Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Mostyn Gallery and The Palladium, Llandudno

The final day of my Mothers coach trip holiday was a free day for shopping and sightseeing around their base town of Llandudno. As the holiday makers decided to take in the the delights of the restaurants, cafes and shops, I decided to discover a few sights that were new to me. This post is alternatively entitled "Two exterior delights with interior surprises ... love it or loath it !"

(Apologies for this post being a bit architecturally self indulgent, I can't help myself, I love this place !!

 On a side note, even though I said I was officially back publishing material, like the subject material here, this post has taken me far too long to construct with many hours and visits to this draft  ... I seem to be losing my photographic humour in favour of history and together with difficulties both on and off blogger including as you may have noticed my absence from all your blogs. My Mother has been in hospital for nearly a month now having had an operation last week with no sign of an early release. The Olympics are in full flow at the moment with the host nations athletes being inspired enough to do the best they have done in 100 years. However my local football stadium and indeed city (Newcastle upon Tyne) was decorated with London 2012 signs everywhere as it welcomed top teams such as Brazil. I realise that the snappy phrase was part of the successful Olympic bid, but it goes against some things that I try to portray in this blog to those from far away shores ... Great Britain or the UK is more than just about London !! ) Rant over, back to the blog :-)

As the railway branch line to Llandudno was being completed in 1858, the idea was conceived to design Vaughan street as an approach road to the railway station at the top of the street. This meant that the main street (Mostyn street) would link up with the railway station approach and consequently not isolate it in a corner of the town. Prior to this point, most passengers arrived by ship to the sea front and were taken ashore by rowing boats and so it was a great improvement to keep their feet dry ! While every effort has been made to preserve the quality of the railway service in modern times, the same can not be said about the railway station as the deterioration through the decades is obvious to see.

Lady Augusta Mostyn employed the services of George Alfred Humphries who designed a substantial amount of Llandudno's buildings at the turn of the 20th century. He was given the task of improving the architectural standard of the station approach.

Imperial buildings 1898 and Royal British Legion

The trademark and beauty of this particular street today seems to be the terracotta facades rather than their forgotten history.

As president and patron of The Gwynedd Ladies Art Society, Lady Augusta Mostyn authorised the construction of this building which was completed in 1901-2 and was the first gallery in the world to display the work of female artists. This reason for this concept was the refusal to show such material at the male dominated Royal Cambrian Academy's exhibitions in nearby Conwy.

It was unfortunate that the concept didn't last very long and eventually closed to the public after just eleven years due to threat of the World War I. For the most part, the building has since been used for commercial storage purposes and requisitioned use in both World Wars as a training hall and a financial government building respectively.

In 1976 a respected Artist, Kyffin Williams, thought that the building should be returned to its original purpose and not the Piano shop that it had become. The influential voice was heard and as early as 1978, The Mostyn company was formed with occasional exhibitions being displayed the following year.
Llandudno Post Office 1904 
The process of turning it back into a public building was a difficult road as the Post Office next door had over the years acquired some of it's floorspace by knocking down adjoining walls. The architectural rules were complicated as in the intervening period the building was given Listed status so the Post Office decided to move these additional facilities elsewhere in 2003.

Restoration and renovation began in 2007 with an innovative firm of architects Ellis Williams doing a superb restoration on the Victorian stonework and adding their own feature of a golden spire made from anodised aluminium tiles. The building was finally opened to the public £5.1 million later in May 2010.

It was unfortunate that the day I chose to explore inside the Contemporary Art Gallery was when the exhibition in the main hall was in the process of change, so I was unable to capture the wonderful display room and was left to ponder on the interior concrete corridor work of Ellis Williams.

This way for tea and toilets ... Time to leave, that was a quick visit !
It's just as well that there was no entrance fee as I didn't see very much, which leaves me to say thanks to three organisations for their financial support (The Arts Council of Wales, Conwy County Borough Council's Arts service and Llandudno Town council) in allowing me the ... errr ... privilege of capturing the above two images for free !

Victorian walkway looking to the railway station in the distance

The Palladium on Gloddaeth Street at the other end of Mostyn street (the main street) to Vaughan Street was designed by another architect passionate about his town.

It was thought that Arthur Hewitt, who served on the local council for 36 years, designed The Palladium before World War I but only realised his dream in 1920 when the theatre was completed.

Nostalgia moment set in stone

This classical building once seated 1500 people who had an interest in theatre, music, comedy or ballet. Following World War II, film and newsreel became more popular and consequently the building was converted into a cinema.

During the 1960's with the arrival of television, there were worries about the survival of The Palladium but the owners decided to counter that threat by installing a larger screen 1960 installation of a 25 x 13 foot screen (7.6 x 4 metre) to counter the threat from TV.

Stage door ? back entrance
Unfortunately the larger screen couldn't stop the slide of falling audiences and changing times, so in 1972 a radical decision was taken to split the use of the building into a 600 seat cinema and Bingo hall.

Like so many struggling theatres in difficult locations across the UK, many had to be converted into cinemas then subsequently Bingo Halls to try and keep the building going. One of the things about the 1960's and early 70's was that if a venue didn't work, the answer was very often to pull it down and build something else instead ... criminal. Thankfully these ideas played a holding role in keeping the building not so much alive but ticking over for the next owner.

There were worrying signs in 1993 for the future of The Palladium as the owner died, the building was placed into the hands of a leisure group and the other remaining cinema was converted into shopping facilities. Although it seemed like they had a monopoly on their business, the entertainment they offered was now available in the hotels as coach tours had to rescue the Llandudno accommodation market.

By the end 1999 the new owners could take no more and the building was eventually bought by food and pub chain giant JD Wetherspoon.

An incredible amount of work had to be done to remove the internal partitions and return the building to its former glory, tastefully preserving and restoring most of the original features.

An excuse to visit the viewing gallery ... toilets !
An additional feature of a high viewing gallery was installed and the work was completed in 2001. The building was given Grade II listed status in June of that year and was opened in late August.

JD Wetherspoon have captured the niche market with cheap pub grub and even though I sampled it twice for an evening meal during this week, I felt that was sufficient for one week. Whether you have an opinion about Wetherspoons or turning theatres into pubs, there's no doubt that this solution is available for everyone to enjoy as opposed to a potential conversion into housing apartments that only the owners and their friends can appreciate.

"Hey J, you're boring me now, let's hear a lot less and see something a bit more famous"
"Oh, all right then" .......


  1. Well, it didn't bore me at all Jay! I really enjoy the background information - I know it takes a lot of time to research, but it adds a lot. You've picked out some really nice detail in the facades there too

    Kind Regards

  2. Beautiful and not at all boring!

  3. J, the history of the gallery and theatre is very interesting. I don't like to admit it but sometimes the end justifies the means and if an architecturally valuable building can be preserved by converting it into something not that ideal, well, that may be just one chapter in the building's story.
    I like the shot with the round window :)

  4. More of the architectural shots please :) I love them and finding out about places that you would just pass by.
    I'm glad that Wetherspoons were not allowed to change the Palladium so it would be unrecognizable.

    Well you got two wrong and not the ones you thought! you put B6,C7 it was the other way around B7,C6. even Howard didn't get all of them right and he was there at the time!!
    Best wishes to your Mother, and thanks for your visits

  5. As usual, I love all the photos. But I am sorry to hear that your mother has not been doing well and is still in the hospital. Please also send her best wishes from Wisconsin.

    Why is it that when I saw the name 'Gwynedd' my mind immediately took me back to a Jeeves and Wooster and the line 'Gladys with a W.' Made me laugh. Sorry, I digress. I'm dying to get to Wales now, your post and George the Lad who was at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. I like the angle of the posts and awning of the Victorian walkway. Very nice. What a treat it must have been to visit the Palladium! So sad about the theater organ. Unfortunately, that kind of thing happens too often. I agree that it's better to have the building turned into a pub where at least they've tried to restore some of the glory of the interior, rather than gut it and turn it into condominiums. Laughed at the Marble Arch shot. It's changed a great deal since I saw it in London. lol

  6. You took me to a nice trip with your beautiful images..
    I hope also that your Mother in the meantime is doing better!!

    Have a good week, dear J!!!

  7. Impeccable details on those establishments. Very entertaining photographs as always.

    I'm praying that your Mom will be fine soon.

  8. I am sorry to hear your Mum is in hospital. I hope she is well again soon.

    Thank you for the interesting information and history. It makes me want to go back and visit soon.

  9. Missed this somehow. A great post.
    LONDON 2012? As usual we will all end up paying for their self-aggrandizement.
    What with politicians and royalty all leaping on the bandwagon it's a wonder there was room for any athletes.
    Love the Wetherspoon. You were very brave eating in there.

  10. "Another bad sign was when the glorious theatre organ was removed in 1988 to be placed elsewhere but was a grave mistake as it was destroyed in the demolition of the storage facility."

    You're thinking of the Astra Cinema Organ down the road, don't think there was ever an Organ in the Palladium. Both the Palladium and the Astra were owned by Hutchinson Leisure Group in the 70s and 80s, which turned into Apollo Leisure Group.


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