IT is one of the treasures of Victorian Bournemouth – and it has been improved thanks to the 21st-century failure of the town’s Imax cinema.

Volunteers at the Shelley Theatre in Boscombe’s Shelley Manor recently took delivery of 220 seats ripped out of the defunct giant-screen auditorium.

Bournemouth council is recycling as much material as possible from the ill-fated Imax.

Most of the seats were earmarked for the Shelley Theatre, with others bound for the public gallery of the council chamber in the Town Hall.

The Shelley Theatre has been hidden from public view for much of its life – but the public have recently been let back in.

It is part of the building now known as Shelley Manor, which has a history steeped in literature.

A modest-sized house called Boscombe Cottage was first built as the residence of Phillip Norris in 1801.

A year later, the Christchurch Inclosures Act increased the estate size to 17 acres, and the property became the heart of the Boscombe Manor Estate.

In 1849, the house was sold to Sir Percy Florence Shelley, who intended to turn it into a home for his mother Mary Shelley – author of Frankenstein.

She died on February 1 1851 before she could move to Bournemouth.

Sir Percy had his mother’s body brought to Bournemouth buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth.

Sir Percy and his wife liked the manor, and decided to make it their home.

The house was extensively rebuilt for the couple – a process which included the creation of the 200-seat theatre, designed by Christopher Crabb Creeke, and added to the west end of the building in 1860.

The Shelleys often staged plays there to raise funds for medical services in Boscombe.

Robert Louis Stevenson had recently moved to Bournemouth and became a regular visitor and a friend of the Shelleys.

The building became Groveley Manor School in 1911 and was sold in 1936 to Bournemouth council to become a technical college.

It later housed the Shelley Rooms collection of artefacts, closed in the 2001 by Bournemouth council in a cost-cutting move.

The site was the subject of a lengthy dispute between the council and Bournemouth University as to who owned it.

After Bournemouth won that battle, it sold the site to Charles Higgins Primary Care Ltd in 2005.

A doctor’s surgery – Shelley Manor Medical Care – is now open on the premises but the developer was willing to restore the theatre and allow public performances there.

In October 2011, a candlelit production, Frankenstein – The Year Without a Summer, was the appropriate choice for the first public performance at the theatre for 110 years

Bournemouth Echo:

The latest boost to the theatre was the addition of the seats from Bournemouth’s giant screen Imax cinema, which opened in 2002 and closed in 2005.

Theatre director Patrick Keats said the local community had been supportive of the bid to restore the theatre to its former glory.

He said: “The buzz around Boscombe is incredible – people are very passionate about this place. They’re excited to see this theatre come to life.”