AN historic cinema is set to finally reopen to the public after a two year restoration project.

Harwich’s Electric Palace, which is one of the oldest surviving cinemas in the UK, was built in 1911.

The King’s Quay Street venue has been undergoing a £1.5 million of works to save the Grade II* listed building which had structural defects and a water leak.

Work included replacing the roof to make the building safe, asbestos removal and repair of the original ornate fibrous plaster ceiling.

There was also redecoration of the fine interior, replacing part of the auditorium floor and refurbishment of the auditorium seating.

David Looser, chairman of the Harwich Electric Palace Trust, said that asbestos was identified in the roof void in 2019, part-way through a nine-month project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

“This discovery brought work to an abrupt halt and left us with a building in a highly vulnerable state,” he said.

“At this point Historic England came to our rescue.

“They placed the Electric Palace on the Heritage at Risk Register and quickly approved a grant to clear the asbestos, with additional funding support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.”

Inside the Electric Palace in Harwich, as it goes through refubishment..Tour by David Looser,Chair of Trustees..

Inside the Electric Palace in Harwich, as it goes through refubishment..Tour by David Looser,Chair of Trustees..

The cinema was created by travelling showman Charles Thurston, who went on to build two more cinemas – the Empire Cinema in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, and the Palace Cinema in Norwich, Norfolk.

The Electric Palace closed in 1956 and lay derelict for the next 16 years.

It escaped demolition in 1972 following efforts to list it as a “building of sociological interest”, and was reopened in 1981 by the Harwich Electric Palace Trust.

Mr Looser said he was “delighted” the repair and restoration project is complete and that the trust could reopen the cinema.

He said the cinema will reopen on April 8 and then “celebrate more prominently at a later date”.

Trudi Hughes, heritage at risk surveyor at Historic England, who has overseen the progress of the repair and restoration work, said: “The Electric Palace Cinema is a fascinating and very special survival.

“With this last phase of work now complete, the auditorium is at its absolute best, retaining much of its original charm and unique character.”