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
Frontage designed & constructed
Front of building is constructed for internal Exchange Hall to the designs of Joseph Medworth.
Town Council move in
Wisbech Town Council occupy the ground floor, whilst the upper storeys are in use as a gentlemen’s billiards club.
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.
The Corn Exchange is used for public entertainment, including Shakespeare recitals.
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.
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 - 1965
Rollerskating on Fridays, Dances on Saturdays
The record number of dancers on a Saturday night is 800 people.
1955 - 1964
Miss Wisbech Beauty Queen Contest
First “Teen Sensation” Terry Dene performs on April 12th
Adam Faith performs on January 26th
Image (c) Lilian Ream Collection
The Rolling Stones perform on July 19th
Jerry Lee Lewis performs on Dec 5th
Bingo is played for the first time
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.
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).
Manager Gordon Jacobs dies
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.
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.
Norman Jacobs is awarded an MBE for services to business and charity in East Anglia
Owner Norman Jacobs dies
Looking to the Future
Norman Jacobs Jnr. proposes ‘The Wisbech Corn Exchange Conservation Trust’.
… & Remembering the Past
Local historian Kevin Rodgers’ book ‘Dancing at the Corn Exchange’ is published.
160 years of Wisbech Corn Exchange
Heritage Open Days in September celebrate 160 years of Wisbech Corn Exchange as a public entertainment space.