The Theatres Trust

Theatre Royal (Stoke-on-Trent)

  • Theatre ID
    1420
  • Built / Converted
    1850
  • Current state
    Extant
  • Current use
    Licensed premises (two theme bars)
  • Address
    40-41 Pall Mall, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 1EE, England

Details

Tradition suggests that the first theatre opened as a People's Hall, converted from a methodist chapel which may, in turn, have had a previous existence as a colliery winding house. Following the 1949 fire only the rear wall of the 1894 theatre was left, but the plain three-storey façe to Pall Mall with four sets of double doors and dressing room block facing Brunswick Street, may possibly belong to the 1871 rebuild. The rest was rebuilt in 1951 (at a time of stringent building restrictions) not in the fashionable post-war idiom of that time but in the manner of a thirties cine-theatre. It would seem, therefore, to pre-date what is usually documented as 'the first new theatre to be built in this country since the war', Middlesbrough Little Theatre (1957) (the 1954 Vanbrugh at RADA being discounted as a drama school theatre). Stalls with seventeen straight rows, the Dress Circle had a flat U-shaped front. Three boxes forming slips at gallery level. Flat stage with very little wing space on stage left. Ensuring that all the Art Deco recessed illumination and light panels in the auditorium were in full working order was no small matter as some 360 individual bulbs were involved. Additional light was originally supplied by six Waterford Crystal chandeliers formerly in the German Embassy in London. Four of these are still in situ. A fifth is now hung in the foyer. The proscenium arch, which had been altered, has been returned to its original 1951 state - complete with two illuminated number frames on each side, possibly the only extant working examples. The façe has been completely re-covered with maroon tiles replacing the former yellow ones. A television 'challenge' operation to get the theatre up and running again was mounted in 1993. The theatre had its defects, including imperfect sighting from upper levels which would be difficult to remedy, and a study of theatre and concert venues in Stoke, commissioned by the City Council from Arts Business Ltd, concluded that the Royal had 'cramped facilities' making it impossible to host large scale modern touring musicals. In 1997 the theatre reopened after a major refurbishment operation. However the venture only lasted until 2000. In 2001 planning permission was given for the theatre to be converted to nightclub and live music use, and the building is currently divided into two venues.


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  • Other names
    The People's Hall, Royal Pottery Theatre, Liquid & Jumpin' Jaks, The Royal
  • Events
    • Owner/Management: Charles Deacon
    • 1840 Alteration: Former Methodist Chapel ceased use, converted to lecture hall.
    • 1850 Design/Construction: (or 1851) converted to theatre use.
    • 1857 Alteration: interior reconstructed as three-tier theatre.
      • T C Shaw - Architect
    • 1871 Alteration: reconstructed and modernised.
      • R Twemlow or T Hinde - Architect
    • 1873 Alteration: redecorated (architect unknown).
    • 1887 Alteration: reconstructed with new auditorium, old theatre becoming the stage area.
      • C J Phipps & Frank Matcham - Architect
    • 1894 Alteration: remodelled and extended; electricity introduced.
      • Frank Matcham - Architect
    • 1908 Owner/Management: Hanley Theatres & Circuses Co Ltd; C G Elphinstone, managing director
    • 1934 Alteration: partial rebuild after fire; cinema projection box installed (architect unknown).
    • 1946 Owner/Management: Potteries Theatre Ltd
    • 1951 Alteration: rebuilt after another fire.
      • Forshaw & Greaves - Architect
    • 1961 Owner/Management: Mecca
    • 1993 Owner/Management: Potteries Theatre Royal (Management) Ltd
    • 1997 Owner/Management: Mike Lloyd
    • 2002 Alteration: converted to two separate theme bars (architect unknown).
  • Listings
    • Grade Not listed
  • Stage type
    • Proscenium Rake
  • Dimensions
    • Stage dimensions: Depth: 1871: 46ft 1946: 44ft
    • Proscenium width: 1851: 40ft 1946: 30ft
    • Orchestra pit: 1912: 56ft x 62ft 1946: 15
  • Unreliable anecdotes
    So far as this theatre is concerned, Brian Hornsey’s Ninety Years Cinema in the Potteries is wrong in nearly every detail

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