One of Taunton’s most recognisable buildings, the Gaumont Palace Theatre on Corporation Road, has been bought from Mecca Bingo for just over £2m.
Although it was originally opened as a theatre, the Grade II listed building has played home to two popular bingo clubs for the past 39 years, and it will continue to operate as a bingo hall despite having been sold to Somerset West and Taunton Council for £2.1m in January 2020.
The theatre was built in 1932 by an architect called W. T. Benslyn, and like many of Britain’s oldest theatres, it is now used as a bingo hall. One of the most recognisable parts of the Art Deco style building is the sculptured panel which sits above its centre window and reads “Love and life entangled in film”.
In late 1981, the theatre was converted into a Top Rank bingo club and was later rebranded as Mecca Bingo.
The Mecca brand, which is currently owned by the Rank Group, now has 77 land-based bingo halls which include locations as diverse as York, Swansea, Norwich, Exeter, Gateshead, Harlow, Aberdeen, and Camden Town.
The rent which the Rank Group will pay Somerset West and Taunton Council following the council’s purchase of the Gaumont Palace Theatre will provide additional income to cover the costs of delivering local services.
One of the town’s councillors, Marcus Kravis, is responsible for helping Taunton’s economic development and managing its assets. He says that investments such as the recent acquisition of the local theatre are only made following “thorough and robust analysis” by the council to ensure that they achieve “a good return on investment for the benefit of the local communities we serve.”
The Gaumont Palace Theatre is located opposite the town’s main bus station, which is also being considered for purchase by the local council and may be replaced by a shopping and restaurant complex.