The Athenaeum, a literary institution, was built in 1858 to designs by local architect W J Stent. It included a large lecture room, a reading room, classrooms and a librarian’s residence. In 1879 it was largely rebuilt behind a slightly modified façade. The architect for these works was T H Wyatt.
In 1895 the building was handed over to the Urban District Council. In 1912 Albany Ward took on the lease of the lecture room (the Bleeck Hall) and fitted it with the latest lighting and cinematograph equipment, refurbishing the seating and reopening as the Picture Palace. As well as films, the Palace also presented plays, pantomimes opera and music and productions of the Warminster Operatic Society. Further improvements were made in 1935.
In 1969 the Warminster and District Arts and Civic Society refurbished the building at a cost of £10,000. In 1986 it became the West Wiltshire Arts Centre, serving the local community with theatre, film, music, dance, art and lectures.
The attractive gabled stone front has been well preserved with its iron entrance canopy. The proscenium is plain but attractive, and the auditorium well-maintained. The balcony is iron-fronted and supported on two iron pillars.
Closed in 1997, it reopened in 2000 as the Athenaeum Centre for the Community, once again serving the local community with theatre, film, music and educational classes. A programme of refurbishment, begun in 2000, continues.
- 1912 : (?earlier)-1997; 2000 continuing
- Owner/Management: (NB building has technically always been held in Trust)
- 1857 Owner/Management: Warminster Arts & Civic Society
- 1858 Design/Construction: as Athenaeum Literary InstitutionWilliam J Stent- Architect
- 1879 Alteration: rebuilt behind façadeT H Wyatt- Architect
- 1895 - 2000 Owner/Management: Warminster Urban Disrict Council/West Wiltshire DC
- 1901 Alteration: extended to incorporate technical schoolUnknown- Architect
- 1912 Alteration: converted to cinemaUnknown- Architect
- 1912 Owner/Management: Albany Ward, lessee
- 1912 Use: (?earlier)-1997; 2000 continuing
- 1927 Owner/Management: Charles Rowe, lessee
- 1935 Alteration: reading room removed to make new entrance; lounge converted from billiards roomUnknown- Architect
- 1966 Alteration: refurbishedUnknown- Architect
- 1966 Owner/Management: Warminster Arts & Civic Society, lessees
- 1969 Alteration: converted to arts centreEric G Stevens- Architect
- 1986 - 1997 Owner/Management: West Wiltshire Arts Centre, lessees
- 1993 Alteration: modified to provide exhibition room etc; redecoratedChris Walker (District Council)- Architect
- 2000 Owner/Management: Warminster Athenaeum Trust, trustees
- CapacityLaterDescription1966: 250