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Great Yarmouth’s St George’s Theatre and Pavilion win national RIBA architecture award

08:00 21 June 2014

St Georges Theatre on King Street in Great Yarmouth.
March 2014.

Picture: James Bass

St Georges Theatre on King Street in Great Yarmouth. March 2014. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2014

The refurbishment of a 300-year-old chapel in Great Yarmouth has scooped a national award for architectural excellence.

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GREAT YARMOUTH

ST GEORGES CHURCH AT THE JUNCTION OF KING STREET WITH YARMOUTH WAY  ( UNDER CONSTRUCTION )

DATED  FEBRUARY 1955

PLATE  P4138GREAT YARMOUTH ST GEORGES CHURCH AT THE JUNCTION OF KING STREET WITH YARMOUTH WAY ( UNDER CONSTRUCTION ) DATED FEBRUARY 1955 PLATE P4138

As grade I-listed St George’s on King Street celebrates its 300th anniversary, it has been chosen as the only building in Norfolk to scoop a 2014 RIBA National Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in recognition of its architectural excellence.

Commissioned by Great Yarmouth Borough Council in 1714 when George I sat on the throne, the original architects John Price of Richmond were instructed to model the church on a Sir Christopher Wren design. The result was a monumental baroque chapel which is now recognised as one of the finest examples of baroque church architecture outside of London.

After its deconsecration in 1959, the chapel fell into disrepair despite being listed; it is reported that it narrowly escaped demolition.

In 2010, the borough council established the St George’s Theatre Trust and set about bringing the building back to life. It has become the centrepiece of a £4m Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) scheme, a conservation-led scheme that aims to regenerate the entire King Street area.

The building officially reopened as a theatre in October last year and now sits alongside a purpose-built pavilion cafe bar and an open-air plaza which is already being used to host food and art festivals.

As a RIBA winner, St George’s is now among only 56 buildings in Europe to have received the accolade.

The shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize, for the best building of the year, will be drawn from these RIBA National and EU Award winners.

Celebrating the award, Bernard Williamson, the borough council’s cabinet member for transformation and regeneration, said: “We are delighted with this national recognition of the refurbishment of St George’s Theatre which is a great way to celebrate its 300th anniversary.

“This acclaimed project has conserved a grade I-listed building, which is an important part of the borough’s built heritage, and acted as a catalyst for the regeneration in the King Street area.

“And as a theatre, St George’s is central to the cultural life of residents, in what is fast becoming Great Yarmouth’s cultural quarter.

“Praise must go to the borough council’s conservation section, which has also received a commendation in the English Heritage Conservation Angels Awards for the revamp.”

The RIBA citation praises the conservation project as “high quality” and “sympathetic”, while the new oval-shaped pavilion - which was not built without stumbling blocks, namely a nine-month delay in opening due to problems with the roof - is described as “refined and elegantly crafted” and “deceptively simple and beautiful”.

The theatre refurbishment and two new facilities were designed by Hopkins Architects, which also designed the Forum in Norwich and the London 2012 Olympic Velodrome.

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