Victoria Theatre

An architecturally important theatre designed by eminent theatre architect Bertie Crewe, with rare substage machinery believed to be the only complete surviving example of its kind in the British Isles.

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Address
Great Clowes Street, Lower Broughton, Salford, Greater Manchester, M7 1RE
Risk Rating
8 (Community Rating: 2, Star Value: 3, Risk Factor: 3)
Local Authority
Salford City Council
Owner
Private ownership
Architect
Bertie Crewe
Date of Construction
1899
Listing
Grade II
Capacity
775 (estimated)

Significance

Built in 1899 and designed by Bertie Crewe, the Victoria Theatre in Salford is Grade II listed. This architecturally-important theatre has a fine terracotta façade with much stained glass and a beautiful and intimate auditorium featuring richly scrolled plasterwork. There are substantial remains of wooden sub-stage machinery including a complete grave trap. The theatre is included within the top three of Salford’s own list of historic buildings deemed to be at risk.

Why is this theatre at risk?

The Victoria Theatre closed as a bingo hall in 2007 and has remained unoccupied ever since. The building was put up at auction in September 2018. While not sold on the day, the theatre was sold post auction to a local developer who has no current plans for the building.

Work is required to remove the considerable vegetation growth on the façade and prevent substantial damage to the building fabric. There are holes in the auditorium roof that have led to water damage including the partial collapse of some of the historic decorative plaster. The building has also been targeted by vandalism causing further damage. It is feared that should the roof not be repaired soon that the internal damage will be irreparable.

The area of Salford in which the Victoria is situated is in need of regeneration; the theatre one of the few historic buildings remaining. Salford, once a city in decline, is now one of the fastest growing and there are plans for redevelopment of neighbouring sites Mocha Parade and Cambridge Industrial Estate. However, without a joined up approach and overall masterplan for the area opportunities could be missed and the potential of the Victoria to contribute to the regeneration of its local community lost.

Salfrod Victoria interior

Theatre potential

The building requires a new use that would preserve its special interest and allow the possibility of a return to theatre use.

Local campaign group, Salford Victoria Theatre Trust (SVTT), using funding awarded through our Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme, has commissioned Colliers International, working with Foster Wilson Architects and Theatresearch, to carry out a viability study to determine the best use for the building. It is believed that the building has potential as a multi-purpose space that includes live performance.

Current situation

Redevelopment of the area around the Victoria is planned: Mocha Parade is to be redeveloped as a mixed use retail and residential area with supermarket chain Lidl as the anchor tenant. The project has been subject to much delay as the site is in an area susceptible to flooding, however it is understood that the development will commence in 2020. The Cambridge Industrial Estate likewise suffers from being located on a flood plain and it is unlikely that redevelopment will happen soon. Sadly both projects are in isolation of each other and of the Victoria.

SVTT has been campaigning to save the theatre for many years. In addition to raising public awareness of the building, it has been working on a business plan and fundraising for feasibility study works to determine the optimum viable and sustainable use for the theatre within a city that already has a good and broad cultural and theatrical spread. SVTT has also been broadening its engagement with the local community to ensure local needs and aspirations are included within its proposals. Theatres Trust has been providing advice and support to the group both on this and the early stage feasibility work.

In 2018, SVTT opened discussions with the Mayor of Salford and local MP Graham Stringer regarding a council commissioned report on local heritage at risk and what can be done to support these buildings. Sadly discussions have since stalled.

In early 2019 SVTT arranged a meeting between Theatres Trust, SVTT and the new owner to discuss the owner’s ambitions for the building and to make them aware of the historic importance of the theatre and also of the local support. It is understood that the owner has bought the building speculatively and has no current plans to redevelop. The owner however has given the SVTT the opportunity to carry out a viability study to find a sustainable use for the building. They have also suggested that they may be open to accepting a reduced return on the building to enable a community project. Both the SVTT and the Theatres Trust have also been lobbying the owner and, subsequently the council, to carry out necessary repair works on the building to prevent further deterioration of the fabric.

In May 2019 the SVTT were successful in its application to the Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme and was given funding towards a viability study. Work commenced in October 2019. The team undertaking the study have now visited the building during which time they discovered rare sub-stage machinery referred to as scruto. As explained by historical theatre experts Theatresearch:

"The stage was originally designed along the English Wood Stage principles whereby the sliders for the cuts and bridges slid off under the wings. However, because the wings were too narrow the sliders curved downwards in the manner of a roll-top desk. This was a technique used in the construction of a Corsican Trap, but it is now the only complete surviving example in the British Isles.”

The viability study has determined that the theatre has potential as a multi-purpose space that includes live performance. A phased approach to the works is likely. This would first reactivate the building frontage including shops and bar space with the auditorium in a viable meanwhile use as a multi-purpose space hosting events such as weddings, conferences, banquets, secret cinema, live music etc. This will allow the future of the building to be secured until funding can be found to fully restore the historic venue. Read more about this.

Main photo Victoria Theatre, Theatres Trust

Interior, Salford Victoria Theatre Trust