Fears for future of St George's Theatre

The race has begun to find a massive six-figure sum to save Yarmouth's historic St George's Theatre.

The race has begun to find a six-figure sum to save Yarmouth's historic St George's Theatre.

The grade one listed theatre was closed just days before the pantomime Sleeping Beauty was due to open in December because of fears over the safety of the bell tower.

Now a grim structural report by building consultants Scott Wilson, of Norwich, has revealed significant decay throughout the building.

David Frowde, head of the borough council's architectural services, said it was already talking to English Heritage about obtaining emergency funding, and an application for a "significant amount of money" would also be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Mr Frowde feared the total cost of repairs would "run into several hundreds of thousands of pounds".

"A routine survey began last year and we discovered significant wet rot in the timber structure around the steel core of the tower, which led to us closing the building in December," he said.

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"We have already removed some of the worst-affected sections of timber and put supplementary fixings around the timber columns to secure them, but the survey work then went on to look at the rest of the building."

A second report on the eastern end of the former St Nicholas chapel, built in 1714, confirmed it was leaning out at the top and highlighted how an old window had been filled in during the building's early history without being properly bonded.

The latest survey on the rest of the building, received yesterday, revealed further issues from more brickwork and stonework damage to wet rot in the windows and a need to examine the condition of the copper roof.

Where re-pointing had been done in the 1970s using hard cement, the work would need to be re-done using lime mortar. There was also concern about a possible beetle infestation.

David McDermott, chairman of the theatre trust, said there were already three shows a week booked over the summer.

However, he was exploring the possibility of using other venues.