History

Frank Matcham Theatres

3 min read

History

3 min read

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Frank Matcham Theatres – Blackpool Grand has been open since 1894, and was built over a period of 9 months for £20,000. But have you ever wondered who was the architect behind our magnificent building? Or been curious as to which other theatres we share our heritage with?

 

Frank Matcham, Architect of Blackpool Grand

Frank Matcham, the son of a Devon brewery clerk, moved to London in the mid 1870s to join Jethro Robinson’s architectural business. Robinson himself was the consulting theatre architect to the Lord Chamberlain and, when Matcham married his daughter in 1877, the budding architect from Devon was the obvious choice to take over the business when Robinson unexpectedly passed away.

 

Matcham’s first significant undertaking was the completion of Robinson’s unfinished Elephant and Castle Theatre, but over the decades Matcham then built up his own unparalleled reputation as the most celebrated theatre architect ever. This reputation was even more impressive given the fact that Matcham never actually qualified as an architect, and during his lifetime he was often overlooked.

 

Frank Matcham’s Theatres

Although exact figures are hard to produce, reasonable research suggests that Matcham designed a minimum of 80 theatres, and refitted or worked upon at least that number on top of this. Matcham succeeded in working upon a great number of theatres without sacrificing originality, imbuing each project with a unique design. His magnum opus (aside from The Blackpool Grand… but we’re perhaps biased!) was probably the London Coliseum (below), which opened to great fanfare in 1904.

 

London Coliseum Theatre

 

Unfortunately, over the years a lot of Matcham’s theatres have been repurposed as bingo halls, cinemas or other entertainment venues, so the list of theatres that remain intact today is small.

 

The list of surviving theatres built by Frank Matcham include:

 

  • Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
    Grand Theatre, Blackpool (us!)
    Theatre Royal, Wakefield
    Grand Theatre, St. Leonard’s Gate
    Grand Opera House, Belfast
    Richmond Theatre, Richmond upon Thames
    Theatre Royal, Nottingham
    London Hippodrome, London
    Hackney Empire, London
    Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
    Olympia Social Club, Liverpool
    Buxton Opera House, Buxton
    Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, Sussex
    Royal Hall, Harrogate
    Opera House, Derbyshire
    King’s Theatre, Glasgow
    London Coliseum, London
    King’s Theatre, Portsmouth
    London Palladium, London
    Victoria Palace Theatre, London
    Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol

 

In his lifetime, Frank Matcham also designed numerous other buildings, including the nearby Tower Ballroom and Circus in Blackpool. You can still enjoy Matcham’s superb architecture here at The Grand Theatre, so the next time you visit us for a pantomime, a drama, or another form of stage entertainment in Blackpool, be sure to make some time to enjoy your surroundings

 

Take a look at the theatre’s Timeline.

 

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