openings that originally contained entrance doorways and 12 doors (two pairs of double doors to each opening); those to the left have since been fully glazed as windows with polished-granite stallrisers, and to the right have replaced recessed doors. Above the entrance openings is a deep flat canopy with spotlights to the underside. To the first floor are three slightly recessed, paired sets of cross windows with replaced plain uPVC glazing (originally there were metal windows with patterned Art Deco glazing as depicted in historic photographs) and sitting above is a carved band that continues across the rest of the elevation and around the corner returns. The uppermost section of the frontispiece forms part of a parapet that conceals the roof from view and is stepped at this point with a moulded frieze.
The outer bays flanking the entrance frontispiece were originally identically styled with blind faience windows/advertisement panels to the ground floor and a large window with Art Deco glazing to the first floor set within a faience surround (all now painted). The first-floor windows now have replaced Art Deco-style uPVC glazing and the ground floor right has been converted into a late-C20 shop unit with shop windows, polished-granite stall risers and a central entrance doorway.
The north-east and south-east corners are both canted and with faience cladding (now painted over), and both have tall first-floor windows with Art Deco-style replaced uPVC glazing. Both corner bays also have scored decoration running up and over the window, and also to a blind panel, which has affixed, stylised relief lettering that reads 'Bingo'. The south-east corner has a recessed ground-floor entrance accessed by a small flight of steps, but the corresponding north-east entrance has been removed and infilled with a late-C20 shop window and polished-granite stallriser.
NORTH ELEVATION: the north return of the entrance block has a large blind window/advertising panel (possibly glazed windows originally) to each floor set within faience surrounds (now painted) and separated by a carved band; the blind window to the ground floor has inserted ventilators. To the right is the north elevation of the auditorium block, which is slightly taller in height with concrete copings to the parapet. The proscenium and stage are located at this north end of the building and to the first floor is a cantilevered horn chamber projection (now also painted cream) with carved detailing and curved reeded corners that acted as a speaker system for sound films. The projection has affixed signage and lettering that reads 'MECCA Bingo'. Flanking the projection to the ground floor are exit doorways (that to the left has been altered and built forward from its original recessed position) with windows above; the windows to the left retain their original metal glazing.
SOUTH ELEVATION: the south return of the entrance block has two boarded-over windows to the ground floor and a large window with Art Deco-style replaced uPVC glazing to the first floor, along with two modern air conditioning units. Separating the floors is a carved band. The south elevation of the auditorium block to the left has a boarded-over ground-floor window in the same style as those to the return of the entrance block, and then a series of exit doorways and bricked-up windows. To the first floor are eight windows, some with shared lintels, and all but two retain their original multipaned metal glazing.
WEST ELEVATION: the west elevation of the auditorium block has exit doorways and boarded-over windows to the ground floor, and windows of varying size to the upper levels with metal multipaned glazing, including two large windows set high up the elevation, which have been partially bricked up and reduced in size, and originally lit the auditorium. Towards the southern end of elevation is a modern extractor flue. The roof parapet steps down from south to north across the elevation.
INTERIOR: internally despite later alteration numerous features survive, including original concrete stairs throughout and the auditorium and first-floor foyer's decorative schemes. Late-C20 suspended ceilings have been inserted into many of the interior spaces and original floors are largely concealed by modern coverings. The interior of the building is said to be lined with specialist bricks that were designed to eliminate external noise.
ENTRANCE FOYER: the entrance foyer has been altered and modernised, with some partitioning inserted and an altered reception desk area inserted alongside the rear wall, but the original stair leading up to the balcony foyer and the first-floor former cafe/restaurant survives in the south-west corner, along with some columnar-style detailing and channelled banded decoration on the rear wall. The foyer's ceiling, which now sits above a late-C20 suspended ceiling, has been stripped of plaster and original sunken ceiling recesses filled in, although their outline can still be seen. Originally there was also a lift accessing the balcony foyer and cafe/restaurant, but this has been removed.
STALLS FOYER: a doorway in the entrance foyer's south wall leads through into a modernised space that originally formed the stalls foyer and which incorporates the south-east entrance; a corresponding foyer at the northern end of the building that originally served the front seats of the stalls has been altered and partitioned and is no longer legible. The space's ceiling, which sits above a late-C20 suspended ceiling, has lost any original decoration. The three large window openings visible externally on the south elevation have been concealed internally by modern wall plastering. A pair of double doors in the north-west corner lead through into the auditorium.
AUDITORIUM: the auditorium largely retains its original decorative scheme (now painted in bold primary colours) with a streamlined proscenium arch flanked by tall Art Deco grilles, channelled banding detail, and a massive ceiling dome/rose. Originally there was concealed lighting in the dome and proscenium, but a modern lighting system has since been installed in the auditorium. The windows to the auditorium's side walls, which have been altered externally, are covered over internally, but their moulded frames are visible. At the northern end the stage retains its original curved stair on the right; that on the left has been replaced. The orchestra pit in front of the stage has been boarded over and is hidden by a modern carpet covering, and the organ has been removed. Three original dressing rooms survive underneath the stage. The seating in the stalls has been removed and replaced by late-C20 fixed bingo seating. At the rear of the stalls the projection room, which was located to the centre as depicted in a historic photograph, has been altered and converted into kitchen and bar service areas. Storage rooms are located behind. The underside of the balcony incorporates sunken lighting roundels and Art Deco ventilation grilles.
BALCONY: the original seating tiers survive fully in the rear half of the balcony, but in the front half alternate tiers have been removed to enable the installation of late-C20 bingo seating. Tip-up seats with built-in ashtrays and Art Deco metal end panels survive to the rear section of the balcony, and there is stepped decoration to the side walls alongside access stair flights. The balcony ceiling incorporates a large, pierced, Art Deco lozenge ceiling decoration (probably with concealed lighting originally) and channelled banding. Two sets of double doors provide access from the balcony foyer, and further double doors at the top right of the balcony with leaded lights access a fire exit stair. Exit slips on each east and west side access further exits. The original balcony front with fluted decoration largely survives, although an additional safety barrier has been added on top to part of it and the central section facing the stage has been removed and replaced by a plain section. A section of the balcony front on the eastern side has also been removed to accommodate a late-C20 stair that has been inserted on the eastern side of the stalls to access the first-floor former cafe-restaurant where openings have been inserted into the party wall between the former cafe/restaurant and the auditorium.
BALCONY FOYER: the first-floor balcony foyer appears to retain much of its original decoration, including moulded banding to the walls, moulded cornicing, and a central ceiling 'fin'. Two pairs of double doors lead out onto the balcony; those to the north have replaced doors, whilst those to the south are original and incorporate leaded-light panels. Other original doors with leaded-light panels within the foyer provide access to toilets and a fire exit. Partitioning has been inserted in the southern half of the foyer around the ceiling fin to create late-C20 office space and some of the foyer's windows are now contained within this space. The gent’s toilets at the southern end contains original cubicles with doors with glazed panels.
FIRST-FLOOR CAFE/RESTAURANT: the former cafe/restaurant on the eastern side of the first floor has been heavily altered and subdivided to create office space, and some walls have been knocked through, including at the southern end and western side alongside the auditorium, but its original plan remains legible. The cafe's original channelled ceiling band decoration and deep coving survive to the southern half above a suspended ceiling. The eastern windows that originally lit the cafe are now concealed internally by later walling. A late-C20 bar counter has been inserted in the southern half, along with some fixed-bench seating.
The Regal Cinema was opened on 22 December 1934 by the Deputy Mayor of Rotherham, Alderman Richard Kirk, with the Rotherham-born radio comedian Sandy Powell also in attendance. The cinema was built for, and constructed by, Thomas Wade & Son Ltd of Wath upon Dearne, under the name of Thomas Wade Cinemas Ltd. It was designed by Blackmore & Sykes of Hull, who designed a number of cinemas in the north of England, including 14 in Hull and the West Riding of Yorkshire, as well as other buildings, such as the Spa Royal Hall in Bridlington, built in 1926 and later rebuilt after a fire.
The site was previously the course of the River Don, but in the early 1920s the river was narrowed through the construction of retaining walls and the riverbed filled up to street level (approximately 20ft) to enable the construction of Corporation Street. The nature of the land required specialist foundations for the building that ensured that the total weight was correctly distributed and carried to specific points of the structure. At each of these points vertical steel piles/tubes (stanchions) were sunk into the solid rock strata beneath the riverbed, which were then filled with reinforcement rods and concrete. The heads of the concrete stanchions were then connected together by reinforced concrete beams to form a concrete raft upon which the cinema is built.
The cinema was initially leased to the cinema entrepreneur Lou Morris, and upon opening the cinema had 1,850 seats, including 728 on the balcony, and multiple foyers. There was also a stage and three dressing rooms for live variety performances, a Peter Conacher organ with an illuminated console mounted on a lift, and a cafe/restaurant that was open to non-patrons.
In 1935 the building was sold to the London & Southern Super Cinemas circuit, and in 1946 the cinema was leased to Odeon. In 1954 the orchestra pit was boarded over, and in the 1960s the cafe/restaurant was converted into a dance studio. In 1975 the cinema was sold to Twainville, an independent operator, and renamed as the Scala, although only the balcony remained in use.
The cinema closed in September 1983 and remained empty until May 1989 when it reopened as Ritz bingo. From 2004 it was operated by Mecca and then put up for sale by auction in February 2020. The freehold was sold, but Mecca continued to operate in the building until closure was forced by the Covid pandemic in March 2020. In May 2021 it was announced that the building would close permanently.
The Conacher organ was removed in 1993 and in 2021 it was acquired by the East Midlands Cinema Organ Association who are restoring it to be displayed at their centre near Melton Mowbray.
The former Regal Cinema, opened in 1934 to designs by Blackmore & Sykes of Hull, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* it is a good example of a medium-scale 1930s cinema built by a successful regional architectural practice who specialised in cinema designs;
* it has a distinguished and well-executed Art Deco-influenced exterior that retains its character despite some later alteration;
* the interior's first-floor foyer and the strikingly decorated main auditorium are notable principal spaces that retain much of their original Art Deco decoration, whilst other key surviving features include stairs, doors with leaded lights, dressing rooms beneath the stage, and part of the original ceiling decoration in the former first-floor restaurant;
* it is unusually carefully engineered due to its position above the former course of the River Don, utilising an advanced piled concrete raft foundation that is embedded into the rock strata beneath the riverbed.
Other nearby listed buildings