Streatham Hill Theatre

One of south London’s most lavish ‘sleeping beauties’ and the last theatre designed by W. G. R. Sprague, the architect responsible for some of the most stunning theatres in London.

Streatham Hill Theatre
110 Streatham Hill, London, SW2 4RD
Risk Rating
7 (Community Value: 3, Star Rating: 2, Risk Factor: 2)
Ruach City Church (Poll Mount Ltd to May 2022, Hold Land South East Ltd to July 2022)
William George Robert Sprague & W. H. Barton
Date of Construction
Grade II / Asset of Community Value
c. 2,800


Built in 1929, this was the last theatre designed by theatre architect William George Robert Sprague. It is possibly his largest and one of the best-equipped in London outside of the West End. The theatre has an imposing faience facade. The foyer is spacious, with tall gilded Ionic columns and arches, a terrazzo floor, and two round kiosks on each side of the grand central stairway. This sweeps up to dress circle and balcony levels, parting at the centre into two flights with iron balustrading. The auditorium is lavish and has excellent sightlines with two balconies. The foyers, auditorium, and public areas were described as being ‘in the Adam manner’ but are quite eclectic, with friezes of sphinxes, angels, and garlands in abundance. The theatre was hit by a V1 flying bomb in 1944 but was reconstructed in 1950 closely to the original Sprague designs. Original wooden stage machinery is also still in situ, together with the counterweight flying and three-part forestage orchestra lifts.

It was listed Grade II in 1994 as ‘an unusually lavish example of a theatre built in the short-lived revival of building in 1929-30; as a suburban example of this date the building may be unique’. It was first registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) in 2018 and was awarded a second ACV term in 2023.

A Statement of Historical Significance, commissioned as a part of the viability study has shown that the theatre is significant on several levels: its place in the work of the original architect, being a rare example of interwar suburban theatre buildings, its aesthetic completeness, quality and scale - and its role in the collective cultural memory of its local community.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Streatham Hill Theatre has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2018.

In November 2021, Historic England included Streatham Hill Theatre on its Heritage at Risk Register, giving it further protection and recognition.

Praesepe plc (now named Merkur Casino UK) who held a sub-lease on the building, closed its Beacon Bingo operation in the main auditorium in January 2017. It still operates a Cashino slot-machine lounge out of the rear of the stalls only.

The closure of bingo had left the future of the building uncertain and had also brought the end of local amateur community theatre use in the building. This had been operating using a pop-up theatre space in the circle foyer and had run tours and promenade performances around the building.

Both the sub-lease and the head lease (held by Mecca) on the building were due to expire in 2028, at which time the company would be liable for dilapidations.

A theatre company that Theatres Trust and local campaign group The Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre were supporting had been in discussion with the building’s owner regarding purchasing the property. However, in May 2022 it was reported that the theatre had been sold to another buyer –property development company, Hold Land South East Ltd for £2.76m.

Despite the efforts of the campaign group and theatre company to discuss options on the building, in July of the same year Hold Land South East Ltd sold the theatre to church group, Ruach City Church for a reported £4m. Prior to the sale, Merkur and Mecca were released from their leasehold responsibilities, including, it is understood, dilapidation costs.

Rauch City Church currently has a base in neighbouring Brixton but had been seeking a new property. It is believed that the church needs to vacate its current premises in 2024. The organisation also owns the Grade II* listed Gaumont State, Kilburn. The church will need to apply for planning permission for a change of use for public worship or religious instruction. However, despite the time elapsed since the sale no planning application has come forward. The church has also not addressed issues with flooding in the basement of the building, which is a major concern. Recent photos of the main theatre foyer also show signs of flaking plaster and general deterioration.

The opulent entrance foyer of Streatham Hill Theatre with remnants of theatre use, including a box office

Theatre potential

There is currently a shortage of both workspace and arts / cultural facilities in the area, which this building could address.

In 2020, campaign group The Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre raised funds to complete a viability study and economic impact assessment to investigate the theatre’s potential for a sustainable future. Funding came from the Mayor of London’s 2020 Crowdfund London, Lambeth Council and Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme. The report published in April 2021 confirmed that restoration and phased reuse of the theatre as a leisure and entertainment venue is a viable proposal, and would generate footfall, jobs and economic growth, adding over £70m to the local economy over 30 years.

Current situation

Local campaign group The Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre remains very proactive and has achieved successes both in fundraising and in harnessing strong community support for the building. Theatres Trust has been supporting the group since its formation providing fundraising and viability study advice.

In July 2018, the group was successful in getting the building listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), despite an appeal by the owners. At the end of the five-year term, a new ACV application was made by the group. This was approved in December 2023. The council’s original decision to list the theatre as an ACV remains important as it recognises the theatre’s cultural and social role in its community and is a sign of the council’s support for the building.

Lambeth Council’s support is further borne out in its Investment and Growth Strategy for Streatham of June 2019, which includes a priority action to explore opportunities for the Streatham Hill Theatre as part of its objective of providing spaces for better and new experiences in the area. It also states that the theatre building provides a transformative opportunity to provide a major leisure and entertainment venue with the potential for workspace for creative, digital and cultural industries.

Lambeth Council was also a key partner for the Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre’s 2020 Viability Study alongside the GLA and Theatres Trust. All parties are continuing to work together to seek a solution for the theatre. This includes seeking discussions with the new owners.

Theatres Trust continues to seek discussion with the church to understand how it may use the building, its plans for necessary repair and restoration, and whether the building will be opened for use by the community. We also hope to discuss the possibility of shared use of the space so that Streatham Hill Theatre may once again be open for live performance use for the benefit of the local community.

We will continue to support The Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre and work with them, the council, and other key stakeholders, to seek to progress discussions with the new owner and ensure that the building, its historic fabric, and community and live performance use are protected.

Photos, Streatham Hill Theatre, Tim Hatcher