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 UK.

Streetscape showing the full facade of the red brick Salford Victoria Theatre from across the street.
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
Private Owner
Bertie Crewe
Date of Construction
Grade II
775 (estimated)


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. A visit to the theatre in autumn 2019 uncovered what is believed to be the only surviving example in the UK of a ‘scruto’ stage, 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”.

It is also remarkable for its early use as a cinema, hosting moving pictures as early as 1901.

In January 2021 Theatres Trust applied to Historic England to upgrade the listing of the Victoria from II to II*. A decision is still pending.

Why is this theatre at risk?

The Victoria Theatre has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since we started the list in 2006.

The Victoria Theatre closed as a bingo hall in 2007 and has remained unoccupied ever since. It was bought by a local developer in 2018 and the building left neglected and in a serious state of dilapidation. It was put up for auction in October 2020 with a guide price of £400,000. The theatre was purchased by a private owner who has confirmed that their intent is to restore the building although the scale of the works, the restrictions due to the building’s listed status and the capital costs are all hurdles still to overcome.

The current owner has commenced urgent repairs to the building, fixing holes in the roof, removing the vegetation growth and clearing debris. They have also installed new security shutters and CCTV to better secure the building, although forced entry continues to be a problem. Unaware of the restrictions regarding carrying out works to a listed building, this has been carried out without consent, however, the local authority has agreed that retrospective consent can be submitted for the works.

Like any building that has been left vacant for over a decade, the Victoria requires much work before it can be opened for public use. The scale of the works to restore the building is such that it is inevitable that some public funding will be required.

The auditorium of Salford Victoria, with its 3 balconies but no seats. Balcony fronts are either swagged or balustraded in beige,and gold with red accents

Theatre potential

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

The area of Salford in which the Victoria is situated is in need of regeneration; the theatre is one of the few historic buildings remaining. Salford, once a city in decline, is now one of the fastest growing. Neighbouring site, the former Mocha Parade, has been redeveloped and is now the location of a new supermarket, and there are plans for the another adjacent site Cambridge Industrial Estate. However, without a joined-up approach and overall masterplan for the area it is feared that opportunities could be missed and the potential of the Victoria to contribute to the regeneration of its local community lost. The Salford Victoria Theatre Trust (SVTT) has taken part in consultations on the Draft Local Plan with the Mayor of Salford and the head of the council’s planning department and Heritage Officer to discuss this and to emphasise the benefits to the community of including the Victoria in the regeneration plan, as a significant heritage building that would encourage footfall, inclusive community activities and the night-time economy in the area as well as having a wider national appeal.

In 2019, SVTT was awarded funding through Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme, and secured additional funding through the East Salford Community Committee and Standing Together Fund. The group commissioned Colliers International, working with Foster Wilson Architects and Theatresearch, to carry out a viability study to determine the best use for the building. The viability study concluded that the theatre has potential as a multi-purpose space that includes live performance and that a phased approach to the works would most likely be needed. 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 would allow the future of the building to be secured until funding can be found to fully restore the historic venue.

The study has been shared with the council which is broadly supportive of the proposals. It has also been shared with the new owner who appears sympathetic to the ambitions of seeing the building restored and reopened with a long-term ambition for a return to theatre use. It is hoped that a way forward can be found to work with them to see this ambition fulfilled.

Current situation

SVTT has been campaigning to save the theatre for many years and with Theatre Trust’s advice and support is continuing to raise public awareness of the building, and looking to broaden its engagement with local stakeholders and the local community.

Though our support the SVTT is strengthening as an organisation. It has been part of our Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities cohort training programme focused on governance and providing an introduction and overview to good practice. It has also benefitted from grant funding through the same programme which is supporting a more detailed governance review, helping the organisation grow capacity and providing it with the necessary skillsets to support its vision for the Victoria.  

Alongside this work, the SVTT and Theatres Trust have remained in proactive discussion with the Victoria’s owner, seeking a collaborative approach and positive way forward for the building. There remain many challenges but through working together we hope that these can be overcome, the opportunities within the viability study realised and the building returned to being a vibrant hub at the heart of its local community.

Theatres Trust will continue to work with the new owner and SVTT to find a way forward for the restoration and rejuvenation of the theatre and to liaise with the council and wider stakeholders on the future of this building.

Main photo Victoria Theatre, Theatres Trust. Interior, Salford Victoria Theatre Trust