The repair and restoration of the newly grade two-listed cinema has taken a step forward with the appointment of the conservation specialist architect.
Work will focus on the exterior of the building and historical photographs will help to recreate some of the cinema’s design features, which were originally created in the flamboyant Edwardian neo-baroque style.
The project forms part of Knowsley Council’s £3.1m high street heritage action zone work in Prescot, which is being delivered in partnership with Historic England. Knowsley said that the cinema represents the zone’s biggest single piece of work.
This is far from the only cultural show in town in Prescot, which is also awaiting completion of the £27m Shakespeare North playhouse, with an opening date due in summer 2022.
Situated in Kemble Street, the Picture Palace was designated as grade two-listed in May this year on the advice of Historic England, acknowledging its significance as one of the earliest recognised cine-variety houses in England, marking the period when cinemas took over from music halls.
The Picture Palace opened in 1912 and closed in 1957, since then it has been used as a furniture warehouse, Coral bingo hall and community church before the council bought it earlier this year.
Much of the original design and layout of the former cinema has been preserved, including its façade and barrel-ceilinged auditorium. Some original fixtures and fittings also remain intact, including early 20th-century seating, doors, raked floors and a fire-resistant projection room.
Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley’s cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: “The architectural heritage of this iconic building is incomparable, and the appointment of Purcell to sensitively restore the picture house is a milestone moment in its resurrection and one that is very much welcomed by the council and the community alike.”
Damien Woolliscroft, senior conservation architect at Purcell, said the building has national significance, adding that “the completion of the external fabric repairs will secure the building in preparation for later internal refurbishment works”.
As lead consultant, Manchester-based Purcell will undertake the design and specification for the external repair and restoration of the building as part of the first phase of works. Purcell will work in partnership with conservation accredited structural engineer Blackett-Ord Conservation, and quantity surveyor Cavendish Bloor.
This work follows initial feasibility work by Donald Insall Associates and desk-based archaeological assessments by Specialist Archaeological Services.