Northern developments of the town began in the early 1800’s when plans to create a new town, complete with gardens, features and services “suitable to the reception of genteel families” on the Calverley Estate.
This extensive undertaking was designed by a brilliant young architect named Decimus Burton who had made his name designing and building the innovative residential area of Regents Park.
He designed and built the private residences in Calverley Park and Calverley Park Terrace. Calverley Park contains twenty-four villas overlooking 20 acres of meadow and park grounds, known today as Calverley Grounds, which are chiefly in the Italian and Grecian style.
Using local stone from the quarry on the Calverley Estate, he also remodelled and extended Calverley House, a Georgian mansion, now the Hotel Du Vin. It was here that Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria) stayed as a young girl.
The new town springing up included villas, a terrace, a parade, rows of shops, a market place, the gothic Holy Trinity Church (now a Theatre & Arts Centre) and the Calverley Mews, which afford extensive accommodation for horses and carriages. All this was completed in 20 years “so that the residents upon this estate might enjoy the same advantages as those who lived nearer the springs.”
The Great Hall (1870 – 1872) at the bottom of Mount Pleasant Road, was designed by a local architect in a contemporary French style with a large hall which was to supply the demand for public rooms for cultural activities including lectures, concerts and social events.
There was also a library and reading room in The Great Hall which was eventually destroyed in a mysterious fire.
The purpose built Opera House, at the top of Mount Pleasant Road, opened in 1902. Originally it was planned for the opening to coincide with the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
In 1931 the Opera House converted to a cinema which had to compete with the large newly built Ritz cinema, once described as “Kent’s most luxurious cinema” which opened its doors in 1934.
Today the Opera House is a popular pub; it still retains the stage and grand balconies and occasionally transforms back into an Opera House for a night or two. To see it is to hardly believe it!