Hull’s Beverley Road is rich in architectural interest, and includes an unprepossessing but astonishing survival: sandwiched between the former furniture shop of E C Jubb and the former Swan Hotel is the gaunt façade of the former National Picture Theatre, built in 1914 and bombed in an air-raid on the night of March 17th-18th 1941.
The film that night was, ironically, Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. When the sirens sounded the audience of 150 left the auditorium and gathered in the foyer but couldn’t leave the building because of the intensity of the raid.
A direct hit destroyed the screen end of the cinema and brought down the roof, but the front of the building survived and no-one was injured.
The rubble was subsequently cleared away, leaving the façade and the standing remains of the foyer, staircases and the rear of the balcony. Somehow, the ruins were left untouched from 1941 to the present day.
This shell, “as hit”, is now the only surviving civilian bomb-site remaining from the Second World War: http://ncww2mt.freewebspace.com/cgi-bin/i/images/hdm-fb-26.7.05.jpg. Of the other fourteen bomb-sites, twelve are ecclesiastical and one lies within a naval dockyard.
When local people, particularly the customers of the Swan Hotel next door, began to appreciate its rarity they formed the National Civilian WW2 Memorial Trust, and persuaded English Heritage to award the ruin Grade II listing.
With support from English Heritage, Hull City Council is considering making a Compulsory Purchase Order to retain the National Picture Theatre as an intact memento of the nightmare of enemy action, not only in Hull but across Britain: http://ncww2mt.freewebspace.com/index.html.