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Report - - The GWR Mechanics Institute - Swindon - 20/12/09 | Theatres and Cinemas | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The GWR Mechanics Institute - Swindon - 20/12/09



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I knew this place was nice but i was worried it wouldnt live up to my expectations. In the end it suppassed them (something of a theme for 2009)! The auditorium is great but theres also alot more odds and ends that make it extra special. Annoyingly the main entrance stairs were locked off.

Just a great building with alot of neglect. Dont get many places like this anymore!

The Mechanics Institute is perhaps one of the finest surviving examples of its kind. Designed in Tudor Gothic style of Swindon limestone rubble with Bath ashlar dressings, externally it gives the appearance of a great hall with buttressed sides of eight bays. It was built by GWR as a social and community centre for staff, opening in 1855, with a library, coffee room, reading room etc. It had a lecture/concert hall with a stage. There was originally an octagonal market hall at the south end. A proposal to erect a full-scale theatre at the rear in 1878 never came to fruition. In 1892 the market hall was demolished and the Institute greatly enlarged. These and most later additions and alterations were carried out in matching style. In 1930 the centre of the building was badly damaged by fire. The first floor hall was rebuilt as a theatre, the Playhouse, later known as the Civic Playhouse, with an enlarged stage. It had pit, stalls and dress circle, a pretty theatre with an elaborate proscenium and (unusually for its kind) a fly tower. The Playhouse took the place of the Empire, when that turned to cinema and also served local amateur companies who were later accommodated at the Wyvern. The theatre closed in 1986 and has since been disused and in some disrepair. In 1990 planning permission was granted (on appeal) for conversion to an hotel, but this had not been implemented by 1999.
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