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411

Opened in 1888 as the Pavilion Theatre of Varieties. Dramatic exterior on triangular site, in brick with ample stone dressings. Circular tower at the apex (stage end) which originally had a truncated spire, and a square tower at each of the other two corners with curved pavilion roofs. The base of the triangle (rear wall of the auditorium) faces a narrow street and is in plain brickwork. The two main elevations, however, flank main streets, and on approaching the theatre from the High Street both fronts can be seen simultaneously as they splay outwards from the corner. The elevational treatment of the two fronts is similar - the ground floor with banded rustication and a series of semi-circular arched doorways and windows, and the two upper floors embraced by giant Doric pilasters. These form an interesting rhythm of bays - alternately blank and with windows; vertically linked by panels containing busts and pedimented in the upper storey. Above the pilasters is a deep entablature, carried continuously around both fronts. The auditorium is at the first-floor level, in order to provide space below for the necessary ancillary accommodation on the tight site. Its present appearance results from modifications for cinema, bingo, and nightclub use, and some changes following a fire in 1949. But its early form is still apparent - very intimate with two steeply raked balconies which curve around to the proscenium, now without boxes. The balconies have original iron open-balustrades which have been juggled around to suit altered stepping at the lower level. The upper balcony has its original gallery seating. Square proscenium with rounded corners, decorated with deep acanthus leaves. Original sun burner and decorative vents to ceiling, otherwise, plain plasterwork throughout. The stalls floor has been flattened for dancing. Capacity if reseated, perhaps 600 plus. As the stage is at the narrow end of the site, it is small and trapezium-shaped, but adequate for performances not requiring elaborate sets. Later nightclub use did no irreparable harm, and since closure in 2006 there have been some issues with vegetation growth on the facade, weather tightness, and more recently poor ventilation. The council purchased the building in early 2020 and planning permission has been granted for restoration and reuse of the building for the community with office, event and small-scale performance space. The scheme maintains the main volume of the auditorium and historic detailing in the space, such as the handrails and sunburner, and the minor alterations to the internal layouts are easily reversible. The work is due to complete in 2023.

Built / Converted
1888
Dates of use
  • 1888 - 1963: Theatre (until at least early 1960s)
  • 1940 - 1966: Cinema
  • 1960 : Theatre
  • 1960 - 1969: Bingo (mid-late 1960s)
  • 1970 - 2006: Nightclub
Current state
Extant
Current use
Disused (Currently at risk)
Address
156 High Street, Swansea, West Glamorgan, SA1 1NE, Wales
Further details
Other names
The Pavilion Theatre of Varieties , Empire , The Palace Theatre of Varieties , The Swansea Popular Picture Hall , The Palace Theatre of Varieties
Events
  • 1888 Design/Construction:
    Bucknall & Jennings
    - Architect
  • 1888 - 1963 Use: Theatre (until at least early 1960s)
  • 1890 Owner/Management: Mr & Mrs Lafargue, managers
  • 1892 Owner/Management: Oswald Stoll, lessee
  • 1902 Owner/Management: Lady Mansell & W L Hunt, managers
  • 1904 Owner/Management: T W Grantham, lessee
  • 1906 Owner/Management: W Coutts, owner and manager
  • 1912 Owner/Management: Swansea Improvements & Tramways Ltd, owners; William Coutts, lessee
  • 1916 Owner/Management: South West Electric Theatres Ltd, lessees; W G Christian, manager
  • 1940 - 1966 Use: Cinema
  • 1953 Owner/Management: Maudie Edwards
  • 1953 Alteration: restored following fire (architect unknown).
  • 1960 Use: Theatre
  • 1960 - 1969 Use: Bingo (mid-late 1960s)
  • 1961 Alteration: converted to bingo (architect unknown).
  • 1970 - 2006 Use: Nightclub
  • 1992 Owner/Management: Des Brown & Peter Bennet
  • 1992 Owner/Management: Paul & Christopher James
  • 2006 Owner/Management: Private owner
  • 2020 Owner/Management: Swansea Council purchased the Palace in early 2020.
Capacities
  • Capacity
    Original
    Description
    893
  • Capacity
    Later
    Description
    1889: 901
    1912: 1200
  • Capacity
    Current
    Description
    est. 450
Listings
  • Listing
    II
Stage type
-
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: -
Proscenium width: 28ft x 26ft high
Height to grid: -
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: None