Torquay Pavilion opened in 1912 as the local ‘Palace of Pleasure’. Originally a theatre, later an ice rink and most recently a shopping centre, this iconic architectural jewel has provided generations of locals and tourists with entertainment, culture and delight.
On its 100th anniversary in 2012, the Pavilion was sadly closed by its leaseholders in need of repairs, and has remained empty since. The mission of our community group and this Torquay Pavilion Fighting Fund is to help the fight to reclaim the magnificent Pavilion as the treasured community asset it should and must be.
Above: Torquay Pavilion in 1912 and in 2012.
The Pavillion was built on a site that was reclaimed from the sea, the work commencing in 1890. The architect was Edward Rogers, winner of a competition in 1896. It has a framework of steel stanchions and girders and was faced with white tiles in Doulton's Carrara enamelled stoneware – the finished result was described as resembling a ‘White Palace’. It has an impressive copper dome which is topped by a life size statue of Britannia and two smaller domes topped by copper figures of Mercury.
The stunning building, pictured above after re-opening as a shopping centre in 1987, has many claims to fame. One of the most special is its association with the world’s most famous ever crimewriter, Agatha Christie, whose first husband Archie Christie proposed to her in this building after a Wagner concert. After the theatre became increasingly expensive to maintain and put on shows in the 1960s, it was proposed to be demolished by the local council. It was only with the campaigning efforts of Sheila Hardaway and other local people passionate about this building that it was saved from the bulldozers. Today, it is considered by many to be Torquay’s most iconic building, and so begins a new campaign to restore it as a vibrant building which can be enjoyed by all.
However, there are two sides to this campaign. Whilst our end goal is to restore the Pavilion as a community asset, our first task is to fight current proposals to turn it into a hotel foyer joined on to a new 6-story hotel, Cary Green in front of it into a car park, and plans to build an 8-story (or higher) apartment tower block adjacent to it.
We are determined to fight this development and safeguard our beloved local building for future generations and we are really hoping that you will join together with us in our fight.
We have started by forming a community group to lobby against current proposals for this wonderful building. We then want to look at taking over the leasehold on the Pavilion to ensure that it stays as a public building in perpetuity. Amongst the projects under discussion are a National Agatha Christie/cultural arts centre, a boutique with bars, restaurants and tea rooms, a Wedding location – uses which would all make the Pavilion the centrepiece of Torquay that it deserves to be.
We are urgently seeking to raise £1000 in one month to enable us to formally set up a non-for-profit company, seek legal advice regarding the current leasehold, draw up architect's and business plans for an alternative proposal for the Pavilion as a public building and disseminate information about our campaign to local people.
Thank you in advance,
The Torquay Pavilion Fighting Fund