Selectaglaze delivers sound solution for ambitious Tamworth theatre restoration project

Tamworth Assembly Rooms had secondary glazing installed by Selectaglaze as part of a multi-million-pound project to refurbish and restore the much-respected theatre, marking a new era of leisure and entertainment for the people of Tamworth and beyond

Main contractor Glasgow-based Novus Property Solutions was tasked with the extensive rebuilding of the renowned venue’s internal layout. This included creating a multipurpose building with more space that can be used for a variety of functions. The theatre was substantially refurbished and updated with its ornate historic features conserved.

The project was not without its challenges. The Grade II Listed Victorian building had suppressed many secrets of its poor condition resulting in additional works being unearthed and undertaken.

Much work was required to rejuvenate the large curved casement windows in the main theatre area. Having been boarded since the early 1970s, no natural light had entered the main auditorium for over 40 years. They were originally blocked up to create black-out for theatre productions and to improve acoustic controls. Directly outside the front of the theatre is a busy car park and a bus terminal, both of which generate a great deal of noise.

A solution was required to acoustically insulate the single glazed original arched casement windows while ensuring functional and aesthetic integrity. Novus got in touch with Selectaglaze to discuss the most sympathetic but practical options of secondary glazing to enhance the acoustic insulation.

Following a productive set of consultations, the Series 41 side hung casement was specified to 17 of the clerestory windows in the main theatre as it is a heavy-duty framing system ideal for large windows. With the openings measuring around 2.5m x 1m, a robust solution was needed.

One of the windows needed clearance to open over the side of the balcony seating platform and the decision was made to split the opening by transom coupling a Series 43 demountable fixed light and Series 41 unit. The specification of this style offers full access to the outer window and is unobtrusive so as not to impede the view or introduce any new sightlines.

Once all the windows were repaired and ready to house the secondary glazing, the timber sub frames were fixed back to the brick masonry without disturbing or damaging the existing lime plaster. These were specially designed with a 300mm wide flat surface at the centre of the soffit to allow for the positioning of motorised blinds which were to be used to black-out the theatre during performances.

The installation of the 19 secondary glazed units, with 6.4mm laminate glass was no easy task. The clerestory windows were approximately 4m from the ground and the units each weighed 93kg, so scaffolding had to be erected to facilitate the safe and secure installation.

“This theatre has been at the heart of the Tamworth community for generations and we wanted to make sure it stays that way. Not only has it been lovingly restored to its full Victorian glory, it has been significantly extended and modernised throughout and can now be used for a variety of purposes,” says operations officer Jody Ross.

“With its new café, meeting and conference spaces and information centre, visitors can be welcomed through the doors during the day, as well as the evenings. Bringing light back into the auditorium was a key part of that and has transformed the look and feel of the theatre. We have an impressive and varied programme of entertainment, with some top name performers, to welcome audiences back to a Tamworth Assembly Rooms which is bigger and better than ever.”

The much-loved theatre can now embark on a new chapter in its history having sympathetically enhanced and restored the historic features which make it such a special building.

Hallowed history

Discussions about the construction of Tamworth Assembly Rooms began in 1887 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria and it was subsequently opened in 1889. Since then the theatre has been a continuous hub of entertainment; hosting professional events including plays, musicians and local talent. The Beatles famously performed there in 1963, just months before they rocketed to stardom.

In more recent times the 130-year-old venue had fallen into a state of disrepair and finally closed its doors to the public in 2016. It was clear that a substantial refurbishment was needed, and this came in the form of a multi-million-pound scheme to create a new Enterprise Quarter in the heart of Tamworth.