In 1925 Fred Wilcox acquired the old Militia Mess Rooms, in Bondgate Without from the Duke of Northumberland and commissioned architects J. Oswald and Sons, of Newcastle, to design a theatre and picture house which would accommodate 1,200 people. The King’s Hall Theatre, in Nag’s Head Yard, had beeen run by generations of his family and he wanted to replace it.
Joseph Oswald was born on 19 March 1851 and was educated at Newcastle Royal Grammar School. His father, Septimus Oswald, was a founding member of the Northern Architectural Association. Joseph was articled to his father from 1863 to 1868, and remained as assistant until 1876 when he was taken into partnership. His father withdrew from the practice in 1891. Around 1900 Joseph took his son Harold Oswald into partnership, and so created the architectural practice J. Oswald & Son. His brother Gilbert subsequently also joined the practice. After Harold died in 1938 and Gilbert in 1945 the practice was carried on by various other partners.
Other notable buildings by J. Oswald and Son include:
- The Newcastle Central Arcade of 1906 is Grade-II* listed. This Edwardian shopping arcade was inserted into the Central Exchange building of 1836–38 after the interior was destroyed by fire. The practice had considerable experience in the use of Faience tiles, as a result of their work on Public Houses.
- Dozens of public houses for Newcastle Breweries. These include the “Beehive”, in Newcastle Cloth Market, of 1902 which is Grade-II listed; The Newcastle Arms in St Andrews Street, Newcastle upon Tyne; and the “Victoria” in Durham of 1899, which is Grade-II listed, and also included in the Campaign for Real Ale’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.
- The Bruce Building in Newcastle Haymarket. Former offices of the Newcastle Brewery from 1901, this was part of a bewery complex before it was purchased by Kings College of Durham University in the 1950’s, and became part of Newcastle University in 1963. It was Grade-II listed in 1987, and has now been redeveloped for mixed use, providing 57 apartments, a restaurant, and office space.
- Harold Oswald specialised in the design of race courses, including Hamilton, Lanark and Musselburgh.