Fun Palaces: the history & architecture of the entertainment industry

Former Odeon Cinema, now Funny Girls, Blackpool, Lancashire

The Fun Palaces presentations focus on types of architecture where rich effects were contrived with wit and ingenuity, often by fairly cheap means, to give the poorer classes at least a temporary experience of luxury, comfort and freedom.

In pubs, theatres, cinemas and seaside buildings of all kinds, architects and designers and engineers transported customers from their mundane existence into luxurious surroundings at modest cost by the skilful use of inspired design, dedicated craftsmanship, skilful engineering and innovative materials.

The best of the surviving entertainment buildings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries offer the interested visitor fascinating, exciting and enjoyable insights into unlikely but successful marriages of commerce and art.

Study Day:

This study day surveys the variety of entertainment-industry building-types and decorative styles to be found across England and Wales such as –

  • pubs
  • hotels
  • theatres and cinemas
  • spas & hydros
  • seaside architecture

Specific material can be included from the range of lecture-topics listed below:


1.  Fun Palaces:  the history & architecture of the entertainment industry – a general introduction to entertainment buildings in London, the provinces and the seaside

2.  All the World’s a Stage:  the development of theatre buildings – illustrating the development of theatre buildings from ancient times to the twentieth century, including Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond (Yorkshire) and the theatres of Frank Matcham and his contemporaries

3.  Dream Palaces:  an introduction to cinema architecture – an outline of the architecture of British cinemas from the beginning of the twentieth century to the post-war period, including the Electric Palace, Harwich, the Astoria Cinema, Brixton and the Granada Cinema, Tooting

4.  Away from it all:  the heritage of holiday resorts – a survey of inland spas, (Bath and Buxton), centres for hydrotherapy (Ilkley and Matlock) and major seaside resorts (Blackpool, Brighton, Great Yarmouth and Scarborough)

5.  Beside the Seaside:  the architecture of British coastal resorts – a closer look at the growth of seaside holiday towns in the railway age, comparing the greater resorts such as Blackpool, Brighton, Great Yarmouth and Scarborough with more modest centres like Llandudno and Morecambe and “lost resorts” that never fulfilled their original aspirations, such as Ravenscar, Withernsea and the “Poppyland” coast of north Norfolk.

6.  Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage – a detailed examination of Britain’s premier seaside holiday resort, featuring its iconic structures, the Tower (1894), Winter Gardens (1878 onwards), its three piers (1863, 1868 and 1893), the Pleasure Beach (1904 onwards), the tramway system (1885) and the Illuminations (begun 1912).

7.  Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage – a survey of the east-coast resorts from the Humber to the Tees, linking the origins of Scarborough as a seventeenth-century spa that developed sea-bathing in the eighteenth-century before the arrival of the railway to the varying fortunes of other resorts on the same coast including Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Whitby and Ravenscar.

For background information about sites relevant to these presentations, please click here.

8 thoughts on “Fun Palaces: the history & architecture of the entertainment industry

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