Today we're looking at a Weymouth building with a very rich past.

The Jubilee Hall in St Thomas Street, Weymouth town centre, which was demolished in the 1990s, has a chequered history, one which Looking Back reader Sue Hogben has been very kind to share with us.

In 1887 a plot in the centre of town was cleared to build a new theatre in Weymouth. The Jubilee Hall was designed to seat 2,000 to 3,000 people.

Problems dogged this beautifully ornate building right from its very beginning. Ultimately, as a theatre, it didn’t work well.

The space inside was vast, but patrons were not comfortable because the building was extremely cold and draughty. Even the sound acoustics left a lot to be desired.

Despite this, the building was well used by the surrounding community over the years and housed many a boisterous public gathering and closed shop meetings such as the Trades Union Congress.

When the Fleet arrived in town, they too were welcomed within its doors. In February of 1896, St Thomas Street was all abustle with Jolly Jack Tars from the Royal Navy.

Its finely decorated rooms were also used to hold somewhat more grim proceedings, looking into the bodies of men, a place where a jury of local fine upstanding men filed into their seats, put before them many harrowing details of some poor souls' sudden demise, a destination for many an inquest into local accidents and death.

September of 1899 and the hall's walls echoed with the gloomy and gory tale of the death of naval stoker John Gibbons, the gruesome facts were laid before the jury: “The whole of the train, with the exception of one wagon, had passed over the deceased’s body.”

In 1909 it became one of the first places in Weymouth to regularly show the 'new fangled' moving pictures, by now its name had been altered to The Royal Jubilee Hall and Picture Palace.

The good, the bad, and the downright bizarre appeared on stage here.

In 1913 headlines appeared in papers nationwide and a strange turn of events involving a lion being let out of its cage was reported even as far afield as the Sheffield Evening Telegraph.

And the headline? The Lion was unmoved.

Towards the end of a performance at the Jubilee Hall the cage door of a performing lion was opened, and two young ladies, both popular amateur vocalists, The Misses Joan and Veronique Walker, daughters of a Weymouth doctor, entered the cage and sang a duet, Tostie’s Goodbye, one playing a cello and the other a violin accompaniment.

The audience was excited, but the vocalists were perfectly cool, while the lion evinced not the slightest interest in the music. He had completed his part of the show, and just drowsily tolerated the new ‘turn.”

In 1926, it was all change, the inside of the vast space was altered and the hall became known as The Regent Theatre and Dance Hall.

The advert above is from a Weymouth guide of 1927, showing that the old Victorian music hall had been rebranded and it was now being hailed as “The Wonder House of the West.”

A couple of years later, it became the very first picture house in Weymouth to show talking movies.

Just after the Second World War, in 1951, it was time to change the name again and the Regent became known as The Gaumont Cinema and Dance Hall.

Times and money were hard though, and it didn’t survive long as a business, fairly soon after its grand reopening, it firmly closed its doors.

Next came a complete change of use for this grand old dame - Weyrads, a local radio component manufacturer took over the space to use as their additional work premises.

Hear about more of the hall's many guises in next week's Looking Back.