Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes it is!
So it’s the time of year where families go to see pantomimes throughout the land. Some are in small village halls and others are in theatres of the West End in London. For some of us it’s the only time a year where we go to a theatre for others it’s just another visit. For me it was a massive family outing on New Year’s Eve to the City Hall in Sheffield to see the brilliant panto by Manor Operatic, one of the largest amateur theatre companies in Britain.
This got me thinking about how few theatres there are in Sheffield, my home town, as opposed to when my Great Grandparents were young in the city.
So I decided to look into this. Who knew there was a website dedicated to the theatres of the past? You can see this site at: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/index.html
I didn’t just look at this site though I knew there were other theatres which were not listed on this site. So I looked through the picture archive at Picture Sheffield at: http://www.picturesheffield.com/ I searched for theatres and found pictures of even more.
So in total I found Sheffield has had 31 theatres over the years. Most of them were found in the city centre and they had a habit of changing their names so it may appear there were more.
The oldest theatre I found was opened in 1773 on Tudor Street. It was called the Theatre Royal. It remained open until 1935 when the building was destroyed by fire and subsequently demolished. In its time the theatre was thought to be one of the best outside London, but I’m sure most places felt theirs were the best. For those of you who know Sheffield the current Crucible Theatre in Tudor Square, home of the World Snooker Championship, sits on the site of the Theatre Royal.
The most recent theatre to be built was in fact the Crucible Theatre on the site of the Theatre Royal. In some ways this is nice as it means the site has been used for entertainment since 1773. Admittedly the Crucible didn’t open until 1971 so there was a mere 36 year gap, but who’s counting. The Crucible theatre has several stages with the main one having a capacity of 900.
The theatre which had the largest capacity was the Alexandra Music Hall, which had also been called the Alexandra Theatre and the Adelphi Theatre. This theatre was opened in 1837 and remained open until 1914. The building was subsequently demolished to widen a road. The theatre was at the junction of Furnival Road and Blonk Street close to where Ladys Bridge is. At its height the auditorium could hold between 3000 and 4000. Considering the population of Sheffield in 1861 was 161,000 it’s not actually that many residents could go at once, but even so.
Sheffield has a tiny theatre. It’s called the Lantern Theatre. It was built by a rich industrialist as his private theatre and was used by his children to put on performances. It was built in 1893 in the Nether Edge area of the city. It holds a huge audience of …..84. The theatre is still in use today.
Currently in Sheffield there are only 7 theatres remaining, not including the massive arena, which hold over 13,000. These are the Crucible, the Lyceum, the Library, the Montgomery, the City Hall, the Merlin and the Lantern. The thing that amuses me though is that the Crucible, the Lyceum and the Library theatres are in the same square.
There are more plays going on though. Church halls throughout Sheffield hold amateur plays throughout the year as well as school halls and other venues.
I suppose with the advent of cinema the theatres couldn’t compete and they shut, although many of the Sheffield theatres became cinemas and some did maintain small theatres in them. Then telly came along and started to kill off the cinemas as well. Most people of my parent’s generation went to the cinema every week and most suburbs of the city had a cinema. Where I grew up the cinema building was half mile walk away. It’s a pub now and was a supermarket when I was a kid. These days in Sheffield there are only huge multiplex cinemas. I don’t really know since the last film I saw at the cinema was Jurassic Park in 1993!
So how we are entertained may have changes, but I know one thing for sure. My Great Grandparents had a lot of options on where to go and see plays and music hall.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!