The Palace Theatre in Plymouth stands today as a disused eyesore on Union Street – one of the less favourable areas of Plymouth known for its red light district and jumble of dodgy nightclubs, kebab shops and council flats. However, this was not always the case. In the 1800s, Union Street was the most affluent area of Plymouth and in 1898, the Palace Theatre was opened as an eclectic music hall. However, three months after opening it was damaged by fire, repoening in 1899 as the New Palace Theatre of Varieties. Revamped as a bingo hall in 1961 for a short while, it then was reverted back into a theatre in the 80s, before opening its doors as infamous club The Academy and later Dance Academy.

The club was shut down in 2006 due to a major police operation tackling drugs and its owner was sent to prison. Since then the incredible building, described by English Heritage as “Renaissance style with Art Nouveau details” has sat desolate, slowly sinking into disrepair, not helped by the fact that the lead lining of the roof had been stolen and during rain, water would pour in.


A charity has recently been awarded a grant to restore it to its former glory, and as a result had an open day for the public to see how it looks before they start. The theatre is an incredible building in a terrible state, with holes in the floor, peeling paint and occasional flashbacks of its former life as a theatre and a club. It was amazing being able to explore all the floors and imagining what it would have been like all those years ago when it was knew. From the inside, it is literally falling apart, but I’m sure with some attention, and a whole lot of cash, it will be returned to to beautiful building it once was.



Part of the beauty of being able to walk around, was that it felt like we were intruding as urban explorers. Though some of the building had been screened off with red tape, most of the rooms were available to look around with the occasional square of MDF covering huge holes in the floorboards or protecting a broken window. The building still felt very untouched and raw, making it a surprise it had only been closed since 2006. The people hoping to restore it are looking at spending £10million and I’m not surprised – there wasn’t one room where the paint was in tact or there wasn’t anything that needed fixing. Health and Safety rules and regulations sat quietly in the corner, but allowed for our sense of adventure and interest take us carefully through creaking doors, minding the broken light fittings and wobbly staircases as we went.



I’m excited to see the finished project – I love going to the theatre and although Plymouth is lucky enough to have two that have a wide variety of shows, none are such old and beautiful relics as this which I expect, once restored, will be breathtaking.