DHV Architects have recently completed a major phase of roof repairs to this popular Grade II listed 1920s cinema located in the centre of Clevedon. The Curzon Cinema is an early twentieth century cine-variety theatre and is considered to be one of the oldest continually running cinemas in the UK.
The original cinema opened in 1912, just five days after the sinking of the Titanic. A matinée event was held to raise funds for the relatives and survivors of the disaster. Clevedon’s community generosity is still as active today as it was in 1912 and the recent roof repairs project gained huge interest and support from the local community. The project has also been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as well as other local and national charities.
The large roof was in very poor condition where it was difficult to access and was in need of urgent repair. The historic roof coverings survived, and the pantiles were produced at the local Sydney Keen Brickworks site which has long since disappeared. Unfortunately, it was not possible to retain and replicate any of the existing pantiles. Listed Building Consent was obtained to replace the original pantiles with a similarly proportioned clay tile.
The interior roof space is as impressive as the auditorium below. This is the part of the building that most cinema-goers and tour groups don’t get to see. Repairs to the internal roof structures have also been carried out where movement could be seen to the large steel roof trusses. This has now been stabilised rather than corrected to preserve the changes that have occurred. Water damage has also affected the internal timber rafters and ceiling supports for the auditorium pressed steel panels. Several timber repairs were carried out, which involved pairing of the rafters and ceiling supports.
The vulnerable condition of the roof meant it was putting the interior of the building at risk and the possibility of permanent closure. The interior of the auditorium is lined with a pressed steel panelling system, commonly known as Skelionite. Skelionite is a North American invention seen throughout many late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century public buildings in the USA. It is thought to be the only complete surviving example in England and is noted for its early fire resisting properties when nitrate film posed a huge fire risk to cinema buildings.
Bring Back the Balcony
During the project an opportunity arose to remove the unsympathetic 1970s suspended ceiling that was installed to the auditorium interior. The removal of the false ceiling would allow the historic proportions and proscenium arch and screen to be fully reinstated. Moreover, the opportunity to reinstate the balcony would provide a huge conservation benefit for the significance of this listed building and allow for social distancing measures to be implemented when cinema-goers can return to the cinema. Like many other organisations, the Curzon Cinema has suffered enormously during the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The Cinema was closed for the first time in its history throughout most of the pandemic. The charity has launched a fundraising campaign to “bring back the balcony”. Revamping this beautiful space, which has been hidden from view since 1972, will increase its socially distanced capacity by 30% putting the charity in a stronger position to survive and recover. Susannah Shaw, CEO, said:
"Closure has led to a loss of £40-50k in income each month. The job retention scheme and emergency funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and smaller Government grants meant we have been able to retain staff and maintain the building - but we face a huge challenge to recover from this crisis and the next few years will be precarious for the Curzon". The cinema is hoping to reopen next month in line with the current Government guidelines for public buildings. You can support their campaign by visiting the following link: https://www.curzon.org.uk/fundraising
Project architect: Oliver has overseen the project following DHV Architect’s appointment in early 2019. Oliver was responsible for preparing and developing the repairs philosophy working closely with the client and project teams.
Oliver oversaw the work on site working closely with the main contractor, Corbel Conservation. Some of the repair work has been recorded by the Curzon Cinema and footage of the repairs can be seen on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyav3YhXQn26TL8WGxTen1g
Structural Engineer – Fenton Holloway Ltd https://fentonholloway.com/
Quantity Surveyor – Trevor Humphreys Associates https://www.trevor-humphreys-associates.co.uk/
Project Manager – Ruth Gofton, Heritage and Community http://heritageandcommunity.com/
About the Curzon Cinema
The Curzon cinema has been at the centre of life in Clevedon, North Somerset, since 1912.
An independent, traditionally run cinema showing mainstream and art house films, it is one of the country’s oldest, continually running cinemas.
Besides the stunning auditorium, the Curzon has a lounge bar, serving drinks and snacks, with public wifi, and workshop and meeting spaces all available for hire.
Alongside the diverse film programme, they host live comedy, music and performance and are fully engaged with youth, arts and other organisations, including taking cinema out to residential homes.
Inside a little-changed building, the cinema can boast the UK’s most complete example of a skelionite lined auditorium (pressed steel panelling) and a unique collection of historic film equipment, offering heritage value, locally, nationally and internationally.
With support from a dedicated team of volunteers, the Curzon provides a warm welcome for all. To find out more visit: https://www.curzon.org.uk/
About DHV Architects
We are particularly experienced in the care and conservation of historic and ecclesiastical buildings, and we are adept at obtaining planning and listed building consent for sensitive sites. We have a lot of experience in grant funding bids and incorporating successful visitor and community engagement in public architectural projects. We have accreditation in building conservation (AABC), and all of our staff have experience in historic building conservation.