05. CORN EXCHANGE
The Corn Exchange was built by the Fakenham Corn Exchange and Public Rooms company in 1855 at a cost of £4000 on the site of the old Market Cross.
The Market Cross was a brick building on wooden legs that had fallen into disrepair and had been demolished in the previous century. The architect of the Corn Exchange, John Brown, was best known for his churches and as surveyor of Norwich Cathedral. The size and grandeur of the building demonstrate the importance of Fakenham as a centre for Norfolk’s main industry – agriculture. It was also used as a magistrate’s court and library. In 1930 it was converted for use as a cinema losing its glass dome. This closed in 1976 due to competition from television and it was used as a bingo hall until the 1990s. Following restoration, it re-opened as a three-screen cinema in July 2000.
In the 1920s there were two cinemas in Fakenham, known respectively as the Top Pictures (Electric Pavilion) and Bottom Pictures (Central Cinema).
Top Pictures Cinema
Top Pictures was in Holt Road between Baxters Garage (now Ernest Doe) and the railway bridge. There was no mains electricity and it relied on a petrol generator. The silencer was buried in the ground and boys would place their caps on the exhaust pipe to see them blown off. Seating was on one level but later the rear section became tiered. The first talking pictures came in about 1930 and at that time it became part of the Regal Group with cinemas in Wells, Holt and elsewhere.
Bottom Pictures Cinema
The Bottom Pictures was located in the British School in Norwich Road, this closed when Aldiss temporarily moved there whilst modernising the shop in Upper Market. It moved to the Corn Exchange but this was unsatisfactory in summer due to the glazed dome so this was removed in 1930.
During World War II, films were shown in the attic of the Newmans building in Norwich Street.
The next plaque is on the Original Factory Shop.