This list entry was subject to a Minor Enhancement on 31/05/2018
CHURCH STREET (South side)
The Corn Exchange and Dome Theatre
(Formerly listed as The Corn Exchange and Dome Theatre, CHURCH STREET, previously listed as: PAVILION GARDENS, The Corn Exchange and Dome Theatre)
Riding school and stables, later theatre and exhibition rooms. The riding school and stables were built between 1803 and 1808 by William Porden for the Prince of Wales; extended by Joseph Good for the Office of Works in 1831 during the reign of William IV and Queen Adelaide; purchased by the Borough along with the Pavilion Estate in 1850; between 1850 and 1864, the central, domed space was converted into calvary barracks, during which time the name "Dome" was used officially.Between 1864 and 1867 the Borough Surveyor, Philip Lockwood, converted the hall into a theatre designed with forms loosely derived from Islamic architecture; in 1868 the Riding School in the west wing was converted into the Corn Exchange, again by Lockwood. To relieve congestion on Church Street, the Dome was given two new entrances in 1901-1902, one on Church Street, and another at the south east corner of the complex; the architect was the Borough Engineer and Surveyor, Francis J.C May, who expanded the Museum, Art Gallery and Public Library on Church Street (qv) in the same years. The Corn Exchange and Dome Theatre were given the form they have today in 1934 by the architect Robert Atkinson, FRIBA, who redesigned the entrance hall at the south east corner of the complex and the interior of the theatre. Atkinson also converted the Corn Exchange into an exhibition hall, removing, among other fittings, the Royal Box.
MATERIALS: the materials throughout are tan brick in Flemish bond with dressings and details in stone and stucco cement; the original domed roof covering the central section survives and is composed of laminated wood trusses and glass; a ceiling of laminated wood to the Corn Exchange; the rest of the roofs are parapeted.
PLAN/EXTERIOR: Porden's scheme consisted of three parts, with a centre domed section, octagonal in plan, flanked by rectangular wings; although a plaque on south elevation dates the whole complex to 1803-08, it is known that Joseph Good erected stables on the site of the east wing in 1831; the extent of these works is not clear, however, and, as maps and plans of the Pavilion complex indicate, only short sections of the exterior wall of the east wing were completed by 1856. The original elevation to Church Street (Museum, Art Gallery and Public Library (qv) is now all but obliterated. The south-facing elevation, however, survives more or less as Porden designed it, a description of which follows. The fenestration alternates between double-height windows which originally lit open halls and two storeys; there is a full basement throughout. The centre range is dominated by the octagon of the Dome itself, three sides of which protrude beyond the front walls of the wings; the centre facet is a tripartite composition with a pointed-arch entrance with scalloped intrados, now opening directly on the rear of the stage; a similar arch above is blind. All openings are scalloped and pointed, and most are set in rectangular aedicules. The centre bay of the dome is framed by octagonal buttresses which rise through a continuous lotus-leaf pediment to terminate in acanthus urns; this buttress and urn are used to define each bay. The side facets of the octagon have two storeys. The tripartite composition applied to the centre of the Dome is repeated with slight variations on the south-facing elevations of the west and east wings, the only difference being that the arch above each entrance is glazed and that the windows to either side are full height and glazed; the design of the glazing dates to the early C19, rebuilt during later stages of the fabric's history. Other glazing bars of original design.
The east wing was extended by one bay in 1901 when May enlarged the Museum and Art Gallery; the change in brick and detailing shows the extent of this build. At the corner of the extension, facing east, is a tetrastyle porch, in an Islamic-inspired style, which marks the foyer of the south entrance to the Theatre; the porch is specifically included in this listing. The remaining bays on the east return are part of the Museum and Art Gallery. FJC May also gave the Dome a new entrance on Church Street (qv) which is located immediately to the west of the Victoria Public Library facade and is identical in design to the entrance to the Museum and Library complex: pointed-arch entrance with scalloped intrados set within a shallow, two-storey, pointed-arch aedicule; arms of the Borough carved in low relief on the tympanum; lotus-leaf parapet above. To the right is the pointed-arch, tripartite entrance to the Corn Exchange, which is a facsimile of one section of Porden's original north elevation and dates either to Lockwood's campaign of 1868 or to Atkinson's of 1934.
Historical note: the Dome was an important site for activity by Brighton members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the militant suffrage organisation founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903. The WSPU built a network of branches across Britain, and held large public meetings featuring the suffragette leaders. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and Lady Emily Lutyens all came to speak at the Dome.
There was also militant suffragette activity inside the Dome when suffragettes interrupted several meetings by Liberal politicians. Around twenty suffragettes were violently ejected from the building during protests at a meeting by Reginald McKenna MP in November 1907, and in January 1910 two suffragettes hid in the Dome overnight to interrupt the Prime Minister, but were discovered shortly before he arrived. ‘Votes for Women’, the WSPU’s newspaper, printed a picture of one local suffragette, Mrs Newsome, who managed to attend the meeting disguised in her husband’s clothes, though she appears not to have carried out any protest inside the Dome.
This list entry was amended in 2018 as part of the centenary commemorations of the 1918 Representation of the People Act.
Listing NGR: TQ3122404297