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Landmark Art Deco Curzon cinema faces demolition

Home Bargains knocks down more than prices

Written by . Published on May 1st 2014.

Landmark Art Deco Curzon cinema faces demolition

IT has dominated the Old Swan landscape for almost 80 years, but the imposing classical 1930s Curzon Theatre in Prescot Road will soon pass into the city’s architectural and cinematic history. 

Liverpool City Council’s planning committee on Tuesday will hear details of plans to demolish the building on the corner of Dovercliffe Road – last used as a cinema in 1960 – to be replaced by a 15,000 sq ft Home Bargain store. 

Even the epitaph written in the committee’s agenda by planning officers illustrates what a loss this fine building will be. 

“The site consists of the old Art Deco Curzon Cinema, built in 1936 and designed by Ernest Shennan (the architect responsible for other cinemas in Liverpool, including Seaforth Palladium and the Forum cinema in Lime Street). It features a vast expanse of brickwork, bold geometric shapes, definite lines and symmetrical elements, “ says the council’s case work officer. 

The Cinema Theatre Association has made a plea to the council to spare the building. 

Curzon Old Swan In Its Glory Days %284%29Curzon Old Swan in its glory days

The association tells planners: “The brick façade of the Curzon is historically significant to Liverpool’s streetscape architecture and cultural memory. The auditorium’s potential for future use for the community should be considered. The loss of what to this day remains a usable cinema to a redevelopment scheme would mean a loss to Liverpool’s social history.” 

After its closure, the ground floor of the building was converted into shops, in the bustling area, but the rest remains unchanged. 

The cinema was part of the collection of picture houses built by the locally-based Bedford Cinemas, headed by John F Wood, described as one of the city’s motion picture pioneers. 

The architect created a stunning streamlined effect in the Curzon, using gentle curves of the façade, with massive towers above. 

The cinema historian Harold Ackroyd  said; “The true beauty of this feature was appreciated when lit from within, combined with an extension installation of neon, emphasising the contours of the building against the night sky.”

Inside the entrance vestibule the floor were white marble tiles, with walls lined with black glass, embossed with Shakespearean characters.

The magic of cinema architecture continued into the lusciously carpeted auditorium with, with large green translucent glass panels etched with designs from well-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes.  The orchestra pit housed a Compton organ. 

On October 10, 1936 the Lord Mayor Cllr R J Hall,  officially opened the cinema. In the 1950s the Curzon became one of the few Merseyside cinemas to be equipped to screen 3-D films. 

Its demolition is unlikely to be afforded the same level of civic pomp. 

A handful objections have been submitted to the council, one person opposing demolition saying … the cinema holds good memories for people in the area. That same sentiment is echoed by Old Swan Residents Association, also opposed to the demolition. Another opponent wants the scheme to retain the ‘beautiful façade’ as part of the development. 

The Back Of The Gigantic Curzon CinemaThe cinema is largely intact

Planners say the demolition of the cinema does not need planning permission.  They also say while they recognise the concerns of objectors, including the Cinema Theatre Association regarding the loss of the building, they do not consider there is any reason to withhold the grant of prior approval based on the details provided. 

The Divisional Manager of Planning does, however,  recognise the importance of the building to the character of the wider area and how any replacement building would impact on visual amenity. 

Planning permission for the new building is being recommended by the officers.

Image006The new build

The applicant, T J Morris (the Home Bargain empire)  who bought the Curzon 20 years ago,  say the replacement building, without becoming too pastiche, will incorporate some reference to the Art Deco cinema through style and material. 

"The use of implied symmetry between the curved corner and the entrance tower will balance the scheme, with bold geometric elements adorning the façade, projecting out to conceal the columns. These elements will break up the façade in a manner which relates to the Art Deco style without replicating the previous building."

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41 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousMay 1st 2014.

Disgraceful. Old Swan needs this like a hole in the head.

AnonymousMay 1st 2014.

The Curzon is still usable. If they really want to demolish one of these wonderful 1930s buildings, why don't they go for the Carlton on West Derby Road/Green Lane. A total eyesore on another major route into the city - which is so far gone it's beyond rescue. Planning permission was granted for its demolition several years ago.

Broad GreenMay 1st 2014.

Nobody cares about places like Old Swan, that's the trouble and big businesses think they can get away with doung what they like. Would a huge Tesco the size of an asteroid be dropped on the middle of a suburb in south Liverpool without a whimper? Would the park (Springfield) be snatched away for a construction site without any by or leave. Let us not see Old Swan go the same way as the once proud working class area of Kensington. The old Curzon building is fine. If Home Bargains own it, why don't they just turf the other shop tenants out and take the space? How can this cheap and tatty new building be better than a landmark that has given Old Swan definition since before World War II? Total, total vandalism.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyMay 1st 2014.

and as they only got a few comments, seems that is also true of the residents.

AnonymousMay 1st 2014.

Wrong, Bradley, on so many levels.

John BradleyMay 1st 2014.

The nameless one returns. If they cared so much, why only "A handful objections have been submitted", where they too lazy to get off their backside. Did you object, in writing or do you just go in for this hand wringing now bit of a public show of emotion and wait for the next time. It is people like you who really destroyed this place, the people without the balls to go forward and only the balls to object after the fact, not enough guts to make a stand in either direction and who only appearances in public are anonymous and to Pontius Pilate like wash the brick dust from your hand. You've never put forward a plan of your own, never wanted to make a better world or even an honest buck, but sit wallowing in the corruption of your faux aestheticism. A reactionary who only motivation is to stop others, there are plenty of at risk building sin town, why don't you go and secure one of them and help, with you bare hands to make it a valuable asset?

Coates' Army & Navy StoresMay 1st 2014.

Is there any chance that the Wetherspoon pub chain could be induced to take it over? They have a very good record of preserving such buildings when they turn them into pubs whereas almost everyone else would demolish them and build a cardboard wendy house as cheaply as possible as in the scheme above

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyMay 1st 2014.

I imagine the main problem with this building is the actual cinema space, at least as far as retail goes.

mickeydrippin'May 4th 2014.

There's already a Wetherspoons on the corner of Prescot Road/Queens Drive so I'm not sure that they would want another in the same neighbourhood.

Gone with the windMay 16th 2014.

There's a former cinema in Llandudno that's been turned into a Wetherspoons. Obviously the ground floor is a large open area but the walls are still in place, as are the balcomies and the proscenium.

Lee O'NardoMay 1st 2014.

The new building will be as badly built as it is badly drawn - just look at the state of it! Look at that shocking perspective! Was it drawn by a child? A drunk? A practical joker?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Al Brecht-DurerMay 2nd 2014.

Those cars look like used tissues.

AnonymousMay 1st 2014.

Mr Bradley is being must unfair (again!). Only a small number of local residents were written too about this scheme. The chances are until this appeared on Confidential (thank you very much), hardly anyone was aware of this scheme. Also it seems the city council will these days shovel thru any old shite buildings.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyMay 1st 2014.

I'm not being unfair at all. The notices get stuck up outside the buildings. Which is on a main street, they could not be arse to read those notices, they walked past them time and time again.

AnonymousMay 2nd 2014.

How often do normal people with a life read these notices? Developers bank on that fact. This is terrible news for Old Swan.

John BradleyMay 2nd 2014.

I make a point of reading them. If people care about the area they live in then they should read them.

FW WoolworthMay 2nd 2014.

To give it its proper name of Home AND Bargain, this is a shop that sells cheap washing powder and started off in Old Swan, albeit at the other end of Prescot Road. How much space do they need to purvey bleach and bog roll FFS? The tragedy is that in the next 20 years most shopping will be done and delivered online and all they will have achieved is to have constructed a rusting steel shed were there could have been perhaps a new cinema, or a community arts space or something. The people of Old Swan have been short changed enough over the past few years. If TJ Morris haven't got the imagination to do something with this beautiful landmark other than pound it to the ground, move out and let someone else have a go.

1 Response: Reply To This...
I Farkin-RonicMay 2nd 2014.

Rubbish, check your facts. It is home bargains, and they sell a huge range of useful items at great prices. In that respect they do more to help families than some obsolete and ugly brick blockhouse will ever do.

Andi ArmitageMay 2nd 2014.

No surprise, Planning in Liverpool is a joke. No sense of value of time and place. Suburbs of cities like London cherish buildings like these and use them as a catalyst of regeneration, uniqueness and independence. It's not about nostalgia it's about thoughtfulness. The planning department and the council have no vision or new ways of thinking.

Paul WardMay 2nd 2014.

The use of implied symmetry between the curved corner and the entrance tower will balance the scheme, with bold geometric elements adorning the façade, projecting out to conceal the columns. These elements will break up the façade in a manner which relates to the Art Deco style without replicating the previous building." It'll have a round bit at the corner.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Luke SterribleMay 2nd 2014.

What's this, the Lib-Dem election manifesto?

mickeydrippin'May 2nd 2014.

Strangely enough, Home Bargains did occupy the Dovercliffe Road corner of this building (it was their first store) until they moved further along Prescot Road a few years ago. It has obviously long been their intention to redevelop the site and Heron Foods, who took over Home Bargains old unit, are probably only there under a short-term lease. If the building is left as it is, I would question the condition of the upper floors and how could they be used.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 2nd 2014.

It wasn't quite their first store. The first store was down opposite Greenfield Road in the late 1970s.

Oswald StreetMay 3rd 2014.

Indeed it was. I bought my first 'continental quilt' there in 1979 before anyone had even heard of the word 'duvet'

John BradleyMay 3rd 2014.

Is that like an ida down quilt?

Ida DownMay 7th 2014.

Surely you mean eiderdown, as in a traditional British quilt stuffed with the feathers of the eider duck?

John BradleyMay 7th 2014.

Yup I did.

AnonymousMay 2nd 2014.

only a handful of objections!!! this is nuts. like a home and bargain is needed, destroy another piece of architectural history in liverpool why not. There must be someone in liverpool's pop history who could attempt to do something about this- make it back into a cinema again, be something to be proud of, let it belong to a community, be proud. Are the locals up in arms??? There isn't much left of art deco in the uk its criminal to destroy it. I can't believe its been sitting there all this time.

AnonymousMay 4th 2014.

Firstly I would be reluctant to shop again at Home Bargains if they go ahead. I'm willing to pay a little more for my bleach if it means protecting my cultural heritage. Secondly: Re this wouldn't happen in south Liverpool. A couple of horrible Tescos tells me this could happen anywhere in Liverpool. And what about the demolition of the Welsh Presbytarian Church at the foot of School Lane? Thirdly: Re Wetherspoons taking it over. Wetherspoons already have a giant pub just a few yards up the road. Also their convertion of Liverpools second purpose built cinema on Kensington (a giant 1000 seater) didn't work out and that pub has gone independent with a doubtful future. Sadly I don't think Wetherspoons would be interested in making a go at this. I hope something comes up. Surely it could have a financialy viable future as a gym, dance studio or function suite. Anything but yet another Home Bargains.

AnonymousMay 4th 2014.

Tuesday morning (May 6) Liverpool town hall. 9 45am. Be there and let hem know what you think.

AnonymousMay 4th 2014.

I had a dream last night that the city council planning department and members of the planning committee decided to make a stand for heritage and architecture and said no to the demolition of the Curzon, a landmark building on a main gateway. They said they had had enough of profit-driven developers wanting to bulldoze everything in sight to make way for cheap' and nasty developments. Liverpool is, after all, a World heritage Site, so we are now mature enough to protect and nurture our old and not so old buildings. In my dream they a message to a council official called Phil E Stein, who seemingly has a say on such matters. Go away they told him. Suddenly there was a loud thumping noise which awakened me. It was the sound of a ball and chain reducing the Curzon to dust.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 5th 2014.

The council has no say in the demolition does it not? If Home Bargains own the building and it is not listed (which it should be) the owners can do what thy like. The planning hearing is about permission for the new building.

AnonymousMay 5th 2014.

They do not need permission to demolish, that is the case. But the council could send strong messages to developers to encourage, and even condemn in words developers wanting to remove our beautiful buildings. Instead the council aids and abets developers. Perhaps name and shame developers wanting to remove our heritage. Anyone sitting in the planning committee will quickly realise that in Liverpool anything goes, literally.

mickeydrippin'May 6th 2014.

I suppose the answer could be for Home Bargains to sell the building to the Council and, with the money, purchase the old Kwik Save site across the road. Then, together with the empty St Brendans church, which they would demolish, they could build a new superstore. The only problems would be that the Council would not wish to purchase the building and if they did, what would they do with it and there would probably a huge outcry if the church was demolished.

John BradleyMay 6th 2014.

According to the Echo it had been closed since 1960. 24 Years a cinema and 53 not. Is there any chance Home Bargain can be persuaded to have an open day to take photo9graphs and properly document the building before it goes. Get as much detail public domain before the ball falls?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 6th 2014.

The ECHO???? I refer you to the second paragraph of this story!

John BradleyMay 6th 2014.

The numbers just didn't sink in.

AnonymousMay 7th 2014.

Here's an update for anyone who missed the decision. www.liverpoolconfidential.com/…/Coming-Soon-to-the-Curzon-Raging-Bulldozer…

AnonymousMay 7th 2014.

Anyone have any idea of what exactly could be done with the building if it wasn't demolished I can't see what could be done with it or similar places? (No not student flats and I'm not sure Old Swan is the dream destination for a new themed hotel Art Deco Doss House) It's very sad to see something like this go, even though I am not a great fan of the huge dull brick design. It would be wonderful to be able to preserve these places but the vague suggestion of "community use" is meaningless. Without a proper use or the money to finance it, does the auditorium part just stand empty for another 50years until it is beyond saving? The real answer for these sort of buildings, and one that really would have added to the culture and heritage of the city was to have invested some of the Capital of Culture money into them, and use them as Museums to display much of the hidden treasures and art of the city that remain locked up in warehouses since the main museum was turned into Jungle Fun and would have been a much better investment in the outer districts than the £175+ millions spent on the X museum or the millions wasted by Merseytravel. Sadly the opportunity was lost and we frittered the money away lame ducks and a couple of million in pay-offs to the buffoons who were supposed to be running the COC.

1 Response: Reply To This...
mickeydrippin'May 7th 2014.

Totally agree. Remember what has happened to the Scala and Futurist on Lime Street - they are eyesores.

Mad MitchMay 16th 2014.

once again liverpool knock it down and build s***** many other cities incorporate the old with innovative innards not here too thick

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