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History

Built in 1811, following plans by Joseph Medworth, as an Exchange Hall and Gentlemen’s Club, the Corn Exchange became home to Wisbech Town Council in 1835, where it remains resident to the present day.

In the latter years of the 20th century, the Corn Exchange became a regular place for public entertainment – from Shakespeare recitations to dancing, rollerskating, wrestling and bingo. Appearances by major figures in the 1960s include The Rolling Stones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lulu, Tom Jones, Adam Faith, Frankie Vaughan and The Hollies. The Corn Exchange closed in the early 1990s after initial plans to change its use to a cinema were halted.

Wisbech Corn Exchange Timeline

1811

Frontage designed & constructed

Front of building is constructed for internal Exchange Hall to the designs of Joseph Medworth.

1811

1835

Town Council move in

Wisbech Town Council occupy the ground floor, whilst the upper storeys are in use as a gentlemen’s billiards club.

1835

1857

The Corn Exchange is built

Behind the frontage of the Town Hall today’s Corn Exchange is erected to the design of Lincolnshire architect Bellamy.

The Town Council move upstairs.

1857

1858

Victorian entertainment

The Corn Exchange is used for public entertainment, including Shakespeare recitals.

1858

1940 - 1947

The War Years

The Corn Exchange is used as a “British Restaurant”, provided low-cost meals for local people to supplement rations.

It also serves as the HQ for the Home Front. 

1940 - 1947

1948

Norman Jacobs takes charge

Norman takes out a 3 year lease on the Corn Exchange for £1000, and opens it as an entertainment venue. His brother Gordon acts as manager.

People come to enjoy jazz and light dance hall music, including Ronnie Scott and The John Barry Seven.

The first dance takes place on October 16th.

1948

1948 - 1965

Rollerskating on Fridays, Dances on Saturdays

The record number of dancers on a Saturday night is 800 people.

1948 - 1965

1955 - 1964

Miss Wisbech Beauty Queen Contest

1955 - 1964

1958

First “Teen Sensation” Terry Dene performs on April 12th

1958

1962

Adam Faith performs on January 26th

Image (c) Lilian Ream Collection

1962

1963

The Rolling Stones perform on July 19th

 

1963

1964

Jerry Lee Lewis performs on Dec 5th

1964

1964

Bingo is played for the first time

1964

1965

The last Dance is held

Young people’s tastes are changing, and dances have been held intermittently throughout 1965 due to decreasing attendance. On the 21st August the last dance of the 20th century takes place. Just 70 people come along.

1965

1964 - 1992

Bingo & Social Club

Incredibly popular with local people, the Corn Exchange nights even feature star turns by celebrities of the day such as Coronation Street’s Pat Phoenix (actress Elsie Tanner).

1964 - 1992

1979

Manager Gordon Jacobs dies

1979

1986

Norman Jacobs purchases the Corn Exchange

38 years after his first involvement with the Corn Exchange, Norman purchases it from Wisbech Town Council.

In the same year Manager Tony Jacobs dies. 

1986

1992

The End of an Era

Manager Doris Jacobs dies; bingo ceases and the Corn Exchange closes its doors.

Plans to convert the building into a cinema are abandoned when funding bids fail.  The Corn Exchange remains dormant for the next 26 years.

1992

2008

Norman Jacobs is awarded an MBE for services to business and charity in East Anglia

 

2008

2016

Owner Norman Jacobs dies

2016

2017

Looking to the Future

Norman Jacobs Jnr. proposes ‘The Wisbech Corn Exchange Conservation Trust’.

2017

2017

… & Remembering the Past

Local historian Kevin Rodgers’ book ‘Dancing at the Corn Exchange’ is published.

2017

2018

160 years of Wisbech Corn Exchange

Heritage Open Days in September celebrate 160 years of Wisbech Corn Exchange as a public entertainment space.

2018