Built in 1818, the now Grade II listed Norwich Street building first housed a coachworks. It was said to have had a high reputation, making carriages for the nobility and even some foreign royalty.
After the coachbuilding business declined, in 1908 the building was put up for sale and was purchased for use as a public hall. The building’s middle floors were removed, a balcony was created at the south end and a proscenium arch stage at the opposite end.
During the First World War the hall was turned into the Picture Palace, showing silent films including those starring Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplain.
But with the introduction of sound into moving pictures the venue lost trade to the Exchange Cinema in the market Place. In 1934 it was converted into a heated swimming pool, which is still underneath the hall’s floor to this day.
In the winter the pool was boarded up and the hall became a dance and concert venue. During the Second World War it became a cinema again; now known as the Pool Cinema.
The Urban District Council purchased the hall for public use after the war and in 1949 it was renamed the Memorial Hall in honour of those who lost their lives in the two World Wars; plaques listing their names were put up outside in the entranceway.
Through time the hall has become a hub for theatre, live music and other cultural events in the town, but by 2009 was starting to show its age, and needed a major refurbishment. In December 2011 the hall reopened after an 18 month and £2.3 million refurbishment and extension.
The Hall is now a multi-use community facility capable of accommodating professional shows and community activities and is ready to be a part of Dereham life for another 200 years.