Winchester Discovery Centre
Winchester Discovery Centre is a striking Grade II listed multipurpose leisure venue, situated in the heart of England’s old capital. It combines the best of the original features of the 19th Century Corn Exchange, with state of the art facilities, suitable for the needs of a 21st Century audience.
The original Corn Exchange was designed and built at a cost of £4,000 in 1838. The structure and style was said to have been copied from the church of St Paul’s, Covent Garden. By 1868, the central hall was also used for county elections and other large gatherings. After the building ceased to be a Corn Exchange, it became a roller skating rink and sports centre. In 1915, it opened as the Empire Corn Exchange Theatre, then the Regent Theatre. In 1917, it became the Regent Picture Theatre which included a restaurant, tea lounge and an orchestra playing daily. This was replaced in 1922 by the Regent Dance Hall, before reverting back to a cinema in 1933.
When the Public Library and Reading Room at the Guildhall closed, it re-opened at the Corn Exchange in October 1936. The conversion to a library cost £3,100. In 1965, Casson Conder and Partners upgraded the interior and returned the frontage to its original design, at a cost of £33,000. Following its transfer of ownership from Winchester City Council to Hampshire County Council in 1976, the central square mezzanine was installed.
During the multi-million pound creation of Winchester Discovery Centre in 2007, plaster swags from the building’s days as a theatre and cinema were conserved and protected and now lie hidden behind new decoration. Other areas such as the north air-raid shelter had to be removed to allow for the building of the extensions.
Winchester Discovery Centre today features Winchester’s main library, a 180 seat theatre, two art galleries, two learning spaces, an IT suite and a café. Situated on Jewry Street, it is now part of Winchester’s main cultural hub. There are over 100,000 books, DVDs, CDs and free computer access. A packed programme of events runs throughout the year from comedy, live music and author talks, to national and international touring art exhibitions. With over 500,000 visits a year, the Centre offers the local and wider community access to an exciting and diverse range of learning, leisure and creative facilities.
Winchester Discovery Centre has won several awards celebrating its excellence in both design and purpose, including the prestigious RIBA Award 2008 and the Public Library Building Award for Architecture meets Practicality 2009.
Call 0845 603 5631