Former Majestic Cinema

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1472567
Date first listed:
30-Sep-2020
Date of most recent amendment:
N/A
Statutory Address:
Former Majestic Cinema, 700-708 Woodborough Road, Mapperley, Nottingham, NG3 5GJ

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
Former Majestic Cinema, 700-708 Woodborough Road, Mapperley, Nottingham, NG3 5GJ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District:
City of Nottingham (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SK5849242917

Summary

Former cinema opened in 1929 and designed by Alfred Thraves.

Reasons for Designation

The former cinema, opened in 1929 and designed by Alfred Thraves, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* is a very good example of the cinema architecture of this period by the region’s most notable designer of this building type;

* its street frontage is in a distinctive Spanish style, reflecting the wider interest in exotic styles for cinemas in the late 1920s, also perhaps intending to evoke the Spanish style houses built in Hollywood during its golden age;

* the highly-wrought interior of the auditorium has evident design quality with its lavish theatrical style and heavy, ornate plasterwork harking back to the splendours of Edwardian Baroque.

Historic interest:

* it retains its original plan form – complete with foyer, auditorium and projection room – which, together with the survival of other features such as internal doors and stairs, provides a notable example of a suburban cinema of this date;

* it is the best-preserved example of a natural auditorium (due to the sloping site) which was a distinctive design shared by only a handful of cinemas throughout the country.

History

The former cinema was built as the Majestic Cinema in 1929 to the designs of Alfred John Thraves FRIBA (1888-1953), a well-known regional architect who specialised in cinema design. He was articled to John Lamb in Nottingham before establishing his own practice in 1910 in Whitefriars House, Nottingham. During the First World War, Thraves was a private in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and held a commission in the Royal Engineers, and was on active service in France and Belgium. He then went into partnership with Henry Hardwick Dawson until 1927 and with his son Lionel Alfred Thraves from 1937. Throughout the 1920s he worked in the late Arts and Crafts tradition and developed a modernist art-deco style in the 1930s when the majority of his cinemas were built. During the Second World War, Thraves served as a special constable in Nottingham. In 1943 he was appointed a housing consultant to the Ministry of Health. He died on 15 August 1953 at The Turrett, Stanton-on-the-Wolds, Nottinghamshire and left an estate valued at £8,478 11s 3d. Thraves designed about 33 major buildings across the Midlands and northern England, with a concentration in and around Nottingham itself. Most of his schemes were cinemas, but his oeuvre also included houses, a motor car showroom and a factory. Notable cinema schemes include the Grade II listed Majestic Theatre in Coronation Street, Retford.

The Majestic Cinema was opened on 10 June 1929 by the local councillor and ex-Sheriff of Nottingham Mr John Farr. During the opening ceremony Mr Farr said that ‘the new cinema has provided the area with one of its finest buildings [and] would provide for the social and recreational sides of life with its programme of educational values and healthy interest’. It was described at the time as 'the Elite of the Suburbs', a reference to the Elite Cinema in the centre of Nottingham (Grade II* listed). The cinema was built by the firm of Coleman and Blackburn of East Kirby who had built several other cinemas. The 721 seat auditorium was entered at near balcony level thanks to the steeply sloping site which created a natural auditorium, and a generous screen 6m wide and 4.5m high was located within a proscenium arch. An Electrochord sound system was initially installed which was later replaced by a Marshall. A door in the lower part of the stalls was used as a separate entrance by patients from the adjacent Mental Hospital for the special performances put on for their benefit. The cinema was owned by the Severn family who operated the building themselves until it closed on 7 December 1957.

The cinema was then taken over by a firm of Electrical Contractors who used the main cinema as a workshop. It was for a time used for various activities until 1987 when it was taken over by Roy Wallance who commissioned the respected Midlands practice of Gerzy Grochowsky Architects to refurbish the building which involved inserting a floor in the auditorium to create two levels (preserving all the decorative plasterwork). Their scheme won a Nottingham Civic Society award in 1989. The building was later occupied by the Golf Store, and in 2010 permission was granted for the change of use of the basement to a martial arts academy. In 2018 the former cinema became an attraction called the Haunted Museum.

Details

Former cinema opened in 1929 and designed by Alfred Thraves.

MATERIALS: the principal elevation is covered in thick white render applied to form a pattern of rough semicircles, whilst the side and rear elevations are constructed of red brick laid in English bond. The roof of the front range is clad in red pantiles and the rear auditorium has a flat roof.

PLAN: the building has a rectangular plan with a front range facing the street which contains the foyer with a kiosk and former WCs to the right, and offices/ staff rooms to the left. The large auditorium is at the rear.

EXTERIOR: the former cinema is a wide, three-bay building in a Spanish style. The frontage is dominated by two square outer blocks on a brick plinth under shallow hipped roofs with deep overhanging eaves, moulded cornices, and tumbled in tile creasing. Each block has a group of three narrow vertical recesses containing the fenestration at the top and bottom. This consists of top-opening, metal-framed windows with geometric glazing bars. In between the blocks the slightly lower, recessed central bay has a first-floor loggia with a pitched roof supported by squat brick columns set at an angle and surmounted by top-heavy capitals with oversailing courses. The wide, glazed entrance below is not original but the rendered panels above the door still survive, presumably to carry the original signage.

The return walls of the frontage are also rendered and lit by the same narrow windows. Thereafter the long, subsidiary side walls of the auditorium are in red brick with shallow buttresses and irregular fenestration. Two openings on either side have roller shutter doors (not original), and the lower part of the west elevation is obscured by timber boarding. The tall aerial on the roof dates from the Second World War when the building was used for military communications.

INTERIOR: the front entrance opens into the foyer which has a ceiling of delicate raised plasterwork in a simple geometric design with a ceiling rose and a border decorated with the branches of a fruit tree. A short flight of stairs leads up to the balcony from which the first view of the theatrical Baroque auditorium is gained. This has a segmental-vaulted ceiling enriched with ornate plaster decoration and panelled side walls. The curved ceiling beams, which divide the auditorium into four bays, are edged in cable moulding and have soffits decorated with swirling vines. They are supported by large tapered corbels enriched with cable moulding and garlands. Around the room is an elaborate cornice in the form of an entablature: the cornice is enriched with bead-and-reel, oak leaves and acorns; the frieze has crisscrossed ventilation panels alternating with square panels bearing a cluster of Tudor roses and leaves; and the architrave is decorated with cable moulding and strapwork. Each bay between the ceiling beams has large square wall panels with plasterwork frames in a strapwork design with an inner panel framed in a pattern of sinuous foliage. On the ceiling there are large crisscrossed ventilation panels with corners of vine leaf. The proscenium arch is square-topped with chamfered corners edged in cable moulding and decorated with large Tudor rose motifs surrounded by foliage, alternating with small thistle motifs. None of the original seating survives, and a floor inserted in the late 1980s has divided the former large space horizontally in two, cutting across the proscenium arch and plasterwork panels. These all survive intact in what is now the basement of the building (not inspected).

On the balcony two flights of stairs leading up to the projection room have closed panelled balusters and square newel posts with moulded square panels in Art Deco style. The projection room itself has a concrete floor (as film reel was highly inflammable) and retains square openings (now blocked) in the door and to either side for the light to be projected onto the screen. Other features of interest include several original doors with one large panel and corner blocks, in an almost early C19 style, and a room in the upper floor under the hipped roof which originally contained a lavatory (in situ) and wash hand basin (removed) which provided facilities for staff.

Sources

None.

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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