A run-down former swimming pool and public hall that has been decaying for years is to be restored after a long-planned restoration was finally agreed upon.

Current state of the building (c) Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects / Guildmore

It won’t be a swimming pool though, as it’s being restored and converted into an independent cinema, to be known as the Ladywell Cinema. The restoration project will be led by Guildmore, in partnership with an independent cinema operator, and subject to planning permission, work will begin next year, with the cinema due to open to the public in 2024.

The Playtower originally opened in 1884 as a swimming pool and public hall and, despite closing to the public in 2004, and having suffered from some fire in 2006, the Grade II listed building remains a feature of the neighbourhood. Over the last few years, the Council has been developing plans to bring the building back into public use and safeguard its future.

The intention is to bring the Playtower back into public use (estimated cost in excess of £7 million) by delivering a mixed-use scheme comprising a cinema, associated bar/restaurant, and new homes.

The location is ideal, being a short walk from Ladywell station and Lewisham town centre.

While the original restoration plans were delayed as a result of the pandemic, an agreement has now been finalised with Guildmore to progress the project. After the previous cinema operator, Curzon had to withdraw from the project due to the impact of the pandemic, an independent operator has been found to run the new Ladywell Cinema.

There are going concerns that further delays to the restoration will cause more damage to the already badly decaying building, and push up the cost of the eventual works. The cost of the restoration has already risen sharply, from an original estimate of £4.5 million to the £7 million it’s expected to cost now. That also means that original plans for 21 flats in the new homes had to be increased to a likely 33 flats to cover the extra costs.

The interior of the main hall (c) Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects / Guildmore

Lyn Goleby, of The Ladywell Cinema, said: “I’m pleased to be working with Guildmore to help them bring a cinema to Ladywell. This project has been long in the making and I hope it will make an important contribution to the economy and liveliness of the area. It is very exciting to be working on bringing back such a beautiful building to a vibrant new use and I’ll look forward to working with the local community.”

Proposed restoration (c) Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects / Guildmore


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  1. Dave says:

    Finally… after nearly 20 years something is being done with this fine building. And a cinema. For many years LB Lewisham was probably the only borough that didn’t have one. Outsourced to Greenwich or Bromley or Peckham – jump on the bus.
    There is now a small cinema at Goldsmiths College in New Cross and allegedly another will be in the new construction by Lewisham station – we shall see.
    But a much needed resource to look forward to.

    • dan says:

      The cinema at Goldsmiths has been closed. It was a a terrific little venue showing all the latest and best of commercial and world releases. it was the one thing that Goldsmith did for the local area.

    • RFH says:

      There is a cinema in Catford, Catford Mews. A great venue.

  2. Judy says:

    Yes, this has been a long time coming. I remember it in the 1990’s when it was a free indoor and sometimes outdoor in good weather play centre for under 5’s, hence Playtower, as well as a cafe . A brilliant resource for parents and it would be nice if something of that might be retained .

  3. Rick says:

    Before Power League or Goals there was this venue. In the main hall Friday night five a side tournaments in the 1970s.

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