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Home   Medway   News   Article

Huge hole left in side of former bank building at site of old Theatre Royal in Chatham under renovation

14 February 2014
by Clare Freeman
This is the dramatic scene today after the back of a building at the site of the old Theatre Royal in Chatham collapsed.

Passers-by looked on in shock after the right side of the rear wall fell, taking the first and second floors with it last night after a beam appeared to have failed.

The former theatre is being refurbished into an entertainment complex with restaurants, bars and cafes. MHS homes are also building 26 flats on the site.
A gaping hole is left in the old Theatre Royal in Chatham

A gaping hole is left in the old Theatre Royal in Chatham

The building that collapsed was an old bank chambers, the site owners said.
 
Kent Police said they were called to the scene at 11.10pm. 
 
Officers closed off part of the car park and ensured no one entered the site while staff from other agencies attended.
 
Access to Sir John Hawkins car park from the High Street has been blocked off, but the rest of the car park remains open. 
 
A Medway Council spokesman said: "Our building control team were called to the scene around midnight and will be working with the owner of it today."

He said that after an initial assessment, it appears that a beam failed which caused part of the wall to collapse.
 
Part of Chatham High Street will be closed to traffic and pedestrians as a safety precaution, following the collapse.

The road is closed from the Rendezvous Chinese Restaurant to Manor Road and could remain closed for several days.  
 
Passers-by look on at the scene of the collapse in Chatham

Passers-by look on at the scene of the collapse in Chatham

Owner Roger Thomas said: "It's not anything we've done. We don't know what's caused it at the moment."
 
He said their focus today would be to make the building safe, adding: "I'm very concerned about the weather we are getting tonight. If the weather gets into it, we could lose the whole building and it will have to be demolished.
 
"I won't let anyone go in the building. I don't want anyone getting hurt - it's only bricks and mortar."
 
"I'm very concerned about the weather we are getting tonight. If the weather gets into it, we could lose the whole building and it will have to be demolished..." - theatre owner Roger Thomas
The collapse of the 15m by 4m section of wall has put work back by two or three months.  
 
"In 12 weeks, we would have it all done up," he said. "It's really frustrating. We were at the point of putting in the acoustic flooring but that's all by the by now."
 
Mr Thomas said that before Christmas the wind had blown out a nine foot by four foot window at the front of the building.
 
An mhs homes spokesman said: "We will be monitoring the site and our development and will ensure the health and safety of our contractors on site."
 
The 3,000-seat theatre in Chatham High Street opened in 1899 and played host to some great showbiz names including Charlie Chaplin, Max Miller, Gracie Fields and George Formby.

But the curtain fell for the final time in 1955 amid the growth of television.

A campaign to restore the theatre began in the 1980s, but the cost mounted to £20million.

As the building fell apart, property developer Chatham Housing applied to knock it down but got embroiled in a long battle with the council.

The grand auditorium was demolished in 2009, leaving just the substantial entrances, foyers and bars.

They were bought, along with a former bank and coffee house next door, by Strood investors Roger and Paul Thomas for £800,000 in 2010.


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