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  • Writer's pictureNikki Latham

Weymouth Museum Looks Back At The Ritz Fire Of 1954, From Which The Pavilion Today Rose From The Ashes

The "originally named" Pavilion, a beloved structure, was constructed in 1907-1908 and officially opened in December 1908 with a festive Christmas pantomime titled Mother Goose. Situated in a spot fondly referred to as Pile Pier, the Pavilion faced criticism for its high construction expenses.



Picture Credit: Weymouth Museum (original photographer unknown)


From wartime cinema to military stronghold, the Pavilion has a storied past. Leased by the Wheeler family during WWI, it transformed into a bustling cinema in the 1930s. But when WWII hit, the military took control and nearly demolished it. Even a German air raid couldn't bring it down in 1942. The Pavilion stood strong, eventually falling into the hands of the Admiralty. With a history as dramatic as its on-screen offerings, this iconic building has seen it all.


Picture Credit: Weymouth Museum (original photographer unknown)


The Town Council took charge again in 1947, determined to seek compensation for the wartime destruction. After two years of hard work, they revamped the Pavilion in 1949, adding a new projection room and renaming it The Ritz. However, the repairs done after the war proved to be insufficient, requiring further renovations.


Picture Credit: Weymouth Museum (original photographer unknown)


In January 1954, the Ritz began its makeover with a fresh coat of paint and a new roof. But disaster struck on April 13th when a fire destroyed the iconic wooden structure. The culprit? A blow lamp used carelessly during the renovation. The Town Council cashed in on their insurance, but the historic Ritz, which had survived wartime bombings, was no match for a tiny spark.


Picture Credit: Weymouth Museum (original photographer unknown)


The grand new theatre and ballroom that replaced The Ritz took a painstaking four years to construct, emerging like a phoenix from the ashes. Renowned architect Samuel Beverley teamed up with theatre expert Frank Verity to design the impressive building, a firm that continues to endure as Verity & Beverley today. Tragically, Samuel passed away in May 1959 before witnessing the project's completion, leaving his son-in-law, Anthony Denny, to carry on his legacy and oversee the final stages of the construction.


Picture Credit: Weymouth Museum (original photographer unknown)


The grand unveiling of the "new" Pavilion was in 1960. The esteemed Mayor and Mayoress graced the maple dance floor, now famously known as The Ocean Room. The ballroom, constructed on the former Palm Court, made its debut before the public eye. The official opening ceremony took place on July 15th, 1960, featuring a spectacular performance by none other than the legendary Benny Hill. And guess what? The iconic dance floor still stands tall and proud, preserving the memories of that unforgettable day for all to cherish.


Picture Credit: Weymouth Museum (original photographer unknown)


This is as we all know not the end of the Weymouth Pavilion story but was its start of 60+ years of entertainment for the people of the town! This is just the beginning of an incredible story that continues to captivate the town and we are sure we will return to this story at it's next milestone!


Picture Credit: Weymouth Museum (original photographer unknown)


Peter Lythgoe for Chesil Radio, during his visit to the pop-up event from Weymouth Museum, hosted in the Ocean Room at Weymouth Pavilion in April 2024, caught an eyewitness account:



This news story has been produced by Chesil Radio's News Team, for more information please visit: https://www.chesilradio.com

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