A campaign to stop an old picture house on the brink of demolition from being destroyed has been launched by villagers across Sunninghill.

The Novello Theatre, located on Sunninghill High Street, dates back to the beginning of the 20th century when it was used as one of the first cinemas serving the local community.

After being relinquished back to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, the people of Sunninghill have come together to propose it be designated a community asset within the town.

For the past 10 years, the theatre has been in a long-term lease with the Maidenhead-based Red Roof Theatre School. 

According to a local resident, The Royal Borough has set aside funding for its possible demolition within the 2024/25 budget. Members of the community have now made it their mission to save this valuable piece of history within the Berkshire village. 

The chairperson of the management committee of Cordes Hall, Jane Richardson spoke to the News about the campaign to save the theatre

Jane said: “The building has been owned by the council since the late eighties and it’s been in the town for over a hundred years.

“We couldn’t believe it when we heard that it might be demolished. So many local people would love it for community use. It would be fantastic for local schools and groups to use and rent out for different events.

“In April the Cordes Hall went through a safety survey and they found that some of the external cladding was falling off the Novello’s roof but from our understanding, the surveyor wasn’t concerned about the structure.

“We have been thinking that the local community can either buy or lease the building.”

Alan Everate of the Spotlight Theatre Group has supposedly come forward with the possibility of using the theatre to create a home for a performing arts school in Sunninghill.

A petition was started by Denise and Robert Elison from Chapman’s on Sunninghill High Street to help save the theatre from demolition.

The paper petition is available at both Chapman’s and Inspirations on Sunninghill High Street and has so far got 200 signatures.

A meeting has now been organised at the CORDES Hall on Wednesday, January 24 at 8:15pm to discuss who would interested in the possibility of restoring the building for the benefit of the local community. The local community has been invited to give their views.

The Sunninghill and Ascot Parish Council are supporting this endeavour to preserve the history of the town.

Councillor Joshua Reynolds, Cabinet member for communities and leisure, said: “The Novello Theatre building was bought privately by the council’s predecessor at full market rate in 1966 and was leased out for many years. As part of taking lease surrender from the most recent leaseholder last summer, the council asked a surveyor to inspect the building.

"This identified the now-empty building is in a very poor condition and would require significant investment and refurbishment to make it useable again. A significant part of the structure is ageing asbestos sheeting. The council is required to get best value from all its assets. We’re happy to speak with anyone – community groups, parish council or individuals – who has a scheme and sufficient funding to repair and convert it for a viable future use.

"I’ve spoken to many local residents who are interested in the theatre and am open to working constructively with the community. The funding requested in the budget, if agreed, will be used for interim safety works pending a final decision on the building’s future.”