Interesting to hear how Weymouth Pavilion is back on the Council’s agenda. With them again proposing to close it down, this time to make way for a car park. In 2007 digital:works did a project with Westfield Technology College (as it was then called) and St Andrews Primary School about Weymouth Pavilion, as the council were looking for developers to take on this area and redevelop it. We trained the children in filmmaking techniques and interview skills. Together making a film, which we have dug out of our archives.
If you would like to read up on project, the Weymouth Pavilion in the Past website has been archived here; www.digital-works.co.uk/pavilionpast. It features some wonderful archival photographs along with historical information – starting from 1908 when the subject of a leisure theater first exercised the minds of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis Borough Councillors. As many people felt that if Weymouth was to be a first-class resort, such a building was urgently required.
As one would expect the Ratepayers Association disliked the spending of any public money. Despite objections the plan for a new pavilion went ahead. Land was reclaimed from the foreshore. Interestingly after deciding on its location, one councillor thought the location was pretty bad. It was too far from the railway station and in a much too exposed position in bad weather for those who had to walk to it.
The Pavilion closed down during WW2 as it was requisitioned by the military for war purposes. At one point the military authorities wanted to demolish the building under defence regulations. It escaped this fate only to be damaged in an air raid in April 1942 and was then taken over by the Admiralty. Even after the end of the war in 1945 the building was not handed back to the town but remained in use as a sorting office for naval post. In fact the Town Council did not get the building back until 1947 and then had to spend two more years trying to get compensation for the damage to the building during its war-time use.
On the afternoon of the 13th of April 1954 disaster struck, with the building catching fire during refurbishment and being mainly built from wood this fire soon took hold and much of the building was destroyed. The foyer and Palm Court being all that remained. The wooden Edwardian theatre took little more than an hour to burn despite the efforts of ten fire pumps from around the county. Practically the whole of Weymouth turned out to watch the Pavilion burn down.
Although members of the Fire Brigade felt they had saved enough of the building for it to be reconstructed, the Town Council lost no time in claiming on the fire insurance policy and clearing the site. The Edwardian theatre was no more and it was replaced by the present building.