The Grand Theatre, Doncaster

Doncaster’s Grand Theatre once stood on Station Road, which led to the train station – quite an important thoroughfare in the town where the Flying Scotsman and The Mallard steam engines were built. You can see the Grand in the centre background of this picture – its the only one of those buildings still standing, all the rest swept away by the 60s/70s in favour of one of those lovely Arndale Centres

The theatre is now hemmed in on 3 sides by the shopping centre (whose owners also own the theatre) and on the other side by a dual carriageway, which has actually taken a bit out of Grand.

I neglected to get any externals on the day (mainly because I wanted to GTFO ASAP as I know the shopping centre security can be pretty keen), so here’s a “library” photo (Lomo fisheye)

Some history courtesy of the Friends of the Grand Theatre

The Grand was opened on the 27th March 1899. It started its life as a Circus Hall and then became the home of the Salvation Army, it was used for Political Speakers and eventually it was bought and turned into a theatre by a Mr J W Chapman, who at that time was the Lessee of the Old Theatre which stood in the Market Place. It was designed by J P Briggs and was built by a local firm of builders, Arnold & Sons.

It was one of the first theatres in the country to have electric lights and also a sprinkler system installed. All staircases in the building are in stone as fire was a great hazard in those days.

Many famous names ‘trod the boards’ at the Grand including Charlie Chaplin, Max Miller, Henry Hall and his band with Betty Driver (who went on to play Betty Williams in Coronation Street), Julie Andrews and Morecambe & Wise.

and from The Theatres Trust

The Grand Theatre’s last stage production was Showboat in 1962 after which it was converted to a bingo hall. In the 1980s a ring road was built around the theatre and as a consequence a corner of the stage was chamfered. In 1995 the bingo closed and the theatre was due for demolition but was saved by the Friends of the Doncaster Grand Theatre along with Doncaster Civic Trust who succeeded in getting it statutory listed Grade II.

The Grand Theatre had a lucky escape in 1942 when a German dropped two bombs on the town centre, one of which flattened a car and motorbike showroom directly opposite the Grand

Fast forward to 2011 and the Grand sits neglected and constrained by its surroundings. There is evidence of water causing some damage in the Gallery section, but not too bad so far although some remedial work wouldn’t go amiss (or a full scale restoration but I think that might be asking a bit much).

From the back of the stage


From the stage

The Circle

The stage as seen from the Circle

Moulding detail

The Gallery

Fantastic detail on these seats in the Gallery

Mouldings above the proscenium


Fly tower

Old posters from around 100 years ago

I hope something can be done to save this beautiful building, but frankly I don’t hold out much hope for any investment in the current economic climate.


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