In 1900 Weymouth was becoming increasingly popular as a holiday resort for ordinary families who naturally wanted entertainment.
Many people felt that if Weymouth was to be a first class resort, this new building was urgently required. Technically a Pavilion was a light ornamental building or pleasure house and Weymouth did not have one.
For the first time ‘The Pavilion’ as it was to become was exercising the minds of Weymouth & Melcombe Regis Councillors! Little did they know then it would still be on the minds of Councillors 100 or more years later!
By 1906 the decision was taken and a new site for the new pavilion was chosen at the southern end of The Esplanade next to what was then known as The Pile Pier. Then, just as today, there were objections – the Ratepayers Association disliked the spending of Public Money!
A competition was launched in 1907 to find a suitable design.
The grand opening took place on 21st December 1908 and the first performance two nights later – a Christmas Pantomime, Mother Goose.
The outbreak war in 1914 brought considerable changes to The Pavilion. The Town Council decided they should not be running it and leased it to Mr. Ernest Wheeler, a member of a prominent business family in the town. His father had run the new theatre, The Theatre Royal, in St. Nicholas Street where Lakeside Superbowl now stands. Ernest continued leasing the building for the next 25 years.
In the 1930’s, possibly due to competition from The Alexandra Gardens Theatre (now amusements) which opened in 1925 the auditorium was adapted to show films. The Pavilion then became a popular cinema in the town.
The Second World War had an even greater effect than the first. The Pavilion was closed down as it was requisitioned by the military for war purposes. At one point the military authorities wanted to demolish the building! It escaped this fate only to be damaged during an air raid in April 1942 and was taken over by the Admiralty.
At the end of the war The Town Council did not get the building back until 1947 and then spent the next two years trying to claim compensation for the damage inflicted during its war time use.
The Ritz. Now the Pavilion Theatre was leased to the Buxton Theatre Circuit who in 1949 spent £4000 installing a new cinema projection room. The Pavilion finally reopened in May 1950 with a new name – THE RITZ.
Fire! In the afternoon of 13th April 1954 (Tuesday, not Friday!) disaster struck. The building caught fire during refurbishment and, being built mainly from wood, the fire soon took hold and much of the building was destroyed. The cause of the fire was later found to be the misuse of a blow lamp used for removing many layers of paint from the exterior.
The Town Council lost no time claiming on the insurance policy and the site was cleared. The charming Edwardian theatre was no more.
In September 1958, four years after The Ritz burned down construction began on a new theatre and ballroom.
The architect of the new Pavilion was Samuel Beverley who in the 1920’s had joined the famous theatre architect Frank Verity in partnership. The firm Verity and Beverley is still going strong today.
Sadly, Samuel Beverley died in May 1959 before completion of the building and his son in law, Anthony Denny, took over.
The new Pavilion was described as “Weymouth’s most ambitious municipal enterprise” and cost £300,000. Many names were suggested but it was decided to choose the original name of the first theatre so The Pavilion is was.
The ballroom which is built on the same site as the old Palm Court opened first and was packed to capacity. The Mayor and Mayoress, Mr. & Mrs. Edgar Wallis were the first couple to dance on the maple dance floor which cost £7000.
The room today - now known as The Ocean Room - still has the same maple dance floor! The official opening was delayed until the theatre was complete and formally opened on 15th July 1960 with the show ‘Let’s Make a Night of It’ starring Benny Hill.
In more recent times the future of The Pavilion has been under threat on many occasions.
One of the first ‘Pavilion Fights for Survival’ headlines dates back to March 2001 when Councillors were asked to look for a way forward following cost cutting exercises. A private theatre company or trust were suggested and by this time the possibility of closure had already been thrown out!
November 2002 saw suggestions The Pavilion could be scrapped stating that a new building will be required within 10 years! The current building was deemed too big and too old but it was decided to ‘make do’ for the next 3-5 years and manage it as effectively as possible.
The axe was raised above The Pavilion many times over the subsequent years when redevelopment of the ‘Pavilion Peninsular’ was examined. Ideas for redevelopment included luxury flats, swimming pool, new theatre, casino, 5 star hotel, restaurants and ferry terminal.
In March 2005 8 bids were received by Weymouth & Portland Borough Council to redevelop the peninsular site and in Summer 2008 Howard Holdings Planwas unveiled. The plan was to refurbish the Pavilion Theatre, move the ballroom and to encompass the building in the new build and would also include a 5 star hotel, bars, restaurants, marina and ferry terminal.
Following this nothing happened. As far as the Pavilion was concerned things started to be wound up. The Ocean Room effectively closed and no further Theatre bookings were made. But still nothing happened.
In December 2008 Weymouth & Portland Borough Council issued an ultimatum to Howard Holdings - do something or the deal would be off. No response, and in February 2009 Howard Holdings went into administration.
Luckily for us, the redevelopment failed and The Pavilion limped on.
Once again the black clouds loomed and future of The Pavilion became uncertain.
The arrival of The Olympic Games bought the Pavilion some extra time but shortly after the Games at the end of November 2012 that was it. The axe finally fell; closure and intended demolition was announced.
This is the point we came into play.
Living locally and having worked in The Pavilion many times we knew this time would come. Much work had already been done in the background but the challenge as to convince the Borough Councillors.
The end of 2012 and the start of 2013 saw many meetings and a great deal of hard work. An informal process over the Christmas period persuaded The Councillors there was a viable alternative to demolition.
A formal tender process followed. Weymouth & Portland Borough Council closed Weymouth Pavilion on the 31st May 2013.
On 19th June it was announced that we had been successful and our bid had been accepted.
We signed the lease on Friday 5th July and reopened the building on Saturday 13th July.
Since then Weymouth Pavilion has grown into a bustling and lively venue. There is always something going on. With varying professional shows, local groups and a wide range of corporate and private functions there really is “Something for Everyone”.