THE rejuvenation of one of the earliest cine-variety houses in the country has taken a step forward with the appointment of specialist conservation-accredited architects Purcell.
Purcell will lead on the repair and restoration of Prescot’s newly Grade II listed former Picture Palace Cinema, to bring the building back to its former glory.
The work will focus on the exterior of the building and historical photographs will help to recreate some of the cinema’s design features, which were originally created in the flamboyant Edwardian Neo-Baroque style.
Earlier this year the building was designated as Grade II listed on advice by Historic England, acknowledging its significance as one of the earliest recognised cine-variety houses in England. The building has particular historic interest as it represents a watershed moment in the rapid transition from music halls to cinema.
Much of the original design and layout of the former cinema have been preserved, including its landmark façade and barrel-ceilinged auditorium. Some original fixtures and fittings also remain intact, including early- 20th century cinema seating, cinema doors, raked floors and a purpose-built fire-resistant projection room.
Councillor Tony Brennan, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development said: “The restoration of the Prescot Picture Palace is single biggest project we’ve undertaken as part of the HSHAZ. The architectural heritage of this iconic building is incomparable, and the appointment of Purcell to sensitively restore the picture house is a milestone moment in its resurrection and one that is very much welcomed by the council and the community alike.”
Opened in 1912, the Prescot Picture Palace was the town’s first ever picture house. After it closed in 1957 the building was used as a warehouse, bingo hall and more recently a community church, before being acquired by Knowsley Council in 2021 as part of the wider redevelopment of Prescot through the Prescot High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) – which is jointly funded by Knowsley Council and Historic England.
Damien Woolliscroft, Senior Conservation Architect, Purcell commented: “We are delighted to be appointed by Knowsley Council to lead the conservation fabric repairs to Prescot Picture Palace. The former cinema has recently been listed at Grade II by Historic England, demonstrating the significance of the building at a national level. The completion of the external fabric repairs will secure the building in preparation for later internal refurbishment works.”
Historic England’s Tamsin Cooke said: “The renovation and reuse of the old cinema is one of the main objectives for Prescot’s High Street Heritage Action Zone, so we are excited that the repair project is about to begin. This is a crucial step for the future of this special building, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”