The British love of bingo is well known but not everyone is aware of the glorious surroundings in which players have traditionally sat down to cross off their numbers. Any visitor to the country is likely to be surprised to see that some big, fine old buildings are dedicated to this popular pastime.
The truth is that there is a very simple reason why many of the country’s best bingo halls are historic buildings that have long and fascinating histories behind them.
image courtesy of Geograph
The Declining Use of Atmospheric Theatres
Across the UK, falling attendances in theatres and cinemas led to big, empty buildings in the aftermath of World War Two. These places were often located in prime spots in the center of towns and were among the most iconic buildings locally, meaning that tearing them down wasn’t a popular choice.
The growing popularity of the game of bingo in this same period meant that switching a building’s use from a theater to a bingo hall was a smart move to fill it up again and make it useful. In most cases, there was no need for a huge amount of work to be done in this conversion.
Therefore, bingo players could enjoy the thrills of this exciting pastime in a glorious setting. Presumably, they would often hark back to the building’s days as a cinema or theater and reminisce about the great shows that they had seen there in the past while they waited for a full house.
Other struggling theatres were turned into bars, nightclubs, religious centres, and restaurants, such as in the image below.
image courtesy of Geograph
Two Uses at Once
The fact that these theatres only needed a limited amount of work carried out to convert them into bingo halls meant that using for both purposes at the same time was also a tempting option. The building could generate more income for the owners by having different functions throughout the week.
In this way, a theater that was struggling to make ends meet could still carry on producing shows while the regular bingo evenings helped to pay the bills. The local population also benefitted from having two interesting but very different options for using the building.
Bingo remains a thriving pastime in the UK and many people still play in these wonderfully atmospheric old buildings. However, the inexorable rise of online bingo means that others play at home instead.
This flexibility means that the option is there to either play in an old theatre or else try 80 ball bingo and experience the fun of playing bingo online. Therefore, it is clear to see that the UK’s bingo players are still spoiled for choice.
Haunted Bingo Halls
Given the age of these buildings and the many dramatic events that they have witnessed, it is no surprise to see that a number of the UK’s theatres that operated as bingo halls have also been linked with mysterious sightings of ghosts and other paranormal activity.
For instance, the former Gaumont Theatre in Rosehill, Surrey was the scene of numerous apparitions by the Grey Man. Equally, the Invicta in Chatham, Kent was said to be haunted by a figure known only as the Man in Green. A Bishop Auckland, County Durham bingo hall that was once a theatre and then a cinema was the scene of an alleged haunting by the Grey Lady.
The Future of These Buildings
For the time being, some bingo halls have been closed recently but it appears that there is scope for their historic buildings to continue alongside the modern option of playing online at home.