Go-ahead for repair work to front of Paignton Picture House

Paignton Picture House in Torbay Road, Paignton, with hoardings up around the front of the building

Paignton Picture House in Torbay Road, Paignton - Credit: Submitted

Approval has been given for work to repair the front of the historic Paignton Picture House, one of Europe’s first purpose-built cinemas and a favourite of Torquay-born thriller writer Agatha Christie.

Torbay Council has given listed building consent for structural repairs and work on the roof and windows of the building in Paignton town centre, which has been hidden behind hoardings in recent years.

Paignton Picture House In November 2008

Paignton Picture House In November 2008 - Credit: Submitted

The work will be paid for with a £200,000 grant from Historic England, as the first stage in a long-term £2.5million development programme.

The building features as one of the projects to be funded under the town’s successful award of £13.3million from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.

The repairs to the north side of the structure facing Torbay Road will allow the building to be accessed by the main doors, with the protective hoardings removed so the full facade which features stained glass windows can be viewed.

The listed building is currently on the Heritage At Risk Register.

It was officially opened in 1912, although it was in use before that date and there is a licence dating back to 1907, according to a report from Le Page Architects submitted in support of the application for listed building consent.

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The statement describing the reason for the building being listed says Agatha Christie was a regular visitor when she lived in Dartmouth, and it is said to be the model for the Gaiety Cinema in her fiction.

Paris Singer, of the Singer Sewing Machine family, who remodelled Oldway Mansion in Paignton, is said to have visited with his lover, the American dancer Isadora Duncan, and a document shows he sold the cinema company a grand piano.

The building is described as one of the best surviving examples of an early cinema, including the original fit-out, but has stood empty since closing in 1999.

It was bought by the Paignton Picture House Trust in 2015, with the aim of restoring and reopening the building.

The trust received a £50,000 grant for emergency repairs and to make the building safe, and is now pressing ahead with the next phase of repairs as part of the overall restoration project so the building can be brought back into use.

Historic England has been working with the trust, the architects and Torbay Council on the repairs scheme.

The next stage is expected to be the appointment of a contractor to carry out the work.