There are a few theatres around the Norfolk coast but the most famous is… drum roll please… the Pavilion Theatre at Cromer – the last end-of-pier theatre in Europe and the 2015 Pier of the Year!
There are records of a jetty in Cromer as far back as 1391, and in 1582, Queen Elizabeth I, in a letter to the inhabitants of Cromer, granted rights to export wheat, barley and malt with the proceeds to be used for the maintenance and well-being of the pier and town.
The pier we know today was opened in 1901. Then it just had a bandstand, but that was covered in 1905 to form an enclosed pavilion, and the following season the first ‘concert parties’ were performed.
At the beginning of the second world war, the government decreed that its middle section should be destroyed, to prevent the pier being used as a landing stage by invading forces. A massive charge of dynamite was expected to do the deed, but the first blast, big enough to blow out all the seafront windows in the town, merely left the pier buckled.
No wonder… the pier’s deck sat on steel girders pinned to wrought iron piles that had been driven 20 feet into the seabed! Fortunately for the authorities, a second, bigger detonation did the trick.
Shows returned after the war, but the devastating gales of 1953 destroyed the pier and pavilion. But the show must go on! Government compensation paid for rebuilding, and the theatre was ready for the start of the 1955 season.
In 1978 the popular and enduring Seaside Special was created and over the years many famous faces have appeared, including Ken Dodd, Cannon & Ball, Joe Brown, The Searchers, Jimmy Tarbuck, Paul Daniels, The Barron Knights, Marty Wilde, Max Bygraves and Val Doonican. It was also featured in the film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Other seaside theatres in Norfolk