Doncaster Grand

An ornate Victorian theatre with strong community support, which has the potential to be reopened for amateur and touring theatre.

Close up of the facade of Doncaster Grand signage.
Address
Station Road, Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Risk Rating
6 (Community Value: 2, Star Rating: 2, Risk Factor: 2)
Owner
Frenchgate Limited Partnership
Architect
J P Briggs & Chapman
Date of Construction
1899
Listing
Grade II
Capacity
Estimated at 900

Significance

Constructed in 1899, the Grade II listed Doncaster Grand stood on a prominent site in a shopping street facing the main railway station. However, after town centre improvements this ornate Victorian theatre became an adjunct to the Frenchgate Centre, a shopping centre, and its Baroque-style façade was semi-concealed. The frontage, with an improved setting, could again become a local landmark. Internally it retains an intimate auditorium.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Doncaster Grand has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2006 when we started the list.

The Grand was threatened with demolition until an energetic local campaign eventually led to the building being listed in 1994. Today, the theatre, which is owned by the company that runs the neighbouring Frenchgate Centre, remains empty and in a poor state of repair.

Auditorium of Doncaster Grand Theatre from 2016 - the stall have no seatsTheatre potential

Doncaster Grand has the potential to be reopened to create a home for amateur and community productions, which could also have the facilities to host touring theatre should this prove viable.

Current situation

The Frenchgate Centre, including the Doncaster theatre site, is privately owned by Frenchgate Ltd Partnership.

As the building is Grade II listed, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council has a responsibility to ensure the building is properly maintained. It considers the Grand to be ‘at risk’ due to its vacant condition. Its Planning, Design and Conservation Team, although not required to, would normally undertake bi-annual inspections of the building to ensure that the theatre continues to be weathertight – the pandemic has impacted on this recently. Any concerns are brought to the owner’s attention and, to date, the owner has been responsive to requests to carry out necessary repair work. Additionally, the owner undertakes annual inspections on the theatre, and has undertaken a survey and structural checks.

The Friends of the Doncaster Grand Theatre was the campaign group that helped to save the building in 1995, and it still works with the associated charity Doncaster Grand Theatre Trust and the council to raise the profile of the theatre and campaigns for its preservation.

The council has offered to work with the owner to find possible solutions for the theatre, including investigating other potential uses for the building, and the owner is open to looking at potential options – but a plan is not yet in place.

This last year has seen the ambitions of the three main parties brought into closer alignment, with all keen to identify a viable future use for the theatre. All parties likewise agree that this needs to be a use that remains sympathetic to the Grand’s historic significance.

In May 2021 the council was awarded a grant of £11,500 through the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme to part-fund a viability study for the Grand focusing on a marketing appraisal. The funding was conditional on the works being carried out in conjunction with the owner and the Friends group. Additional funding has also been secured.

A meeting between all parties and Theatres Trust in 2021 agreed to the formation of a stakeholder group to progress the viability study and there is now a signed Memorandum of Understanding in place to support this. The group comprises Doncaster Council, the Frenchgate Group, the Friends of Doncaster Grand Theatre, and the Theatres Trust.

In November 2021 Theatresearch was appointed to deliver the viability study. The production of the study will be overseen by the local authority, with support from the stakeholder group.

Once this study is completed – and if viable reuse is identified – a second phase may be commissioned in the future by the council and the Frenchgate Group. This would potentially focus on a review of the condition of the building, a full historical analysis of the building, and architectural options.

Campaign video (from 2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwM_hX1AKTk

Main photo Doncaster Grand, Theatres Trust