High Street – Biggleswade
George’s Hall was designed as a Theatre and Dance Hall on the first floor with the Liberal Club and two lock-up shops on the ground floor and the caretaker’s house at the rear. It was designed by Charles Owen Jones, a local architect and built by Charles Wright of Langford at a cost of £2,831. Named after David Lloyd George (1863-1945) the Liberal Statesman, it was completed in September 1912. Two months later building work commenced on the new Empire Cinema in Hitchin Street and Georges Hall was hurriedly fitted up to show films. Georges Picture Palace opened to the public at 6pm on Saturday 23rd November 1912. Popular variety shows were staged from time to time and Harry Houdini the famous escapologist appeared at Georges Theatre in February 1920.
It became The Playhouse in 1923 and The New Casino in 1925 under the control of Frank Arnold of Charing Cross Road, London presenting musical comedy, revue, drama, star varieties and concert parties. It was back to Georges Hall in 1933 with varied forms of live entertainment. Biggleswade Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society presented a farce “When Knights Were Bold” in October 1934. The annual Pantomime was staged for many years and eagerly looked forward to. Popular dances at weekends included local bands conducted by Joe Moulden and Gus Roberts.
The balcony was a favourite spot for liberal candidates at elections and also for photographing local events. There is no record of David Lloyd George visiting, but his daughter Megan Lloyd-George the Liberal MP addressed an election meeting at Georges Hall in 1931. Later, in 1955 as Lady Megan Lloyd-George, she spoke to a large crowd on the Market Square.
During the 1939-45 War it was a centre of entertainment and was packed out every week with dancers organised by the V Gang who raised funds for charitable causes. Over 150 local residents became Prisoners of War and after their return Georges Hall was the venue for the Official reception and entertainment on 12th January 1946. George Robey (The Prime Minister of Mirth) headed a star bill.
The Old Tyme Dancing Club used the hall regularly for many years. Georges Hall was the venue in the 1950’s for the yearly selection of the Carnival Queen.
Yet another use was found for the Hall in the 1990’s when fashionable clothing was manufactured. The clothing factory closed circa 2000 and the two shops closed about two years ago (2003) when it was rumoured that the building was about to be sold, but the Liberal Club remains in the ground floor.
I am sure that it would be of benefit to the community if the whole building could be restored to its former glory and it would be nice if Biggleswade had an active theatre and function hall in the town centre. There is ample parking in the vicinity soon (2005) to be augmented with 350 spaces available when ASDA develop the old brewery site.
23rd February 2004