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Athenaeum

670

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.

Built / Converted
1912
Dates of use
  • 1912 : (?earlier)-1997; 2000 continuing
Current state
Extant
Current use
Arts Centre (Centre for the community; mostly cinema 1912-64)
Address
18-22 High Street, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 9AE, England
Website
Further details
Other names
Electric Picture Palace , Palace , Athenaeum Arts Centre , West Wiltshire Arts Centre , Athenaeum Centre for the Community
Events
  • Owner/Management: (NB building has technically always been held in Trust)
  • 1857 Owner/Management: Warminster Arts & Civic Society
  • 1858 Design/Construction: as Athenaeum Literary Institution
    William J Stent
    - Architect
  • 1879 Alteration: rebuilt behind façade
    T H Wyatt
    - Architect
  • 1895 - 2000 Owner/Management: Warminster Urban Disrict Council/West Wiltshire DC
  • 1901 Alteration: extended to incorporate technical school
    Unknown
    - Architect
  • 1912 Owner/Management: Albany Ward, lessee
  • 1912 Use: (?earlier)-1997; 2000 continuing
  • 1912 Alteration: converted to cinema
    Unknown
    - Architect
  • 1927 Owner/Management: Charles Rowe, lessee
  • 1935 Alteration: reading room removed to make new entrance; lounge converted from billiards room
    Unknown
    - Architect
  • 1966 Owner/Management: Warminster Arts & Civic Society, lessees
  • 1966 Alteration: refurbished
    Unknown
    - Architect
  • 1969 Alteration: converted to arts centre
    Eric G Stevens
    - Architect
  • 1986 - 1997 Owner/Management: West Wiltshire Arts Centre, lessees
  • 1993 Alteration: modified to provide exhibition room etc; redecorated
    Chris Walker (District Council)
    - Architect
  • 2000 Owner/Management: Warminster Athenaeum Trust, trustees
Capacities
  • Capacity
    Later
    Description
    1966: 250
  • Capacity
    Current
    Description
    226
Listings
  • Listing
    II
Stage type
Proscenium, slight rake. Cyclorama (not quite full size)
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 6.4m Width SL: 1.22m SR: 1.22m
Proscenium width: 7.31m x 3.66m
Height to grid: 6.7m
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: 2 rows stalls removed when space required