Manchester’s Odeon cinema subjected to a damaging ‘systematic and methodical’ assault to prevent preservation

The former Odeon Cinema, Oxford Street, Manchester

Manchester’s former Odeon cinema, on Oxford Street, has been subjected to a ‘systematic and methodical’ assault to prevent it being preserved, according to the man who tried to save it.

The cinema opened as the Paramount in 1930 with 1639 seats.

Local historian Eddy Rhead asked that the baroque style building be granted listed status. However, English Heritage wrote to him to say that his attempt had been unsuccessful. They explained that considerable damage to the inside of the building, along with the removal of many original fixtures, meant that there was not much left to preserve.

It seems that most of this damage has occured since the Odeon closed in September 2004.

A gallery of photographs on the Manchester Evening News website shows the vandalism. The report quotes the current owners, Manchester & Metropolitan, who claim that the interior was already damaged when the company took over the building. However they add:

‘Since our ownership, which followed the cinema’s demise in the face of the demands of the modern cinema user, we have carried out only limited and entirely lawful exposure works in anticipation of the forthcoming redevelopment.’

The question is, why would anyone need to carry out ‘exposure works’ when their aim was to ‘redevelop’ the site?

Manchester City Council has now approved plans to demolish the building and replace it with a 14 storey office block. Here’s a photo of the horrible proposed block.

I understand that, in 1998, English Heritage arrived to assess the Capital cinema, which stood at the junction of Parrs Wood Road and School Lane in Didsbury. They found that, the night before, someone had erected scaffolding and chiselled away the ornate tiles that were one of the most interesting features of the cinema.

There was nothing left to list. The building — which was the studios of ABC Television in the 1950’s and 1960’s — was demolished and an apartment block now stands on the site.

English Heritage and Manchester City Council have also failed to do anything practical to preserve the Welsh Baptist Chapel on Upper Brook Street which had its roof removed eighteen months ago. It is owned by Manchester City Council. The site for another tall building in the future perhaps?

When will we see an end to this mindless destruction of Manchester’s heritage in the name of profit?

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  • mike says:

    As usual, what is printed in a newspaper (particularly the MEN) and what are the actual facts are two different things. Yes, English Heritage did reject the Odeon for listing, but not this year as this article would have you believe, but way back in 1999. It was thoroughly inspected in that year as part of English Heritage’s thematic survey into old cinemas, but didn’t make the grade as the original interior had been too badly damaged when it was carved up into a seven screen multiplex. This was before the building closed and long before the new owners got hold of it.

    The ‘exposure’ work since, although reprehensible, has no bearing on this argument as English Heritage did not reinspect the building and merely referred to their original report. To suggest that the developer’s vandalism somehow affected a decision made eight years previously is trimming the facts a bit to fit the argument. The developers knew the building had been rejected for listing when they bought it, so why did this work take place? Most likely it was to circumnavigate the particulars of the Conservation Area in which the Odeon stands. Here, buildings can only be demolished under strict criteria, being badly damaged is one of them. But this is conjecture and English Heritage, custodians of Conservation Areas were no help anyway, as they considered the proposed office block as a ‘positive contribution to the area’. Yes, I was surprised to read that too.

    It’s not entirely fair to say that this building will be destroyed in the name of profit, as profit is the only reason it was built and the loss of a substantial profit was the reason it closed. I was furious when I read the Odeon was to be demolished, but after fully investigating it I changed my mind. The building had reached the end of it’s life and was doomed, work to pull it down should begin in a few weeks time. I frequently have to pass this depressingly derelict building and I don’t want to look at it anymore!



    Ps, thanks for the info about the Capitol Cinema, I’ll look into it!

  • Eddy Rhead says:

    Sorry Mike but you are wrong.
    The Odeon was turned down in 1999 as you rightly point out but the survey at the time did not enter the void behind sub division work. A colleague of mine has entered this void and had photographic evidence that much of the original proscenium and roof mouldings were intact. To be considered again for listing after previously being turned down English Heritage requires for new evidence to be presented. English Heritage would not have reinspected if they did not consider this new evidence to be sufficient. In the intervening years aswell cinemas from the Paramount chain (of which Odeon Manchester is one) became scarcer.
    It was armed with this new evidence that EH reinspected in February only to find the destruction in the public areas. Because of this destruction EH could not consider the Odeon for listing.
    I am also interested to know who you think these ‘custodians of conservation areas’ are who said the new building made a positive contribution.
    The Historic Buildings and Conservation Area Panel that advise the city council on such matters slated the new development (i know because i sit on this panel).

  • Ashmann says:

    Well i think its ashame and such a loss of history…but not surprising as we are run by a shower of shits !!!…who know the price of everything ,and yet the value of nothing !

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