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Windmill Cinema

A Grade II Listed Building in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.6017 / 52°36'6"N

Longitude: 1.7356 / 1°44'8"E

OS Eastings: 653054

OS Northings: 306988

OS Grid: TG530069

Mapcode National: GBR YQZ.TWN

Mapcode Global: WHNVZ.MVPV

Entry Name: Windmill Cinema

Listing Date: 5 August 1974

Last Amended: 26 February 1998

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1271551

English Heritage Legacy ID: 468544

Location: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30

County: Norfolk

District: Great Yarmouth

Town: Great Yarmouth

Electoral Ward/Division: Nelson

Built-Up Area: Great Yarmouth

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Great Yarmouth

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

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Listing Text

This list description was amended on 6 September 2010


839-1/20/98 (West side)
05/08/74 Windmill Cinema
(Formerly Listed as:
The Windmill)


Cinema; opened 1908; designed by Arthur S Hewitt; built of gault brick, its main east facing façade clad in buff terracotta with a slate roof; roofs to towers covered in copper. The main east facing elevation is of three bays, the main body of the building behind the façade is of fourteen bays.

The neo-Baroque main east facing elevation is of three bays, the upper half of the gabled central bay bearing the date, 1908, recessed behind two outer towers, the lower half projecting forward below a balustraded balcony. The towers have square ogee domed roofs with green copper fish scale covering and glass globe finials. The towers are of three stages and have rusticated pilasters at the corners, between which at the upper stage of each are bulls eye windows to front and sides, those to the front with ornate detailing. Between the third and second stage is a modillioned cornice and frieze supported by Ionic capitals. At this height the pilasters frame cartouches to front and sides, while the first stage contains full height moulded arches, blind to the sides of the towers, but framing portals to the front that flank the larger central arched entrance. The lower half of these features is concealed behind a modern entrance. The fourteen bays that form the main body of the building behind the façade are separated by pilasters. Below a nail tooth cornice are lunettes, that at the east end contain a Diocletian window, lighting the stairs, and there are regularly spaced arched openings to the ground floor.

The entrance lobby has a terrazzo floor, part of which is concealed under the steps and platform which are flanked by the stairs to the balcony. The staircases have ornate finials and cast iron balustrades. The dogleg stairs give access to the balcony, which is now screened off from the main body of the auditorium. The Rococo style plasterwork to the ceiling consists of highly decorated coffering, side panels containing cartouches, and central panels formed from a chequered pattern of slats. The proscenium arch has a palmette decorative motif all round, and a cartouche at the centre.

Great Yarmouth began its development as a resort in the first half of the C19. The first resort building, The Royal Hotel, was constructed in 1840 (Grade II). The Victoria Building Company, established in 1841, intended to develop the South Beach area but only the Brandon and Kimberly Terraces (1841) and Victoria Hotel (1842) were constructed in a derivative Regency style. As the resort developed, terraced housing and two piers were constructed; Wellington Pier in 1853 and to the north Britannia Pier in 1857. In the late Victorian and Edwardian period, in addition to terraced housing, a range of entertainment structures were erected along Marine Parade, including an aquarium, the Winter Gardens and two cinemas. The development of the resort was led by the Borough Council at this time, in particular by the Borough Surveyor, J. W. Cockrill (1849-1924) who also designed five listed buildings in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston.

Moving picture shows developed as more than just a fairground novelty in America in 1902. In Britain their potential as a seaside attraction quickly became evident to entrepreneurs following the1907 opening in Colne, Lancashire, of probably the first purpose-built cinema in the country, and between 1907 and the outbreak of war in 1914 thirty-four resort based companies were established promoting this new form of entertainment. The Gem, later renamed the Windmill, was managed by Charles B Cochran and designed by Arthur S Hewitt, and was initially intended for the exhibition of wild animals, but following an outcry from local residents and boarding house owners, the scheme was changed, and the Gem opened as a cinema on July 4th 1908. Cochran ran a continuous film show from 11.00am until 11.00 pm, with men and women segregated on either side of the long, plain auditorium, seated on bentwood chairs. A photograph dated May 1909, ten months after its opening, shows the interior was a single space, open to steel roof trusses, with no balcony and without decorative detail. Its present interior is the result of later restructuring and may post-date the introduction of the Cinematograph Act of 1910 which was intended to improve the safety and comfort of audiences, and included an obligation to provide lavatories (which seem to survive in their original first floor position). The whole of the main façade was originally lit at night by 1,500 light bulbs. The sails were added to the centre of the main façade when the cinema was renamed The Windmill in 1948. Other alterations to the main façade include the addition of a single storey brick built entrance foyer, and there are smaller changes in the loss of stained glass to the central window, and the replacement of the glass in the upper tower windows. Films and live performances continued through the 1960s and '70s, but the main auditorium is now used as an adventure play area.

Atwell, D, 'Cathedrals of the Movies' (1979), 7.
Brodie, A and Winter, G, 'England's Seaside Resorts', English Heritage (2007).
Ferry, K, 'Powerhouses of Provincial Architecture 1837-1914' The Victorian Society, (2009), 45 -58.
Gray, R, 'Cinemas in Britain' (1996), 19-20.
Martin, J, 'Cockrill-Doulton Patent Tiles' www.buildingconservation.com.
Pearson, L, 'People's Palaces Britain's Seaside Pleasure Buildings' (1991), 53-65. www.lynnpearson.co.uk , accessed on 22nd Feb 2010.
Pevsner, N and Wilson, B 'The Buildings of England: Norfolk 1 Norwich and the North-East' 2nd Ed (1997), 488-529.
www.pastscape.org.uk, accessed 21st August 2009.

The Windmill, built in 1908 as the Gem Cinema, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: It is of historic interest as a very early cinema.
* Architectural interest: It is of special architectural interest for its elaborate neo-Baroque façade, and as an early example of cinema architecture in Britain.
* Interior: It contains good quality decorative plasterwork to ceilings and proscenium arch.
* Intactness: Despite some later C20 alterations, it retains its form and decorative detail.

Listing NGR: TG5305406988

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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