The Theatres Trust

Pavilion Arts Centre

  • Theatre ID
  • Built / Converted
  • Dates of use
    • 1889: continuing
  • Current state
  • Current use
    Arts Centre (theatres, exhibition and work space; 1920s-1935 used as cinema; later multi-function room)
  • Address
    The Pavilion Gardens, St. John's Road, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6BE, England
  • Website


Part of the Pavilion Gardens, Winter Gardens and Opera House complex, it was known popularly as 'the old theatre' after the Opera House, which it immediately adjoins, opened. Long, low stone street façe running the full length (59m/193ft) of auditorium and stage, the four centre bays divided by rusticated pilasters with finials. Elaborate Baroque gable at left hand end (right wall of stage). Pitched roof overall, with no visible fly tower (but limited flying is possible). From the late 1970s the Paxton Suite served as multi-function rooms, with the stage complete though rarely used apart from the flat shallow forestage which replaced the orchestra pit. When viewed at this time the auditorium was, at first sight, heavily altered, although without much loss of original fabric. A sloping false ceiling rose from the curving front of the balcony - used as a storage space, and from which it was still possible to see a painting over the proscenium. The main floor was raised in a series of terraces off the old raked stalls. When assessed in the 1990s it was considered that 'it would not be difficult to restore the Playhouse to its original appearance, but a return to theatrical use seems rather unlikely'. Happily this is not the case, and following ten years of negotiation between High Peaks Borough Council and the Opera House, in 2008 a £2.5m project commenced to restore, refurbish and develop the building as The Pavilion Arts Centre. Funded by HPBC, Opera House, DDEP (the Derby and Derbyshire Economic Partnership) and the Arts Council, the new Arts Centre opened in September 2010. A full review of the restoration and new facilities will follow.

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Façade of the Playhouse, Buxton, 2001
© Ian Grundy

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  • Other names
    Entertainment Stage, Pavilion, The Old Theatre, Hippodrome, The Palace Theatre & Hippodrome Cinema, Playhouse, Paxton Suite
  • Events
    • 1889 Use: continuing
    • 1889 Design/Construction:
      • Plastic Decorations and Papier Mache Ltd (London) - Consultant: Proscenium Front
      • George Collier - Consultant: Drop Scene Of Chatsworth House And The Bridge
      • W R Bryden with Ed Milner - Architect
    • 1889 Owner/Management: Buxton Gardens Society, owner; J Willoughby, manager
    • 1894 Alteration: extra dressing room accommodation (two rooms) added (architect unknown).
    • 1912 Owner/Management: Buxton Gardens Co; Allan Milton, manager
    • 1927 Owner/Management: Local Authority (Buxton Corporation, now High Peaks BC), owners and management.
    • 1975 Owner/Management: Buxton Theatre and Arts Trust
    • 2010 Alteration: refurbished as The Pavilion Arts Centre (architect unknown).
  • Capacities
    • Original: 850
    • Later: 1912: 1500 1946: 600 1975: 600 1979: 250
    • Current: 360; main auditorium
    • Current: 93; studio theatre
  • Listings
    • Grade II
  • Stage type
    • Proscenium Raked (1:65)
  • Dimensions
    • Building dimensions: Auditorium 80ft x 50ft
    • Stage dimensions: Depth: 9m (30ft) Width: 50ft
    • Proscenium width: 8.08m (26ft 6in)
    • Height to grid: c.9m (33ft)
    • Inside proscenium: 60ft
    • Orchestra pit: None
  • Unreliable anecdotes
    The Stage Guide (1912) dimensions for proscenium and stage depth and width are at variance with measured and other published material

Of the period

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