Harrogate Royal Hall Invites Public To Explore Restored Building

By Culture24 Staff | 08 December 2008
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A picture of the grand Royal Hall at Harrogate, lavishly decorated in gold with a vast seating area and red curtains on the stage

The view from the dress circle at Harrogate's Royal Hall (above), which won 'architectural Oscars' last year. Pic courtesy Harrogate International Centre

Visitors can take a closer look at the award-winning restoration of Harrogate’s Royal Hall at the 1,000 capacity venue, which was re-opened to the public in April following a £10.7 million project.

The building has enjoyed widespread praise since being officially unveiled by Royal Hall Restoration Trust patron the Prince of Wales. It received a High Commendation in the Conservation Award category at the British Construction Industry Anniversary Awards in October, becoming one of only 21 buildings nationally to be awarded the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award.

Part of its success stems from strenuous efforts by designers to retain the original decorative scheme of the building, delving through 32 layers of paint to establish the original colour scheme.

A picture of the Royal Hall at Harrogate showing glorious gold embroidered design with pillars in the cavernous building

A view from the grand circle of boxes at the hall. Courtesy Harrogate International Centre

Matt Lunn, from principal design company Burrell Foley Fischer, said: “We sought, where possible, to stabilise and retain the original structure and therefore preserve the original interior linings and details.”

“The completed interior now reveals the exuberant and colourful world of the Edwardians, in stark contrast to the dowdy gloomy impression we are often left with via black and white and sepia photographs of the era.”

More than 75,000 sheets of carat gold leaf were used, augmented with restored painted tapestries, lunettes, replicated period carpets, seats, drapes and light fittings.

An upgraded technical infrastructure has enabled a wider variety of productions to be staged at the venue, which has welcomed theatre, comedy, dance, wrestling and snooker among an impressive 2008 programme.

“This job was an unforgettable journey for a number of reasons,” added BAM Construction Project Manager Geoff Wright following the award. “I remember my first walk around the near-derelict Hall before works started in March 2006, when the building had been closed down for three years.”

“Rising damp, delaminating plaster and scaffolding holding up the concrete floors confronted me. The transformation we made from that to today’s finished works has been extreme.”

Completed in 1903, the hall was created by theatre designer Frank Matcham and his architect Robert Beale as a ballroom and music pavilion. Its original name, the Kursaal, was taken from the continental tradition of a 'Cure Hall', where visitors could take spa waters.

Renamed the Royal Hall after World War I due to a wave of anti-German sentiment, it was a favoured attraction for the rich and famous, offering music hall, burlesque, glittering balls and daytime tea dances.

The versatile building was closed on safety grounds in 2002 after developing structural difficulties, but returned with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Harrogate Borough Council and the Restoration Trust.

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