Converted cinema sets the bar high

Wallaw manager Phil Riddle.
Wallaw manager Phil Riddle.

A Blyth pub has been praised for its architectural excellence.

The Wallaw, opened in 2013 by the JD Wetherspoon chain, was highly commended at this year’s Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) and English Heritage Pub Design Awards.

The Union Street bar, formerly a cinema, picked up that accolade in the awards’ category for conversion to pub use.

Pub manager Phil Riddle said: “We are delighted that the Wallaw has been honoured in the Pub Design Awards 2015.

“It has been a landmark building in the town for many years and, since opening as a pub in December 2013, has become a great addition to the Blyth community.”

Wetherspoon spent £2.1million redeveloping the outlet on the site of the old theatre and cinema, closed nine years previously.

The Grade-II listed art-deco building was constructed in 1937.

It is said to be the best surviving work of the cinema design firm firm Percy Lindsay Browne, and its original architect is thought to have been Charles Alfred Harding.

The 1,441-capacity cinema, during its time as a theatre, hosted the stage debut of North-East television presenters Ant and Dec, alias Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, in the 1980s.

The original main projector from the cinema is now the centrepiece of the entrance to the pub.

A feature 3D artwork, made out of film reels found on the site, is also on display.

Competition organiser Sean Murphy said: “The Pub Design Awards celebrate the architects, designers and pub owners who have the bravery and vision to go above and beyond when restoring, conserving or designing pub buildings.

“The awards recognise the importance of fantastic design in pubs across the breadth of the UK.” 

The judging panel said: “This splendid, brick-faced former 1930s cinema, named after its first owner, Walter Lawson, has been converted into a marvellous pub by J D Wetherspoon.”