Little desire to save Floral Hall

I WAS pleased to see that one of the foremost designers in the UK – and probably in Europe as well – had some kind words to say about the long-gone Floral Hall, which stood on Scarborough's North Side.

The place – for which I also had a soft spot – didn't get too many kind words during its latter days.

But Richard Seymour said during a recent visit to his home town that the demolition of the Floral Hall – "a fabulous thing" – had been one of the greatest sins committed in Scarborough in recent times.

The site is now occupied, of course, by the Scarborough Bowls Centre, a building Mr Seymour described as a "dreadful, faceless brick shed object" – and, he added, a cheap shed, at that.

The Floral Hall was an unlikely theatre, it must be admitted. It was always more of a vast conservatory.

The site got its start in entertainment almost exactly a century ago when pierrot shows were presented in the open air in what were then the new Alexandra Gardens.

A glass roof was very soon erected above the arena, and then the covered area was extended until the place became a full-blown theatre.

By that time it had in fact ceased to be a "floral" hall at all, since huge areas of glass in the roof had to be painted over to help with stage lighting effects, and nothing would grow in the place any more.

Despite its chequered early history, the Floral Hall was a very successful theatre for many years. Just about all the big names in British entertainment appeared there, if only for Sunday-night shows during the summer.

The place pulled in very big crowds in the decades after the Second World War, but by the 1980s Scarborough had lost a lot of holidaymakers to foreign sun-spots. Soon, the town had more seats for summer entertainments than visitors to fill them.

The Floral Hall's death-warrant was signed in January 1987, following its last summer season the previous year. The borough council said the place had serious structural problems, with main metal supports severely corroded.

There was clearly little official desire to save the place.

Councillors balked at spending the half-million pounds reckoned necessary to put it right, so down it came, in 1989. And that left the North Side without any large public hall.

Other folk will join Mr Seymour in regretting the design of the bowls centre. But it does have one great virtue – it's in use, catering for local folk as well as visitors, seven days a week all year round.