An ornate Victorian theatre with strong community support, which has the potential to be reopened for live performance, including amateur and touring theatre.
- Station Road, Doncaster, South Yorkshire
- Risk Rating
- 6 (Community Value: 2, Star Rating: 2, Risk Factor: 2)
- Local Authority
- Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council
- Local Group
- Friends of Doncaster Grand Theatre
- Frenchgate Limited Partnership
- J P Briggs & Chapman
- Date of Construction
- Grade II
- Estimated at 900
- Database Link
- View in Theatres Database
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 January 1995. Today, the theatre, which is owned by the company that runs the neighbouring Frenchgate Centre, remains empty and in a poor state of repair.
Doncaster Grand has the potential to be reopened for live performances including as a home for amateur and community productions, or to host touring theatre should this prove viable.
The potential of the building to be restored and reopened has been recognised and three main stakeholders have been working together with Theatres Trust to identify a viable future use for the theatre:
- Frenchgate Limited Partnership, the private owners of the Frenchgate centre which includes the Doncaster Grand Site
- Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, who are interested in the building due to their responsibilities for listed buildings, but also due to the opportunities and benefits redevelopment would bring
- Doncaster Grand Theatre Trust, the charity established by the original campaign group Friends of Doncaster Grand Theatre that helped to save the building in 1995, works to raise the profile of the theatre and campaigns for its preservation.
These stakeholders formed a working group in May 2021, after 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. This work concluded that there is a market for a reopened Grand to host a range of events including musicals, popular music and comedy, and also be used as a space for hire for a variety of community activities. However, it also recommended that given the scale of any restoration project it would be best to take a phased meanwhile use approach, meaning any redevelopment would happen incrementally, taking smaller sections of the building at a time.
Following the completion of the phase one viability study, there was a renewed commitment from stakeholders to continue with joint working to drive forward potential plans for and cement interest in the theatre, including exploring funding streams. A consortium with broad representation across the stakeholders was formed and a second phase of a viability study was commissioned on behalf of the council, using money allocated to the area by the Towns Fund. In September 2022, Page\Park Architects was appointed to review the building’s structure and condition and undertake an options appraisal to determine a preferred solution to a phased approach to the building’s restoration, with an outline plan for its delivery and the report was published in May 2023. It found that it would be economically beneficial for the city to work towards re-opening the theatre, but this must be done as a phased approach and urgent funding and repair works are needed first. The full report can be read on the Doncaster Council website.
The second phase viability report has provided a road map for restoring and returning the building to a viable use. The consortium has widened its membership to include CAST (Doncaster’s theatre) and is now looking to secure initial funding to explore appropriate ownership and operating models as a first step in the redevelopment plan.
The consortium has also ensured that the council and property owner have been able to engage constructively relating to the condition of the property. As the building is Grade II listed, the council has a responsibility to ensure the building is properly maintained. It considers the Grand to be ‘at risk’ due to its vacant condition. Works have been undertaken to reduce water ingress, but internal access has been limited due to concerns about asbestos. The council has commissioned an asbestos survey to confirm the extent of this risk and additional funding will need to be secured to undertake remedial works. Further funding may be available from the Towns Fund award to support external renovation or redecorations works to the theatre’s façade.
Work is also underway to celebrate the cultural heritage of the Grand. In April 2023 Friends of Doncaster Grand secured funding of £6,500 for an oral history collection project and to digitise its archival material through our Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities programme. This project aims to capture and preserve the theatre’s history by recording oral recollections as well as conserving artefacts such as posters, programmes and photographs. This project has benefitted from the time and expertise of Doncaster Council Heritage, Archives and Local Studies staff. It is expected that this material will be publicly available in the late spring 2024 but a trailer video is available here - Grand Theatre Trailer
Theatres Trust will continue to work with all interested parties as they continue in their efforts to create a new vision for the Grand.
Campaign video (from 2016)
This promotional video explaining the significance of the Grand Theatre reflects the situation in 2016, prior to the formation of the current consortium and the developments outlined above.
Main photo Doncaster Grand, Theatres Trust