This week marks eight years since a town's beautiful old art deco cinema burnt down.

A blaze on March 22, 2016, destroyed the 1930s Regent Cinema in Lyme Regis.

Smoke and flames were seen for miles as the fire took hold and led to the roof of the listed building collapsing.

The fire started after an electrical fault in the roof space and the alarm was raised by a cleaner working in the cinema.

The blaze led to part of the town being closed off and people warned to stay indoors due to asbestos in the building.

Around 50 firefighters from across Dorset, Devon and Somerset were involved in tackling the blaze.

Dorset Echo: The blaze which destroyed the Lyme Regis Regent cinemaThe blaze which destroyed the Lyme Regis Regent cinema (Image: NQ)

Due to the collapse it meant crews could only fight the fire from outside, battling to prevent it spreading to neighbouring buildings.

No-one was injured and Woodmead Halls was opened in case of evacuation of nearby properties.

Speaking to the News at the time, Amy Schwartz said she could hear “the occasional big boom and black smoke”.

Tom White said: “I thought it was a bonfire then the smoke got blacker and the flames started engulfing the roof and you could hear loud cracks.”

Firefighters were seen running across Broad Street with clothes from Neat, which shared the building with the cinema.

Sue Clark from the shop, said: “I have been told by fire professionals that the front part of the cinema was saved because of the fire doors which closed and that helped protect the shop as well.

“The firefighters were fantastic and moved the stock out of the shop and into the baptist church across the road, so we are extremely grateful to them.”

Dorset Echo: Belching smoke coming from the rear of the cinemaBelching smoke coming from the rear of the cinema (Image: NQ)

A statement from the company said: “Naturally, Scott Cinemas is saddened by the loss of this wonderful example of art deco architecture, especially after our recent completion of extensive refurbishment, and the loss of the cinema facility to the town of Lyme Regis.

“We also apologise for the disruption to the town that this event caused, but thank the townsfolk for the overwhelming and touching messages of support we have received. “We would also like to take this moment to thank Dorset Fire and Rescue and other emergency services who did everything possible.

“We are fully confident that this loss of the cinema facility will be temporary, and that the Regent will be rebuilt to its former glory. As a listed building it was insured with this requirement in mind.”

Dorset Echo: Inside the gutted Regent CinemaInside the gutted Regent Cinema (Image: Echo photographer)

Speaking after the fire, deputy and acting manager Dom Boull, said: “Myself and everybody at Scott Cinemas are devastated at the news at the Regent cinema.

“No one was hurt thankfully. Thank you very much to all our amazing local and distant customers who were there and for all the kind words that have been said in person and posted on social media. It really dose mean a lot to me.

“The cinema will be re-built and will be back open as soon as possible. The Regent lives on.”

Dorset Echo: How the Bridport and Lyme Regis News reported the incidentHow the Bridport and Lyme Regis News reported the incident (Image: NQ)

Cllr Brian Larcombe hoped the “special place” would be rebuilt after the fire.

He said: “It is unbelievable that it has gone.

Holidaymakers expect a cinema in a resort and I think it will have quite an impact.

“It is such a special place to residents and families. Hopefully it can be rebuilt as the town isn’t the same without it. I think people will rally round for the Lyme pictures.”

Local resident Rosemary Bowler added: “It is a fabulous cinema and I cannot believe what has happened.

“They have just had a major refurbishment and it’s a beautiful art-deco building.

“The cinema is central to the town and is well used.”

Dorset Echo: : The Bridport News covered the opening night of The Regent in 1937. Inset: The Limping Man: The Bridport News covered the opening night of The Regent in 1937. Inset: The Limping Man (Image: Lyme Regis Film Society)

The Regent was opened in 1937 by a local cinema operator Donald Hardy with a showing of The Limping Man.

It was designed by Bristol architect W.H.Watkins who was responsible for a large number of cinemas in the Bristol and south west.

It is designed in late Art Deco “streamlined” style. Originally it had a “Hollophane” lighting system whereby motorised dimmers slowly changed and mixed red, blue and green lights, concealed in troughs, to bathe the auditorium in coloured light.

Mr Hardy operated the cinema until the early 1970s when he sold a controlling interest to the late Gordon Vearncome who also ran cinemas at Tiverton and South Molton.

Ownership then passed to the late Mr. C.C.W.Scott and thence into Scott Cinemas.

At the opening the Mayor and other dignitaries watched a thriller with an all-English cast.

Mr Hardy continued to put on a programme during the Second World War.

Local people came to support the Regent and joined the queue down Broad Street with American soldiers and members of the British forces on leave.

The Bridport and Lyme Regis News recorded the Regent’s Golden Jubilee with enthusiasm, headlining its tribute with the words “Regent is Jewel in Lyme Crown”.

Thanks to the Lyme Regis Film Society for this history.

The Regent building was  eventually rebuilt and Beaminster-based Black Cow has now put the building to new use following months of planning and licensing issues.

The Regent Cinema building is now home to Black Cow's Black Cow Saloon bar.