Bid to turn former Halifax town centre theatre into a Holiday Inn

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Plans have been submitted to convert a Grade II listed former theatre in Halifax town centre into a 106-bed hotel.

If the bid is approved, what was the Theatre Royal at Ward’s End will become a Holiday Inn Express budget hotel.

The building, last used as a nightclub, has been empty since 2007. Owners RK Hotels Ltd says the proposal will give it new life.

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Architects Shaw and Jagger say the whole building needs repair, refurbishment, and new development to "allow the building to make a positive contribution towards the town centre again".

The building could now become a budget hotelThe building could now become a budget hotel
The building could now become a budget hotel

Full retention and restoration of the distinctive front facade would form part of the work, the company says.

In its time, the building has been a theatre, cinema, bingo hall and nightclub since first appearing on the Halifax landscape in the 18th century.

A heritage statement submitted with the application says the current building is a replacement of an earlier 18th century building which was built between 1789 and 1790, its foundation stone being laid on September 12, 1789.

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It shared frontage with the original Shakespeare Hotel and a connecting passage was known as “Ammonia Avenue”, says the statement by Shaw and Jagger.

The original building, believed to be built by voluntary subscription for £1,300, was modernised with gas lighting replacing candlelight around 1824, more improvements in 1841 and upper galleries added in 1853.

By 1896 attractions included “animated photographs” but the old theatre closed in 1904 and was demolished that year, says the statement.

A new theatre was designed in the Edwardian Classical style by Richard Horsfall - a local architect and businessman.

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The new theatre building swallowed several other buildings as part of the development, losing several cottages and the original Shakespeare Hotel.

It was opened by Alderman Enoch Robinson, then Mayor of Halifax, on August 4, 1905.

It included a new design fire curtain which it is believed provided some protection during a major fire which occurred in February, 1927, with a rebuild following that September.

Changing times meant remodelling in the 1930s to create a two-tier cinema auditorium, which destroyed much of the interior and stage.

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In 1966 it became an Essoldo bingo hall, at one time claiming to be Halifax’s biggest bingo operation with 10,000 players a week, and was listed in 1994.

By 1999 the 1,058 square metre theatre had been converted to a themed entertainment cafe called La Mania, later adapting to become the Club Platinum nightclub, with much of the interior being lost at this point.

Its final incarnation to date was as the Theatre Nightclub, which ceased operating in 2007, since when it has remained empty, say the architects.

As it is located on a prime visitor route linking Halifax Rail Station, Eureka! Museum of Childhood, the Piece Hall, Westgate, Halifax Borough Market and the Victoria Theatre, and also within walking distance of Halifax Bus Station, the applicants believe the change will meet a need.