Theatre Royal Dumfries - History and Facts | History Hit

Theatre Royal Dumfries

Dumfries, Scotland, United Kingdon

Celeste Neill

28 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia / CC / Rosser1954

About Theatre Royal Dumfries

The Theatre Royal Dumfries opened in 1792 and is the oldest working theatre in Scotland. It has strong associations with Scottish poet Robert Burns, who wrote several pieces specifically for the theatre and helped raise finances for it to be built. The Theatre today is owned by the Guild of Players, who bought it in 1959, saving it from demolition.

History of Theatre Royal Dumfries

In the 1780s, local actor George Stephen Sutherland began a campaign for the construction of a theatre in Dumfries, keen to provide entertainment for visitors such as the Caledonian Hunt. Construction began in 1790 by local architect Thomas Boyd who took inspiration from the Theatres Royal in Bristol and Edinburgh. Completed at a cost of £800, it opened in September 1792 with an auditorium that could hold up to 600 people.

Many of those who visited the theatre owned a subscriber’s token that granted the bearer entry to any performance as a thank you for helping fund the theatre’s construction. Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns helped raise local finances to begin construction of the theatre while he lived in Dumfries. He wrote several pieces for performance on the stage, including ‘A Scots Prologue’ which was performed at a fundraiser for the theatre.

In 1909, the theatre was purchased by P. Stobie & Son who took advantage of the late Victorian craze for roller skating and installed a flat floor. The theatre shortly after took on a new identity as The Electric Theatre’ and played an important part in the development of cinema in the area.

The Theatre Royal Dumfries today

The theatre was bought by the Guild of Players in 1959 at a time when demolition seemed a likely prospect. In addition to the Guild’s own annual programme of plays and the Christmas pantomime, it hosts productions by professional touring companies such as Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.

Getting to the Theatre Royal Dumfries

Free parking is available in Brooms Road car park, a short walk from the theatre. Trains to Dumfries run every two hours from Carlisle and Glasgow. The theatre is a 10 minute walk from the train station.

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