Former cinema and Mecca Bingo is being demolished in Norwich city centre

The former Mecca Bingo hall on All Saints Green, Norwich that is to be demolished. Photo: Steve Adams The former Mecca Bingo hall on All Saints Green, Norwich that is to be demolished. Photo: Steve Adams

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
4:20 PM

The number is finally up for a former bingo hall, after its owners started work to demolish a building which has been a part of Norwich city centre for more than 80 years.

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The Rolling Stones at the Gaumont Theatre, Norwich in April 1964The Rolling Stones at the Gaumont Theatre, Norwich in April 1964

But uncertainty surrounds what will happen once Mecca Bingo in All Saints Green is reduced to rubble, with the owners yet to submit any plans for the site it currently stands on.

Opinion: Former bingo hall would make first-class concert hall for Norwich

A look back at cinematic history of Norwich’s Mecca Bingo

The Gaumont in All Saints GreenThe Gaumont in All Saints Green

April 2011 - Huge repair bill closes Norwich city centre Mecca Bingo for good

The building survived a bomb drop during the Second World War, but is not going to escape the bulldozers.

Landowner Telereal Trillium has put up metal barriers around the building, which dates back to the 1930s, to pave the way for it to be knocked down.

More than just a bingo hall

With bulldozers set to move in on the former Mecca Bingo in All Saints Green, the city is set to lose more than just an old bingo hall.

The building opened as the Carlton in 1932, holding just over 900 people.

A year later, it reopened as a 2,000-seater cinema, complete with stalls, which could also be used as a theatre for live entertainment.

Perhaps one of its most dramatic episodes came during the Second World War, during an intensive air raid of April 29, 1942, when an unexploded bomb smashed through the Carlton’s canopy and burrowed under the outer wall.

It gets a bit confusing because the Gaumont also used to be in Haymarket (where Topshop is now). The cinema there was called The Picture House, although everyone called it the Haymarket, and it become the Gaumont, above right, in 1954 before closing in 1959. When that shut, the name transferred to the All Saints Green venue and it remained a cinema until the start of 1973.

During this time it played host to some big names – most memorably The Rolling Stones who played a concert there in 1964. The cinema broke Norfolk records for its 27-week run of the Sound of Music and a quarter of a million people were estimated to have seen it at the Gaumont by the end of its run.

It was in the 1970s that it was turned into a bingo hall, trading as Top Rank, and then becoming Mecca Bingo – giving a whole new generation of people happy memories and associations.

But the London-based company has yet to reveal what the future holds for the site, which is estimated to be worth about half a million pounds.

While the company secured planning permission to knock down the building from Norwich City Council two years ago, City Hall has received no application for what will replace the former cinema and theatre, which once played host to The Rolling Stones and Morecambe and Wise.

A spokeswoman for Telereal Trillium said: “We have no immediate plans for a planning application, but we will be looking at future viable uses for the site within next year.”

When planning permission was granted in May 2012, Gary Howe, a city council planning officer, said: “It will leave a significant gap in the street frontage once removed.

“There are no plans for the short or medium-term redevelopment of the site - due in part to the need to take the building down for structural reasons.

“It would, therefore, be prudent to condition some form of temporary landscaping of the site or the hoarding off the site to prevent it becoming an eyesore or blank frontage within the conservation area.”

Mecca Bingo closed after investigations found major structural problems and the repair bill was considered to be too high.

Heritage watchdog the Norwich Society said at the time the demolition was approved that it was not against the building being knocked down, but would not wish the site to become an “eyesore long-term”.

Vicky Manthorpe, a spokesman for the society, said: “If it were to come down, we rather hoped that it would become an open space. We had understood that many years ago there had been some kind of talk of that, even a gentleman’s agreement that it would happen, but that was a long time ago. It could be quite lovely there, if such a thing were to happen, as it’s a splendid area. We shall wait to see what does happen.”

The council has asked for photographs showing any historic features of the venue to be taken throughout the demolition.

Mr Howe’s planning report concluded: “Whilst the loss of the building is regrettable, it is clear that the structural deficiencies of the building make this proposal necessary.

“The proposed demolition is considered to be acceptable as the building contributes little to the character and appearance of the conservation area.”

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: “It’s really important that the owners of the site make sure it’s kept in a good condition, and not allowed to become a run-down eyesore, and a blot on the city. I hope the owners are planning a productive use for the site, whether housing or commercial, and that it can be progressed fairly soon.”

• What would you like to see happen to the site after the demolition? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

18 comments

  • That brings back memories for me as when I was about 15 I saw Bill halley and the comets there.

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    Michael Amos

    Saturday, June 21, 2014

  • The original building looked nice. Always loved Art DecoModernist buildings. Whoever thought it was a good idea to clad the building in corrugated sheets really needed their brains tested! A new park would be great on this plot.

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    MattW

    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

  • Aviva head office surrounds the site and the £500,000 site value is peanuts to them - maybe they will buy the site and landscape it thus enhancing their head office appearance.

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    classic0904

    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

  • Build a large theatre to attract big stars and shows to the city.

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    El tel

    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

  • Knock the place down, and create a nice park area, with cycle stands for all the bikes which will now flock into Norwich through the new cycle improvements.

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    Dee

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • To EDP et al Does anyone have a contact in either the council or Telereal? I would like to offer to do a photographic documentation at no cost before demolition. Dave

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    Dave B

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • Doesn't anyone want to 'restore it to its former glory'? If it had any. Times change.

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    Patrick

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • This building was not an 'eyesore' until the ghastly yellow cladding was placed over a wonderful art deco facade. Blame the city council for allowing that to happen.

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    kenneth jessett

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • Pulled down before it fell down Derek. With the landowner valuing the site at £500k and much work needed on the building it would have costed the council too much to keep it. Not to mention if the building was so important why wasn't it listed? Lets all blame the council again and do f all ourselves.

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    Piranha24

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • Sad to see this venue go. What to put in it's place though?

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    Whiley Boy

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • Well done Council, another piece of History demolished, it could have used like other older buildings, before long there will be no heritage left in our wonderful City

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    Derek McDonald

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • 'Disgusted of Norwich South' says it for me - demolishing this eyesore is long overdue. The best thing for the site is a garden with a few benches for city centre shoppers.

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    Mel Lacey

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • You are right Ingo and not with the new restrictions. But hey, no doubt they will need parking for the badly situated free school and Aviva. The buildings in the vicinity have great historical interest because of their former residents ( look it up) and the architecture-what would be good would a project which recreated what had been knocked down to build the cinema, or something in the style of the surrounding houses-to compensate for the awfulness of the YMCA and other buildings which have been permitted, all gradually eroding the character of Norwich and turning it into Blandcity.

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    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • "if they would consider a modern multi purpose concert and sports hall" Who's "they"? If you put the plans in and find some investors, I'm sure "they" will consider it.

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    Broadly Norfolk

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • It would be nice if it was going to be something usefulneeded as other have suggested but let's not delude ourselves, it will be prime cost housing.

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    jeffbridges769

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • About time it was demolished. Leave the area open as a small park.

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    Disgusted of Norwich South

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • I asked a worker on the site last week and he said that they are looking at a multi story car park, which does not really fit with the idea of pedestrianising more of the inner City, does it? Now if they would consider a modern multi purpose concert and sports hall, then that is something we do not have in the inner City.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • "The Norwich Society didn't want the site to become an eyesore" I think you'll find it's been an eyesore for many years, pleased to see this building go, it's another horrid building out of the way.

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    parkeg1

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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