Morecambe, Lancs.

Palladium Cinema

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 1All 2022 images courtesy David Gaylard
Victoria Street, Morecambe plays host to this very striking sign painted on a gable wall. It seems almost too good to be true and so it turns out to be, in a way. Located in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. The Palladium Cinema had its entrance up an arcade off the Promenade, across Back Crescent Street, with the auditorium at the rear laying parallel on Victoria Street. It was opened on 4th August 1919 with Eugene Pallette in “Viviette”. In around 1929, it was equipped with a British Thomson Houston (BTH) sound system. It was refurbished in 1933. It was a popular cinema, and after another refurbishment in 1937, it was re-named New Palladium Cinema. That same year, it became the first cinema in Morecambe to screen a colour film; George Brent in “God’s Country and the Woman”. It reverted back to the Palladium Cinema name by 1944. In 1953 it was taken over by the Coventry based Orr Circuit of cinemas, and they installed CinemaScope in 1954. The Palladium Cinema was still operating in 1966, but had closed by 1980. It was converted into a squash club, which closed in 2008, and a bar operates in part of the building. [Information from the Cinema treasures website.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 2
The original signwriter has addressed the awkward shape and the requirement that the sign is readable from the pavement. The large letters in the apex are followed by 'Cinema' shifted to the right with directional lettering looping down and up and over a manicule (pointing hand, albeit slightly naively rendered). The sign itself is dated to the early 1900s,  with repaintings with some repositioning of characters – some dating from between the 1930s and 1950s.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 2aPre-2014 photograph courtesy Kate Drummond
The above photograph, showing the sign before restoration was found on Sam Roberts' excellent Ghost signs website (see Links): 'Borin, I have often looked at your site so it's lovely to hear from you. I am not in touch with Kate Drummond but I'm sure she'd be happy for you to use the photo with an attribution. All good things, Sam'.
Sam's definitive book, compiled with Roy Reed, is Ghost signs: a London story (see
Reading list).

So, we are confronted with a conundrum, also addressed at other locations (e.g. Beccles 'Smith & Eastaugh' sign). Should an existing ghost sign be left in 'beneficial neglect' to show its antiquity, but running the risk of eventual extinction by the weather, or should it be repainted? Incidentally, the repainting followed a process of detailed research in attempting to ensure an ‘authentic’ restoration that is as close to the original as possible. Several fugitive colours were identified and the images on Sam's web-page show red outlining to the condensed capitals, black three-dimensionality, then a green drop-shadow. Perhaps ironically, the red outline has faded since 2014. Our instinct is that beneficial neglect is better than repainting, not to underestimate the skills and efforts of the restorers in Morecambe. The debate continues.

The Midland Hotel
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 4
The Midland Hotel is a remarkable Art Deco structure designed in 'Streamline Moderne' style. It was built by the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), in 1933, to the designs of architect Oliver Hill. It is a three-storey curving building, with a central circular tower containing the entrance and a spiral staircase, and a circular café at the north end. Eric Gill was engaged to provide some art works. The interior images shown above look upwards beneath the spiral staircase with a medallon on the ceiling, by Eric Gill (although, with its lettering, it resembles the work of his younger brother, MacDonald Gill). It is described as 'designed and carved by Eric Gill and painted by Denis Tegetmeier (Gill’s son-in-law, who was a book illustrator)', although it appears flat in these photographs. It depicts in colour Triton, two mermaids and presumably Poseidon on his subaquatic throne, surrounded by the legend:-
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 9
Other works by Gill here are, in the ballroom, a map mural of the Morecambe coastline – again resembling the wit and draghtsmanship of MacDonald Gill's work, who was known for his humorous maps. On more familar ground, is a bas relief (shown below) depicting Odysseus welcomed from the sea by Nausicaa by Gill. The carved panel of Portland Stone has been amongst the most threatened of the hotel's artworks as, during a long period of decline and closure, the panel was removed, loaned out, threatened with sale, placed in store, the subject of a lengthy court case and then stolen. Thankfully, it was retrieved by the Lancashire Constabulary it now forms a centrepiece of the restored hotel's reception.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 8
The text at the bottom (carved by Laurie Cribb) reads:
followed by 'Homer/Ody' in smaller capitals. This is repeated above in Greek with 'Eric G' added. All the art works in the hotel were restored and/or recoloured during the hotel's renovation between 2005 and 2008.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 10
Above: the two Gill seahorses high above the hotel entrance.

"Opposite the hotel is the Midland railway terminus, superbly preserved with its original 'porte clochere', a rare survivor. It is now a pub and a theatre. Sadly it is cut off from the network and, as so often happens, the land is a mix of Aldi, etc, etc. Still an important relationship between the railway and its ambitious hotel is preserved. The railway station was 'Morecambe Promenade', as opposed to 'Harbour' and 'Town' and the modern station on the 'Bentham Line' is 400metres inland. You can reach it via Leeds and Carnforth" (DG). The hotel viewed from the (now disused) railway station :
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 5

There is some fine architecture in Morecambe, including the Winter Gardens facade:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 6   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Morecambe 7
Sadly this is only lettered on the wrought iron gates. The restored ironwork on the glazed portico is stunning.

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