Rediscovery and Restoration

Georgian Theatre Royal

Through the second half of the 19th century the theatre building was used for other purposes. It was not rediscovered and restored as a playhouse until the mid 20th century.

The Decline of the Theatre
The theatre was used regularly by the Butler company until 1830, but then its use declined.

Mrs Butler and Samuel Junior kept the company and its circuit going through the 1820s, however in 1830 they did not renew their lease for the Richmond Theatre.

The military garrison and the racecourse had closed. Lead mining and sheep farming were in decline, reducing the wealth and population of the town and audience numbers for the theatre dwindled.

The Theatre was used occasionally by other companies and managers.

Sometimes the theatre was hired by local people for performances.

The Theatre Closes
In 1848 the Theatre finally closes.  The pit was covered over and made into a wine store, whilst the upper part of the theatre was used as an auction house.

Over the next 100 years, the building served a variety of purposes. It was used as a store for grain, paper and furniture.

Rediscovering the Theatre
In 1939 pupils at Richmond School led by their history master, Edwin Bush, investigate the building and its history.

David Brooks, Richmond's town clerk encouraged the building to be re-used as a theatre as part of celebrations of one of the town's charters in 1943.

As part of celebrations in commemoration of a town charter, a curtained stage was set up and the building was used for performances during 1943.

A curtained stage was set up for performances of three plays.

A further performance took place on August 6th, after which the stage curtain was once more taken down.

Investigating the Theatre
After the war, the building and what remained of the 18th century playhouse began to be seriously investigated.

Dr Richard Southern, a theatre historian, together with the architect, Richard Leacroft carried out extensive research into the building's history.

The pit was rediscovered. When the lower part of the building was converted to a wine cellar, the pit had been covered up and brick vaults constructed below the new floor.

Appeal for Restoration
Lady Nancy Crathorne, wife of Richmond’s MP, launches a successful fundraising appeal to restore the Theatre.

The pit was uncovered and benches were added as part of the renovation of the theatre.

Gala Celebration
The restoration was completed In 1963 and the re-opening of the theatre was celebrated with a gala performance.

The opening was attended by the Princess Royal.

The gala performance is led by Dame Edith Evans and Dame Sybil Thorndyke.

Credits: Story

Images from the archive of The Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond.

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