The Ritz Theatre Fire - 70th Anniversary

Following a very busy week, our Ritz Theatre exhibition has now come to a close.

We would like to thank everybody that came to take a look at the Pavilion’s impressive and beautiful history, and also all those involved in making this exhibition possible.

On the 13th of April, 1954 the Ritz Theatre burnt down after catching alight during renovations.

After teaming up with Weymouth Museum for the 70th anniversary of this tragic event, we were able to travel back in time through photographs, merchandise and never-seen-before footage of the former Ritz building before and during the fire.

During the time of this exhibition, we have heard many interesting stories from those who remember the day The Ritz tragically burned down, and also from those whose parents were there to witness and pass down their tales and never-seen-before photographs. We even managed to discover who some of the people in the photographs are!

Tony shared his incredible story with us of his memories of The Ritz Theatre fire:

My Father, Johnny Flux was a member of the Jack Barnes Orchestra and was their vocalist. The orchestra had the ballroom residency that year.

That afternoon, my father had taken me to the Odeon Cinema (in Gloucester Row) to see Bob Hope in ‘Road to Hong Kong.’ But halfway through the film…. an interruption!!

When the fire broke out, I think someone had ‘phoned my mother who was at home & she must have told the caller that my father was at the cinema, because the manager came into the theatre, found my father, and gave him the stunning news.

We immediately left and raced along the promenade towards the Ritz, which I could see had smoke billowing out of the roof. A large crown of on-lookers had gathered by now. I was told to stand still and not move! (I think it was where the donkey rides were) while my father and some of the other musicians entered the rear of the ballroom to rescue some of their instruments.

George Brennan, the pianist obviously could not do that, but he was also the very gifted arranger for the band, and he went in to rescue the manuscripts & band parts. The instruments were replaceable, the band parts were not!

There was a photo in the Echo a few days later showing a very relieved George holding an armful of band parts!’


(Photo courtesy of Weymouth Museum)
(Photo credited to Guy Woollatt)

Following this, we uncovered photos from a photographer who was picturing the band playing that day. In these, we see firefighters trying to control the blaze, crowds of people watching the commotion, band members saving what instruments they can and plenty of photos of the damage caused that eventful day.

 Chris also contacted us with a photograph of his father on the top of the ladder overlooking the burning Ritz Theatre. Chris’ father, Joe Whitefield was a Sub Officer at Dorchester during this time and part of the huge team trying to help put out the devastating fire. 


Once again we would like to thank everyone for their support to Weymouth Pavilion, none of this would be possible without this and please feel free to continue sharing your stories and best memories of both the Ritz Theatre and Weymouth Pavilion… We love hearing them!