Letter: Futurist theatre’s hidden facade is a rare find

Futurist Theatre pictured with its original tile facade in the late 1950s.
Futurist Theatre pictured with its original tile facade in the late 1950s.

As an artist working in ceramics I was particularly interested in the exterior of the Futurist as it is made from a particularly robust, self cleaning form of glazed ceramics invented by Henry Doulton and known as Carraraware. Later it was also produced by several of the northern art tile companies, such as Burmantofts of Leeds.

While researching I came across a registered charity which concerns itself with the preservation of tiling:

The Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society (TACS) has as one of its major aims the protection and conservation of tiles and architectural ceramics.

To pursue this aim, it relies on members of the public bringing to its attention proposals for the demolition or radical alteration of buildings which have interesting tiles or other ceramic architectural features – whether inside or out.

I notified them and after research a letter was sent to Cllr Derek Bastiman and council employees.

As it is important that the people of Scarborough also know that an expert in renovating historical buildings removed some of the theatre’s infamous cladding for the first time in over 40 years in a bid to determine the condition of the building’s original frontage.

Initial findings reported that the original ceramic facade was in “reasonable condition” for its age and that there was no reason it could not be salvaged. Doulton’s Carraraware, a matt-crystalline-glazed stoneware, was introduced in 1888. It was first used for smaller objects such as vases. The Doulton Story (Paul Atterbury and Louise Irvine, 1979) has it that it was raw-glazed and single fired. In its original whitish form, it was used on several significant buildings around the turn of the century and later an extended palette of colours were developed by Doulton to be specified at Debenham House, the Savoy Hotel and Asia House in London.

Carraraware can be found in many of our larger cities in the north of England but not usually with such boisterous and flamboyant decorative moulding, if this is so, it surely lends strength to the argument for retaining it in Scarborough.

Shirley Sheppard

Blandscliff Gallery

Blands Cliff