Spilsby Theatre

Situated in an impressive former sessions house and gaol, this is the only venue for dedicated arts and community activity in Spilsby.

Img 0398 detail
Church Street, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, PE23 5DY
Risk Rating
7 (Community Rating: 3, Star Value: 2, Risk Factor: 2)
The Dandelion Trust
H E Kendall
Date of Construction
1824 (as sessions house)
Grade II


Spilsby Theatre was formed in 1984 from a former sessions house and gaol built in 1827. It features an impressive façade with an imposing tetra-style portico. The auditorium is within the original courtroom and has an end gallery, facing a low stage. The holding cells (now dressing rooms) still exist. A former coach house provides a rehearsal space and workshop.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Spilsby Theatre was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2015.

Spilsby Theatre’s owner, the Dandelion Trust, like many small charities, had struggled to cope with the costs of maintaining and renovating an historic building. As a result, the auditorium roof had become unsafe and the ceiling in danger of collapse. The auditorium was closed in 2015 and structural support installed. Activities are occurring in other parts of the building.

A group of volunteers, known as The Sessions House, have come together, with the ambition of taking over the operation of the building, and developing a vibrant and viable programme, but is facing considerable challenges given the state of the building. In December 2016 The Sessions House Community Interest Company was officially registered as a not-for-profit organisation, and began working on funding applications to cover the costs of a viability study to assess the options and establish the cost of renovating the theatre.

In December 2017, The Sessions House suffered a set-back when a section of plaster ceiling collapsed in the theatre’s bar area. However, they are continuing a programme of activity and events within the Sessions House Lounge.

If no action is taken to prevent further deterioration of the building in the next three years the theatre could be permanently lost as a community resource.

SpilsbyTheatre interior architectimpression c SessionsHouseProject

Theatre potential

Spilsby Theatre is the only dedicated arts and community venue in the small Lincolnshire town of Spilsby.

Current situation

In summer 2018 The Sessions House completed a viability study for the theatre. The preferred option from the study is for Spilsby Theatre to become a place for the whole community, providing a broad programme of live performance and cinema as well as community activity, including rentable workspaces. The study was jointly funded by the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (now National Lottery Heritage Fund, NLHF). It is estimated that the capital works project will cost £3.5m.

Following this work and subsequent discussions with the NLHF and AHF, The Sessions House was recommended to undertake a further package of supporting work before embarking on its capital works project. The work is aimed at improving skills, knowledge and capacity to lay the foundations for taking the project to development stage and will include a review of phasing options for the works, and commission an economic impact assessment, a fundraising strategy and VAT advice. It will also include scoping a heritage activity plan and visits to other similar projects.

In May 2019 The Sessions House was successful in its bid to the Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme to part-fund this additional work. In November 2019 it was announced that the group had been successful in its NLHF bid to fund the remainder of this work. Work has since commenced.

Campaign video (from 2016)


Main photo Spilsby Theatre, Theatres Trust

Previs by Sessions House Project