Torquay's historic Pavilion, once a beautiful theatre - the interior ceiling was
exquisite - was quite an important part of my childhood.
Memories of attending shows there include the annual Pantomime over the
Christmas holiday, always a long awaited treat for many children.
I can recall quite clearly how exciting that outing always was for me.
Wearing a new 'party dress' (always made by my dressmaker mum), and
carrying a box of chocolates to nibble during Intermission - that's a British
tradition for theatre-goers - I was ready for a fabulous time.
Now, and not unexpected, new plans are in the works to try and rescue this
beautiful building and bring it back into use, perhaps as the entrance to a
proposed multi-story attached hotel/apartment complex.
It could also include a spa, restaurants (which it used to have),
and other public spaces. Anything would be great as
the wrecking ball should never be permitted anywhere near it!
Early one morning we decided that, although cloudy, we would take a Ferris wheel
ride to view the harbour area from a bird's eye view.
The wheel has become a Summer installation for the past couple of years and has
proved very popular.
The Pavilion was built on land reclaimed from the sea, on a concrete raft on
which steel stanchions and girders were erected. This early work commenced in 1890,
and the Pavilion building itself started in 1911.
It was opened in 1912 with a foyer, auditorium with large curtained stage, lounges
and cafe, all oak-panelled and elegantly plastered.
There was a curved balcony, stained glass and potted plants, with an open-air
promenade and a tea garden.
Here Jasmin and I are standing near the now boarded up main entrance
to the Pavilion. Note the historic plaque commemorating Dame Agatha Christie,
also the blue one below with the building dates and info.
These particular windows were at one time my mother's office during the years she
worked as the theatre's box office manager in the 1960's after I left Torquay and
moved to the US.
Statue of Mercury above the main entrance.
Britannia topping the central dome.
Looking back from the Ferris wheel across the Pavilion roof toward the Strand
and clock tower - my first real job in an insurance company was in that area.
The building's facing tiles, Doulton's Carrera enameled stoneware, made the
Pavilion appear like a white palace. The impressive central copper-covered dome is
topped by a life-sized figure of Britannia, two smaller domes on each side of the entrance
support copper figures of Mercury, and other exterior decorations include flowers and
urns topped with pineapples and scrolls. Fine cast ironwork in the Art Nouveau style
edged the steps to the promenade deck and the octagonal bandstands or
summerhouses. All very impressive in the building's heyday of course.
Looking down from the Ferris wheel on the beautiful copper roof.
In the late 1970's the theatre was closed and demolition proposed due to years
of neglect due to lack of funding for repairs.
In 1973 it became a listed historic building which meant, thankfully, it had to
In 1976 it was leased out to continue as an amusements venue, a bingo hall,
a skating rink, and finally a shopping center - all of which destroyed the interior - and
now it stands closed and rapidly deteriorating whilst awaiting restoration.
The deal with the local council for proposed building permission on the land
next to the Pavilion, includes that all the Pavilion restoration work has to be done by the
developer - quite a huge undertaking but so worthwhile. I wish them luck and
hope to return home in the future to see it all completed and the beautiful building in use
I must say I was able to view my home town in quite a different way from the
heights of the Ferris wheel - and I loved it. Here, looking across the Outer Harbour
toward the just visible town of Paignton, you can also see to the right, the old
Princess Pier I mentioned in the earlier post on Agatha Christie.
This is the Inner Harbour area showing the fairly new pedestrian bridge on the right joining the two harbors.