Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Pavilion, Torquay. . . . . . . .

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 
be preserved. 
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 
once again.
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.


  1. have you read Elizabeth Goudge? I think somehow you have; she writes I think of Torquay... perhaps in her book, Gentian Hill?

  2. The Pavilion must be saved, I remember that my parents took me to Torquay for my very first holiday in 1953 and I loved it.

  3. Beautiful photos and such interesting history! How awesome to know that your mother worked at the Pavilion, too.


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