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Robert Dupon

UK Plymouth Dance Academy Jan 2014 (Jul 2011)

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The Palace Theatre on Union Street, Plymouth was built for the Livermore Brothers in 1898 by the architects Wimperis and Arber as a Music Hall and Variety Theatre, and formed part of a development which also included an Hotel called the Grand Western Hotel.

The Theatre opened as the New Palace Theatre on Monday September the 5th 1898 with a variety show. The auditorium consisted of stalls and pit, grand circle, gallery, and eight stage boxes, four on each side of the proscenium, and was built on the cantilever principle with a capacity of some 2,500 people. Sadly the original lavish auditorium and stage house were completely destroyed only three months after the Theatre opened by a serious fire on the 23rd of December 1898. The fire started at night on stage but as the safety curtain had not been lowered for the night the fire spread quickly to the auditorium.

The ERA reported it in their 24th of December 1898 edition saying: 'The new Palace Theatre of Varieties at Plymouth was seriously damaged by fire on Friday morning. The flames broke out shortly before midnight, and within an hour and a half, owing to a strong south-east wind, the whole of the stage, scenery, and dressing-rooms from the ground to the roof were demolished.

The first signs of fire were discovered between half-past twelve and a quarter to one o'clock. The usual performance had taken place in the evening, and a large audience had been present to witness the programme, which included, among other turns, a naval spectacular scene representing the Battle of Trafalgar. When the house was closed, at the end of the performance, everything seemed safe as usual. Firemen were on duty in the house while the performance was in progress, but no one bad been left in charge. The fire was, therefore, first seen from the outside.

glare was perceived by a policeman near the stage entrance. Every effort was directed to prevent the spread of the flames to the auditorium, but unfortunately it was utterly impossible to gain access to the fireproof curtain. From the first the fierceness of the flames cut off access to the stage. If this curtain could have been lowered the area of the fire might have been at once restricted. The effect of the fire was to utterly destroy everything connected with the stage, and to do an immense amount of damage to the auditorium. All the beautiful scheme of decoration, upon which a large amount of money was expended, has been irretrievably ruined. Happily the facade and the grand staircase, which are among the most striking portions of a very fine building, escaped destruction. In the rest of the house the damage was very great. The fire is believed to have been caused by some combustibles used in the Battle of Trafalgar scene.

The Theatre reopened on Monday the 22nd of May 1899 and it is remarkable how quickly the building was restored and refurbished The building was converted for Bingo in 1961 and then had a varied life of occasional Theatre use and Bingo for many years until it was once more refurbished in 1978 and reopened as a live Theatre again. In 1982 the new Theatre Royal opened in Plymouth and this was a major blow for the old Palace, sadly the building's short revival to live Theatre was to end the following year and in 1983 the Theatre closed and was converted for nightclub use as the Academy

The acadamy was one of the biggest clubs in plymouth until 08/05/06 after a raid at 1.15am which saw up to 140 officers in riot gear storm the main entrance after undercover police suspected that drugs were being sold on the premises the club was then shut down the same night and has been unable to operate since

*Police picture is not mine my external one has gone walkabout*

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