A cinema of 1930, built to the designs of Horace G. Bradley, and converted to bingo use in the 1960s.
Reason for Listing
The Royalty, High Street, Harborne, built in 1930 to the designs of Horace G. Bradley is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
Architectural: the Royalty is an assured and well-realised design with quality features including some Art Deco detailing, by a cinema architect of note;
Interiors: the Art Deco fittings are of a high quality, representative of an era of resplendent cinema design, the detailing is of special note;
Intactness: the building is well-preserved, especially considering its long use as a bingo hall;
Rarity: relatively few cinemas of this period survive in such a complete form.
Gala Bingo first opened as The Royalty Cinema on Harborne High Street on 20 October 1930, in the early years of cinema exhibition with sound. The Cinematograph Act of 1927 had attempted to support British filmmaking in the face of the aggressive influence of Hollywood. Musicals and epics became increasingly popular in the 1920s, and evermore opulent and grand theatres were constructed for their exhibition. The Royalty was designed by Horace G. Bradley for Selly Oak Pictures Limited, and could accommodate almost 1,500 patrons. It was taken over by ABC Cinemas in March 1935, as part of the organisation's expansion in the West Midlands. The site had been the location of a terraced row of dwellings from at least 1890, as shown on the First Edition Ordnance Survey Map of that year. The row was demolished to make way for the cinema by 1930, and the new building, set back from the road edge, is shown on the Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1938. The cinema closed in 1963 and became a bingo hall. Some internal modifications have been made to the building in the later C20, including the insertion of a false ceiling in the foyer, the introduction of a staircase to the balcony in the auditorium, and the replacement of the equipment in the projection box. In 2011 it continues to operate as a bingo hall.
MATERIALS: The building is a reinforced concrete and red brick structure. The façade is dressed in a deep red brick, in Flemish bond, with stone and tile detailing.
PLAN: The building has an informal plan: the auditorium is largely rectangular, with a stage at the front, a stalls area, and a substantial dress circle seating area. The upper rear wall is bowed. Connecting corridors, circulation areas, service rooms and internal, flighted exits stand to the rear and side of the auditorium, at upper level. A projection box and further service rooms stand on a mezzanine level, with corridors serving them. The auditorium range stands offset to the road, with an attached foyer range, which is positioned in-line with the road. The attached range has a central, circular foyer with a lightwell above, offices, and a substantial inner foyer.
EXTERIOR: The road front is a seven-bay façade in a loosely classical style. The central three bays are two-storeys tall, under a dome. There are lower-height bays to either side. A projecting porch is attached to the central entrance. The fenestration in the central bays comprises three tall windows with stone pilasters and round heads rising into the upper floor, punctuating a fluted stone band that extends along the length of the façade. Above the band is a stone cornice and the central window has a hood and stone detailing. Above this is a frieze that terminates at both ends with a roundel above decorative pilasters. ROYALTY lettering is fixed to a stone parapet. The upper lights of the leaded windows have stained glass, and the lower sections of the left and right windows have iron balconies with "R" emblems, date stones, console brackets, and narrower stained glass windows below. The porch has pilasters decorated with pyramidal bosses, floral pendants and console brackets. The symmetrical bays to either side have central windows with mullions, stone pilasters and hoods, and are set at a raised level. There are paired keyed oculus windows below. Between these windows and the central porch are blank doorways with brick architraves, heads and raised tile keystones, and blue brick diapering in the tympanum. There are signs of former window openings in these blank doorways. At each corner of the façade are paired brick doorways with fanlights and raised tile keystones. One of the doors to the right has a sunray emblem. The bays to each side have brick parapets, ramped to meet the central bays. Above the façade stand the curved brick elevations of the auditorium range, and a pitched roof above.
The side and rear elevations are irregularly set with some visible concrete structural beams running through the red brickwork. The west flank is successively set back, accommodating the length of the auditorium and the service rooms that are attached to it. There is a mixture of timber fenestration to the left, and a brick chimney stack rises above a first-floor kitchen. A number of fire exits serve the ground floor and the concrete rear of the stage extends to the south-west. The wall to the south-east has three, evenly-spaced, lights at upper level, with sunray glazing bars. The flank elevation facing east has a number of casements under concrete lintels to each level, and a large inset brick section, and an oculus window above, with sunray glazing. There is a further oculus above a flight of fire escape steps.
INTERIOR: Original double doors with bronze handles lead into the circular foyer. This area retains its original proportions, although it has been re-worked. It retains its original tiled floor, mainly below modern carpet and there is a kiosk to the left, and service rooms/offices beyond. Above an inserted ceiling stands a lightwell with balustrade. To the right are steps up to doorways to stairs to the dress circle and a switch room. Further right is a corridor to an inner foyer with concrete relieving arches, leading to the principal entrance into the main auditorium.
The auditorium is split-level to the stalls area, progressively raised to the rear, with modern seating and bingo tables. To the front is a raised stage with a proscenium arch. Either side are steps down to Gentlemen's and Ladies' facilities. The auditorium walls are richly decorated in plaster, most notably with boldly-coloured, arched, full-height, designs to either side of the stage. These decorations have a central crown insignia, in relief, at the top, and scimitar-like motifs dropping down to either side. The arches form the focus for a circular and arched design that continues around the upper level of the auditorium. The bases of the arches lead to regularly spaced, slender, pilasters with chevron motifs, terminating is an overlapping semi-circular pattern. A curved section of ceiling directly above the stage incorporates a decorative ventilation panel with an intricate design. Much of the interior decoration is sprayed in gold. There are a number of exits projecting into the auditorium space, all with original double doors. The doors have glazed upper lights, some with sunray motifs. To the rear, below the balcony, are further exits, toilets and modern inserted serveries. Across the auditorium, and the building in general, cast-iron radiators are inserted within shallow-framed alcoves, in the manner of a fireplace. On the dress circle, these are placed in line with the rake of the seating.
A modern stair leads from the right side of the stalls to the dress circle, which has modern seating. The balcony fronts have an elaborate applied design, and there is a former projection aperture, now an air-conditioning vent, in the central, recessed, section. The walls are richly decorated and a large, circular, ceiling dome with a rich floral cornice. The upper part of the dome has been sealed, and further decoration may be concealed above. The wall decoration incorporates the three windows in the south elevation, and there are three blank windows, with sunray patterns, on the opposite wall. To the rear are a timber-panelled balustrade, toilets, roof access, and a central semi-circular recessed lobby. There is an oculus window above the lobby with lotus flower glazing, and the rear auditorium walls to either side have inset lunettes. The stair to the foyer is accessed to the right of the lobby, and doors to the left lead to circulation spaces including, a café, further stairs and the lightwell above the foyer. The rear areas at upper level are generally plainly-detailed, although there are original doors and glazing, and three thematic leaded windows face the High Street (a crown, a white rose and a plume of feathers). Some of the rear stairs include display alcoves inset in the walls. On a mezzanine level, below the balcony, the former projection room has some remaining electrical plant, colour-coded light levers, and projection shutters. Many of the internal doors and fire exit balustrades are original.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.