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The Rushden Echo, 9th March 1962, transcribed by Jim Hollis
A New Flat in an Old Palace
The buiness with flat above
Car showroom with flat above

When a Rushden man converted one of the town’s cinemas into a motor showroom and living accommodation, the only reminder he left that the building was once a cinema was the name on an outside wall – The Palace. The title is appropriate, for it describes equally well the luxurious, contemporary flat above the showroom.

Mr. Donald Wills and his wife, June, live in Alfred Street, where they converted the former Palace Cinema – it closed in 1956 – for their own use. Their five-room home was designed for a maximum of comfort which has been achieved despite subtle space-saving measures, which were incorporated.

Designed and built in three months, the flat has a modern all-electric kitchen, dining-cum-drawing room, two bedrooms and a bathroom.

Originally, Mr. Wills – whose previous home was just across the street – intended to build a house elsewhere in Rushden, but a friend suggested that he could have his business and home together if he converted the Palace, which was for sale.

Mr. Wills thought this was a good idea; he wanted to expand his taxi business into a car sales one, so he bought the property. Then it was only a matter of putting in a concrete floor – above where the cinema screen used to be – and he had his home and business premises under the same roof.

Limited Space

As space was limited the accent was on economy. Everything in the Wills’ home is designed along these lines – but the layout is such that it is hard to have any feeling of being cramped.

The kitchen – as in the rest of the flat, cupboard space is plentiful – is connected to the main living room by a wooden and glass panelled hatch, which cuts the delivery of meals to a minimum. The living room is divided into two parts – in theory, not in practice. The dining section is only separated from the other part by a low shelf which extends about a quarter of the way across the main room.

To obtain the maximum of light, there are three glass doors, the front door, the one which leads into the main room from the entrance hall, and the main bedroom door. The only room which needs artificial lighting because there is no natural light is the bathroom – a window in which overlooks the downstairs showrooms.

The furniture throughout is contemporary. The heating is under the floor, so that there was no need to erect a chimney in the flat. Mr. Wills said: “Because of this there is hardly any dust, cleaning the place is very easy.”

Easy To Run

Kitchen Lounge
His wife agrees: It is very easy to run – there is very little work involved. The kitchen is well designed, with all the cupboards just where they should be, and no floor space is wasted.”

Because it would have been difficult to build an inside staircase, the entrance to the flat – wooden steps – is outside, leading from the compact forecourt adjacent to the building.

The Wills’ nine-year-old daughter, Julia, occupies the second bedroom – complete with television set and wallpaper with a suitable design.

Visitors to the flat, said Mr. Wills, are always full of admiration. The most frequent comment he hears is: “Wasn’t this a picture house once?” One person who dropped in recently knew it was – he was the former manager, who expressed amazement at the conversion, and commented on the fine way in which it has been carried out.

The extensive use of wood adds to the smartness of the flat; the doors are mahogany, the panel’s sapele and the floor is made of teak. The colourful furniture and fittings make an attractive blend.

Magazine Article

The flat has been the subject of much admiration – and perhaps even envy. This is widespread and a woman’s magazine intends to feature it shortly in a series about similar conversions of railway stations and public houses all over the country.

However, for the builder, Mr. D. Rawlings, of Rushden – who has a similar flat – it was “just another job,” with no special difficulties encountered.

Special Challenge

For the architect, Mr. Eddie Shrive, who lives at Colmworth, in Bedfordshire, it was more than routine. “Designing a new building is pretty straightforward,” he told us. “But where there are limitations it is a special challenge.

“In this case I had to get so much into the space available between the four existing walls,” he explained.

Anyone who has visited the flat knows that he succeeded in meeting the challenge.

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