Restoring elegance and magic of past - the Paignton Picture House dream

Man posing inside old cinema

Paul Hawthorne inside the picture house - Credit: Picture House Trust

The first time I recall a discussion about the need for regeneration in Paignton was 1978. I was eight and had been taken by my parents to get my new school uniform from the men’s outfitters Perrett’s on Torbay Road. 

“Things started to go downhill after Deller’s was demolished, that was the turning point.” I overheard. 

Deller’s Café was part of a trio of monumental buildings set in a row on Torbay Road designed by the same architects, Hyams and Hobgen, at the start of the 20th Century. They embodied a confidence in the future of the Paignton as it entered the new century.  

Of these three landmarks, only two survive, with Deller’s Café sadly closed in October 1965. 

Deller’s Café opened its doors to customers in November 1910. The grand entrance hall was formed of large pillars capped with a domed roof of light green slate. Semi-circular oak windows and oak inglenooks graced large dining rooms on two floors, where light refreshments were served on two floors to the accompaniment music from an orchestra. 

The main staircase was built of oak, decorated with oak panelling designed by the architects, and was lit by a mullioned stained-glass window depicting a stylised portrait of Polperro harbour.  

The first floor was let for private dances and parties and laid with a maple wood floor.  

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The meeting to form the first Picture House company took place on March 14, 1913 in Deller’s Café. 

After over 50 years as Paignton’s most popular social meeting place it was demolished in 1966. 

55 years on and Paignton is lucky to have retained the remaining duo of Queen’s Park Terrace and the former Torbay Cinema.  

Workers on scaffolding restoring old cinema

Back to its former glory - Credit: Picture House Trust

But of these 55 years the Cinema has spent the last 21 empty. I was asked by Torbay Council to try and form a charity to restore the Cinema in 2013. The Paignton Picture House Trust was founded in October 2013.  

Two years later the Trust purchased the building from the Dartmouth Steam Railway with support from Historic England and Torbay Council.  

A £50,000 award from the Coastal Revival fund enabled us to make the building safe to visit, and regular tours of the building followed in 2016 and 2017. Our partnership with South Devon College has seen first class productions by their students in the building, with film projected onto the school once again. New life has been brought into the Cinema once again. 

General shot of inside of old picture house

Inside the old picture house - Credit: Picture House Trust

The Trust took the strategic decision to concentrate its attention on applications for funding to start restoring the building.  

Detailed survey work took place at the start of 2019. This gave the Trust a complete picture of exactly what repairs were needed to apply for funding.  

The works now are thanks to this and a successful grant application to Historic England for £200,000. These works will see the front elevation repaired and opened up once again, with the stained-glass front windows restored. 

The Trust’s vision is to re-open the Picture House for film, restoring it to its elegance and glamour. 

Man and woman inside old cinema being restored

Anthony Bueno (Trustee) and Josephine Brown (project director) - Credit: marktipping@photography.com

We also wish to develop a social and cultural hub for Torbay. 

Education will also be a big part of this, continuing amongst others our strong connections with the college.  

We also hope our strong connections with Agatha Christie’s family will help shape part of our visitor experience.  

The works now are restoring the front of the building to once again act as a beacon of hope to inspire the town centre.  

Paignton’s success in the Future High Street’s Fund (subject to confirmation) will see more works enabled from September 2022. 

Once the restoration of the Torbay Road frontage is finished, and Covid allowing, we want to stage events to bring people into the cinema. We hope to be able to deliver some cinema magic to Paignton from this summer. 

Man posing on seat inside old cinema

Man with a mission: Paul Hawthorne - Credit: Picture House Trust

Our ultimate aspiration is for the building to be fully restored and functioning at the heart of Paignton by the end of 2024. 

Please help us bring forward the magic and welcome by donating to us online at https://www.justgiving.com/paignton-picturehouse You can contact the Trust on info@paigntonpicturehouse.org