Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

ABC of Chippenham: Goldiggers

I have a confession to make: what you're looking at isn't Goldiggers at all. It's 'son of Goldiggers', the development which replaced it in 2005. When we moved to Chippenham in 1984, Goldiggers was the place to be at weekends. You might have 'been' there too as it was frequently where
Sight and Sound In Concert was recorded for BBC TV in the 1980s.

Goldiggers started life as the Gaumont cinema, an Art Deco building designed by the cinema architect W E Trent which opened in 1936. It was then was converted to a popular nightclub/concert venue in the 1970s and was owned by Sir Richard Branson in the 1980s.

It also housed The Bit on the Side, a bar which had a trompe l'oeile painting on the outside wall. Inside was a place which drew thousands of clubbers from around the country plus very well-known bands to perform there such as The Smiths, The Boomtown Rats and The Style Council (here's a longer list for your perusal). This video shows the late Gary Moore in action, so you get an idea of what it was like. There's also a video of it in nightclub mode, but the cameraman had a bit of a problem with the vertical hold ;)

NAH and I went there just once: in 1984 to see Howard Jones (don't ask) in concert. We'd never been to a gig at a nightclub before, so didn't realise there was about 3 hours of disco to endure before the main act came on at 11pm. It was a week night and we'd both just started new jobs, so were a bit concerned how our late night (well actually morning) was going to affect things the next day. As you can see, we survived to tell the tale.

At some point I believe it was sold by Richard Branson and the club started to go downhill and developed a reputation for drugs. Finally sometime in 1999/2000, the lease was forfeited for non-payment of rent, and the building repossessed. Most people in the town wanted the building to remain as a leisure/community facility, but it was finally demolished in 2005 to make way for shops on the ground floor with retirement flats above them - I always thought this decision was a bit daft.

The new building is roughly the same footprint as the old and looking at NAH's photo above (taken just before demolition) I'm wondering if the the windows/stone carvings on the new building are the ones taken from the old. Most of the shops are still empty (this isn't exactly the busy part of Chippenham), though one part was recently rented out to an insurance company. Some of the retirement flats have been the subject for my Unusual Front Gardens series and I used a more conventional angle for the photograph that time ;)

This is for ABC Wednesday and is the seventh in my themed round of posts about Chippenham.

6 comments:

  1. you don't have to apologize for seeing Howard jones; I liked some of his music!
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

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  2. They do look like the same tops. What a shame the building could not be saved, it sure had an interesting history.

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  3. Cute!

    Please visit my first ABC entry, thank you and nice to meet you through ABC.

    I am now your follower, will you follow my blog too?

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  4. Hopefully, the shops aren't too loud and obtrusive for the the folks who'll be living above them.

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  5. It won't really be missed physically though will it - definitely seen better days (as has Howard Jones I suspect)

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  6. ABCers - welcome to Joy and Ms Burrito - I'll hop on over for a visit soon :)

    Mark - I miss the wasted opportunity. I'd forgotten how much people in the town wanted the building to stay and be used for the community. I miss the trompe l'oiel picture too. Researching this piece brought it all back.

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