Record Details

NHER Number:12028
Type of record:Building
Name:Windmill Theatre, Marine Parade


Constructed in 1908, this was one of the earliest purpose built cinemas in Britain. It was known at the time as 'The Palace of Light', being illuminated by a thousand electric bulbs. A good example of Edwardian exuberance, the brick building has an elaborate neo Baroque faience clad façade, with twin towers topped by domes covered by fish scale tiles and lantern finials. Still in use today, the barrel vaulted auditorium is on the first floor, and has egg and dart plaster decoration. Before World War Two the cinema was known as The Gem.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 5305 0698
Map Sheet:TG50NW

Full description

Windmill Theatre, Marine Parade.

August 1974. Listed, Grade II.
Built in 1908 by A. S. Hewitt as one of the first purpose built cinemas in Britain, and known as the Palace of Light because it was illuminated by a thousand electric bulbs. Constructed of faience in typical Edwardian style, with twin towers, Ionic pilasters and fish scale tiles.
Details from (S1). Information from record card (S2).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 14 March 2022.

Before World War Two the cinema was known as The Gem.

See (S3) also in file.

Excerpt of current Listing Description (revised 1998):
"Cinema; opened 1908; designed by Arthur S Hewitt; built of gault brick, its main east facing façade clad in buff terracotta with a slate roof; roofs to towers covered in copper. The main east facing elevation is of three bays, the main body of the building behind the façade is of fourteen bays.
EXTERIOR: The neo-Baroque main east-facing elevation is of three bays, the upper half of the gabled central bay bearing the date, 1908, recessed behind two outer towers, the lower half projecting forward below a balustraded balcony. The towers have square ogee domed roofs with green copper fish scale covering and glass globe finials. The towers are of three stages and have rusticated pilasters at the corners, between which at the upper stage of each are bulls eye windows to front and sides, those to the front with ornate detailing. Between the third and second stage is a modillioned cornice and frieze supported by Ionic capitals. At this height the pilasters frame cartouches to front and sides, while the first stage contains full height moulded arches, blind to the sides of the towers, but framing portals to the front that flank the larger central arched entrance. The lower half of these features is concealed behind a modern entrance. The fourteen bays that form the main body of the building behind the façade are separated by pilasters. Below a nail tooth cornice are lunettes, that at the east end contain a Diocletian window, lighting the stairs, and there are regularly spaced arched openings to the ground floor.
INTERIOR: The entrance lobby has a terrazzo floor, part of which is concealed under the steps and platform which are flanked by the stairs to the balcony. The staircases have ornate finials and cast iron balustrades. The dogleg stairs give access to the balcony, which is now screened off from the main body of the auditorium. The Rococo style plasterwork to the ceiling consists of highly decorated coffering, side panels containing cartouches, and central panels formed from a chequered pattern of slats. The proscenium arch has a palmette decorative motif all round, and a cartouche at the centre."
Information from (S1).
Please consult the National Heritage List for England (S1) for the full current listing details, including a history of the cinema.
P. Watkins (HES), 14 March 2022.

Monument Types

  • CINEMA (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • THEATRE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1999. TG 5206R, U; TG 5306ABC - ABD.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. p 527; Pl 108.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1994? -2011?. English Heritage Digital Designation Record. Record. DNF929.
<S1>Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1271551.
<S2>Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
<S3>Drawing: Various. Various. Architectural plans.

Related records - none

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