Lancaster Grand Theatre - History and Facts | History Hit

Lancaster Grand Theatre

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

Celeste Neill

28 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Alamy

About Lancaster Grand Theatre

The Grand Theatre in Lancaster is one of the oldest theatres in England and the third oldest in Britain, having been in near continuous use since 1782. In 1908 a major fire gutted the interior of the Grand, after which it was reconstructed in an Edwardian design in which it remains to the present day.

History of the Lancaster Grand Theatre

The Lancaster Grand Theatre was one of the first permanent theatres in Britain. It has been a major part of the cultural life of Lancaster since it was opened in June 1782 by Joseph Austin and Charles Edward Whitlock, who managed a circuit of theatres across the north of England. Prior to its opening, local theatrical performances were held in barns and inns in the area, even though by the 1830s, the theatre was less used for performances, and increasingly for local meetings and formal lectures.

In 1884 the theatre was bought by Henry Wilkinson and was re-opened as the Athenaeum Theatre. In 1897, Frank Matcham, a respected theatre architect, designed an extensive re-modelling of the stage and auditorium which was subsequently destroyed by a fire in 1908. Some months later the theatre reopened in an Edwardian design in which it remains to the present day. Even after numerous extensions and alterations, much of the original stone has survived and the theatre is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.

The Lancaster Grand Theatre today

Today the theatre is owned by the Lancaster Footlights who started performing in the 1920s. They bought the Grand Theatre in 1951, saving it from demolition. The theatre is a key venue in the North West of England for amateur and professional touring companies, and the public can also take part in guided tours to explore the theatre’s history.

Getting to The Lancaster Grand Theatre

The theatre is located in the centre of the city and is a short walk from the train station. It is also easily accessible via various local public transport options.

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