Friends of The Grand buy the missing piece of the theatre jigsaw, returning the building to its original form for first time in over forty years.
The Friends of The Grand today announced that, after thirty-five years of fundraising, they have, at last, achieved their long-held ambition to return the Grand Theatre to its original architectural footprint.
When Frank Matcham, the famous Victorian theatre designer, was commissioned to create the Grand Theatre in 1893 its owner, Thomas Sergenson, briefed him to incorporate a number of small shops on Church Street into the design.
However, back in 1981, when the Friends purchased the Grade II* listed building from the then owners, EMI, these units were not included in the sale. Ever since, the Friends have been saving in a special fund for the day when it might be possible to buy them.
Well, that day has come and John Buck, Chairman of the Friends of the Grand said ‘it’s like a dream come true. We’ve been saving for this day for years; selling raffle tickets, lapel badges, holding coffee mornings and, even as recently as April we received a bequest from our long-serving Treasurer, Alan Sears, who sadly died earlier this year. It came with the specific instruction that it should only be spent of the purchase of the shops. Alan will be smiling down on us this day’.
John, who is now in his seventies, was one of the original group who raised the money to save the theatre from demolition in 1973. He, along with other passionate and dedicated Friends, cleaned, repaired and painted in their spare time to get the building back on its feet ready for its reopening and dedication from HRH The Prince of Wales in 1981.
‘We were invited to buy the shops back in the 1990s’ remembers John, ‘but, back then, the owners wanted more than a million pounds for them and we thought we’d never be able to raise that much. And we were right! Obviously, times have changed, and, thankfully, we’ve been able raise enough to buy them for less than half that price!’.
When the purchase is complete, the deeds of the properties will be donated to the Grand Theatre Trust, the heritage conservation charity which owns and cares for this beautiful historic building.
Roger Lloyd Jones, Chairman of the Trust said ‘there are many, many people who have made this wonderful purchase possible and I would like to thank everyone who has helped. The theatre is now 122 years old and, as you can imagine, needs constant care and attention. We hope the shops will prove an asset to the theatre, providing a small but much-needed rental income to be re-invested in the upkeep of this precious architectural gem’.
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