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Theatres in Crewe, Cheshire, England

The Lyceum Theatre - The Borough Theatre of Varieties

See Also in this Area - Liverpool Theatres - Manchester Theatres - Stoke on Trent Theatres

The Lyceum Theatre, Heath Street, Crewe, Cheshire

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The Lyceum Theatre Crewe is situated in Heath Street, Crewe, Cheshire. The first Theatre on the site was a conversion of an old Roman Catholic Church which had been used as an auction mart. The building was centrally situated close to the market, with easy access from all parts of the town. Mr Henry Taylor, a printer and keen amateur dramatist, together with his partner Mr Thomas Cliff, a local Farmer and landowner, acquired the old Roman Catholic Church in 1881.

A report in the ERA Newspaper dated 3rd December 1881 reported that:- 'At the Crewe Borough Sessions, on Tuesday, Mr Brooks applied, on behalf of Mr Henry Taylor, High-street for a licence for the performance of stage plays at a building in Heath Street, which at one time had been a Roman Catholic chapel, but which for the last eighteen months has been used as an auction mart by the applicant.

The building was very suitable for the purpose. The character and position of the applicant were well known, he having been a tradesman in the town for fourteen years. There could be no doubt that Mr Taylor would be a responsible man, and one who would see that everything was conducted properly. There was no place of public amusement in the town, although it contained a population of 27,000. The character of the plays which Mr Taylor intended to place on the boards would be instructive, amusing, and innocent. He had seen the rules which the bench had laid down that morning; and with reference to them he might say that Mr Taylor had no intention whatsoever of holding a licence for selling intoxicating liquors; and that he was willing to consent to an endorsement to that effect.

He submitted a memorial in favour of the application signed by members of the town council, professional men, and one minister of religion. Mr Taylor could provide the necessary sureties; and as the bench could close the theatre at once if anything improper was carried on, he thought the application was one which the bench would have a pleasure in granting.

Evidence in support of the application was then given by Mr Atkinson, civil engineer, and Mr Taylor. The former said the room with few alterations would make an admirable theatre; and the latter said that he had had experience in theatrical matters.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 3rd December 1881.

The bench retired to consider the application and returned granting the licence provided that the alterations were carried out.

The ERA of the 31st December 1881 reported on the opening production, which took place on Boxing Day 26th December, as follows:- ''There is a very good stage, which runs the whole width of the building, and, with a little more alteration in the ventilation and lighting, the place will be a very neat, compact, and safe theatre, the means of exit in case of alarm having been kept well in view. Long before the time of the opening the doors were besieged by an eager crowd, and the place was rapidly filled in all parts, and some hundreds had to turn away and seek pleasure elsewhere. Those fortunate enough to secure seats were loud in their praises at the transformation the place had undergone in so short a time. 'A Wonderful Woman' was presented, in which Hortense found a most able representative in Miss Annie Travers. Mr Stanley Warde's interpretation of the part of the Marquis de Fontignac was a great success, the comic element being well sustained by Mr J. M. Ward as Crepin; while Miss Emily Kelsey and Mr G Herbert acquitted themselves well as Cecile and Randolph. The burlesque of Aladdin; or, the Wonderful Lamp, followed.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 31st December 1881.

The Theatre was a great success, but by 1887 was found to be too small for it's success. Mr Taylor having to present the D'Oyle Carte Opera Company's 'Mikado' at the Town Hall. The ERA of 5th February 1887 reported as follows:- 'The tenders for the construction of the new Theatre are invited to be sent in early in February, the site chosen being that partly occupied by the old Theatre, which has been found unsuitable and much too small for the requirements alike of the public and of travelling companies. Mr Alfred Darbyshire, A.R.I.B.A. architect, of Manchester, is responsible for the plans of the new building, which it is intended to open about August.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 5th February 1887.

This second version of the Lyceum Theatre was built on the site of the existing first Theatre, incorporating the old church yard. Unfortunately on the 11th March 1910 this second Theatre suffered a serious fire. The Theatre was owned at the time by Mr Dudley Bennett of the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham Junction, London. The Fire broke out on stage and three Fire Brigades attended. A Pantomime 'Dick Whittington' was playing the Theatre during that week and the artists lost all their properties in the fire. The estimated damage was £7000.

The Theatre was subsequently rebuilt to the designs of Albert Winstanley, and it's Winstanley's auditorium which is still in existence today.

New facilities and alteration were made to the Theatre in 1994 by incorporating adjacent buildings to the left of the Theatre. This enabled a much larger foyer to be accommodated together with restaurant, kitchens and bars. Room was also made to enable the English Touring Theatre company to have headquarters based in the Theatre.

The Theatre's facade is much the same as it was in 1910, being built of red brick. There is a broad semicircular arch which fills the gable with the date 1911 and the Theatres name incorporated.

The auditorium consists of stalls, dress circle, with gallery above. Slips and two stage boxes topped with onion domes above. The plaster work consists of reclining maidens and musical instruments on box and balcony fronts. The Proscenium is elliptical with matching plaster work incorporated. The Safety curtain has 'for thine eternal care' inscribed upon it together with the name Lyceum. It has a deeply coved ceiling who's decoration is of plaster scrolls and flower garlands.

The stage dimensions are:- Depth 12.5 metres (32 feet) - width 16.45 metres (54 feet) - Proscenium with 8.53 metres (28ft 6 inches). - Height to grid being 13.08 metres (42 feet). The stage has a steep rake of 1.18. being one of the steepest in the country. There is also an orchestra pit for 16 players which converts to an apron forestage.

The Theatre's seating capacity has changed throughout it's life being originally 1,250. Later in 1912 being 1,600. In 1946 it was 1,000. 1970 being 923. 1993 being 543 plus gallery, and is currently 677 seats.

The Theatre is a Grade II Listed Building and is remarkable in that it has one of the only two Sun Burners still working in the Country, the other is at the Buxton Opera House. The Theatre serves the town of Crewe with theatrical entertainment to this day.

There are some very nice photographs of the Lyceum Theatre by Ian Grundy on the Theatres Trust Website here.

You may like to visit the Lyceum Theatre's own Website here.

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt and kindly sent in for inclusion in 2017. The article is © David Garratt 2017.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Borough Theatre of Varieties, Crewe, Cheshire

The Borough Theatre of Varieties was a Music Hall situated at the rear of the Oak Farm Hotel. Records show that it was in existence in 1867.

There is a record in the ERA Newspaper of the 3rd December 1881 of a Mr Martin applying on behalf of Mr James Rawson for a theatrical licence being made to the Bench, in respect of the Concert Room at the rear of the Hotel. The extract reads:- 'The building had been occupied as a place of amusement for a considerable time. There was a nicely fitted stage and orchestra ready, and there were three entrances. Mr Rawson was a publican, but he did not want to sell any drink in the room during performance of plays. Mr Rawson said that he had had the management of the house for fourteen years, and there had been no complaint against it.' The Bench then retired to consider their decision. On their return the Mayor said:- 'the bench could not, however, grant the application of Mr Rawson. They had nothing whatsoever against the room or against Mr Rawson, but had decided to grant no theatrical licence to a house for the sale of intoxicating liquors.' - The ERA, 3rd December 1881.

However, the ERA of the 31st December 1881 lists new arrivals to appear at The Borough Theatre of Varieties of:- 'Miss Ada Le Fair (serio-comic) and Fred Williams (champion skate and pedestal dancer and vocalist), who are well known here, and, as usual have met with a good reception.' - The ERA, 31st December 1881.

The ERA of the 5th of November 1887 states that The Borough Concert Hall manager was a Mr Harlow:- 'We have another good company here this week, consisting of Mr J. Douglas, ballad vocalist, re-engaged; Lilly Hartley, a very clever and amusing serio-comic; Mr Chas Chaplin, character vocalist, very amusing; and Professor Herrmann, an amusing mesmeric entertainer.' - The ERA, 5th of November 1887.

The Mr Chas Chaplin referred to above was the father of Charlie Chaplin, who was also on the Halls.

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt and kindly sent in for inclusion in 2017. The article is © David Garratt 2017.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.

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