Our Story

The Story Begins

Grand Theatre Blackpool - 125 years logo

Celebrating 125 years

As we celebrate this important milestone, our mission is to secure the theatre for the next generation, starting with a campaign to raise £125,000 to repair the storm damage to the dome at the front of the building.

Donate Today
Grand Theatre Blackpool crown icon

1837

Queen Victoria becomes Queen

1872

Parcels of land for sale on Church Street indicate that the site is ripe for development

Grand Theatre Blackpool lightbulb icon

1879

The Illuminations were first shown in 1879 when they were described as 'Artificial sunshine'. The first display, similar to the modern-day displays, was held in May 1912 to mark the first British Royal family visit to Blackpool, which was the first town in the world to have electric street lighting

Grand Theatre Blackpool pier icon

1863

Opening of the new Blackpool Pier

Grand Theatre Blackpool telephone icon

1876

Alexander Bell invented the telephone and Primary Education was made compulsory

Grand Theatre Blackpool tram icon

1885

Electric Tramway - The line dates back to 1885 and is one of the oldest electric tramways in the world. It carried 5.2 million passengers in 2017/18

1887

The local impresario known as the 'People's Showman' Thomas Sergenson, purchased a row of old cottages and shops on the corner site

Grand Theatre Blackpool in 1887
Grand Theatre Blackpool tram in 1887

1888

After the opening of the Opera House, the 'Grand Project' was shelved and Sergenson built a make-shift circus to wow audiences

The Birth of an Icon

1891

Foundation stone for Blackpool’s new Tower is laid

Blackpool tower under construction in 1891

1893

The Theatre was built in nine months at a cost of £20,000. It has been said that any problem can be solved with Matcham’s confidence and a riot of fibrous plasterwork.

Architect Frank Matcham commissioned to design Blackpool’s Grand Theatre

Wilson Barrett starring in Hamlet in 1894
Frank Matcham, Architect

1894

The theatre opened with a production of Hamlet, Wilson Barrett in the starring role. The Theatre was hailed as Matcham’s Masterpiece

Built 1894

Architect, Frank Matcham

Grand Theatre Blackpool microphone icon

1897

Guglielmo Marconi awarded Radio Communication Patent

1901

Sergenson buys out his investors and becomes sole owner of Blackpool's Grand

1902

Winston Churchill held a lecture at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre before becoming Prime Minister (1940-45)

So This Is Show Business

Grand Theatre Blackpool crown icon

1901

Victoria dies and is succeeded by Edward VII

Edward VII image
Winston Churchill image
Grand Theatre Blackpool titanic ship icon

1912

'Titanic' sinks with the loss of 1,503 lives

Grand Theatre Blackpool crown icon

1910

Edward VII dies and is succeeded by George V

1910

The Grand Theatre foyer housed a fernery grotto

Grand Theatre Blackpool fernery grotto in 1910
Sarah Bernhardt performs in Pella set Melinsandre at Blackpool Grand Theatre in 1905
Grand Theatre Blackpool World War helmet icon

1914 - 1918

World War I

1909

Blackpool’s Grand is sold to The Tower Co. (23 Dec) for £47,500

1905

Sarah Bernhardt performed in Pellea set Melisande for just one afternoon known as a Flying Matinee

1923

Jack Buchanan visited The Grand 10 times spanning five decades. He was a song and dance man who also appeared in light comedy

Grand Theatre Blackpool microphone icon

1927

British Broadcasting Corporation is created

Image of Jack Buchanan

1926

Thomas Sergenson Died (Apr) in Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Grand Theatre Blackpool lightbulb icon

1932

Animated tableaux were erected running along Blackpool's promenade from the cliffs at North Shore to Bispham, and the Illuminations were extended to its current length running from Starr Gate to Red Bank Road at Bispham

Grand Theatre Blackpool World War helmet icon

1939 - 1945

World War II

1939

This was Sir John Gielgud’s first visit to The Grand in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde directing a cast of star players. He returned in 1941 with Dear Brutus

Image of Sir John Gielgud
Image of Noel Coward in 1942

1942

Noel Coward toured three shows in his ‘Play Parade’ Present Laughter and This Happy Breed were World War Premiers and Blithe Spirit was a current West End success

Image of the Grand Theatre, Blackpool

1953

Arthur Askey in The Love Match reflects the popularity of northern comedy which played to packed houses every summer for two decades

Grand Theatre Blackpool NHS icon

1948

Introduction of the NHS

Grand Theatre Blackpool crown icon

1953

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Blackpool street celebration of Queen Elizabeth II Coronation

1963

Jimmy Clitheroe in We’re Frying Tonight

Grand Theatre Blackpool film camera icon

1959

Hollywood film star Jane Mansfield switched on the world famous Blackpool illuminations for the Trades Union congress

Grand Theatre Blackpool motorway icon

1958

The first Motorway, the M6 Preston bypass, opens

1963

Margaret Lockwood with a star-studded cast presented an Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. This was a rare gem amid a decade of declining audiences and winter closures

Grand Theatre Blackpool Concorde icon

1969

Concorde, makes it maiden flight

The Epic Struggle

Grand Theatre Blackpool currency icon

1971

Decimalised currency replaces 'pounds, shillings and pence' (15 Feb)

1972

Historic England logo

Grade II listed building status achieved by Jeffrey Finestone. Closure by current owners EMI Company Notice of proposed demolition

1974

Public outcry as Blackpool’s Grand remained closed

1972

Public enquiry held at the Town Hall to decide theatre’s fate. Peter Boydell QC. fought the case on behalf of the Friends of The Grand and the Theatre was saved

Grand Theatre Blackpool theatre masks icon

1976

The Theatres Trust a National Advisory Public Body for Theatres in the UK. Founded in 1976 by an Act of Parliament to "promote the better protection of theatres for the benefit of the nation"

1977

£250,000 refurbishment by EMI prior to opening the Grand as a Bingo Hall.

The Grand Theatre Trust Company was formed, as a charity, from the original ‘Friends of The Grand’

Royal Gala

1979

Blackpool’s Carter Street closed off for M&S build - re-christened Matcham Court

1978

The whole town was involved in fundraising to reach the purchase price of £350,000. Owing to the lack of support for Bingo the theatre was acquired in 1980 for £250,000

Grand Theatre Blackpool vote box icon

1979

Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain's first female prime minister

1981

The Grand re-opened with the Old Vic Company Tour of A Merchant of Venice starring Timothy West and Prunella Scales. There follows the ultimate honour of a Royal Gala in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales. However, much work needed to be done to the aging building

1981

Sir Edward Richard George Heath KG MBE, Conservative Conference (19 Oct) delivering a speech from Blackpool Grand’s stage. Heath remained in Parliament until 2001, becoming Father of the House, the title given to the Commons’ longest-serving MP

Grand Theatre Blackpool World War icon

1982

Falklands War

1983

First visit of the National Theatre with Hiawatha and the theatre was upgraded to a Grade II* status

Grand Theatre Blackpool lantern icon

1984

12-month 'Miners Strike' over pit closures begins

Grand Theatre Blackpool shuttle icon

1986

Space shuttle 'Challenger' explodes (28 Jan)

1988

A 5-year programme of refurbishment involving stonework, copper dome, windows, re-seating and carpeting. The biggest addition to theatre’s portfolio was the building of a Studio Theatre

Grand Theatre Blackpool theatre masks icon

1994

Arts Council England is formed a non-departmental public body of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Grand Theatre Blackpool internet icon

1989

Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web

The Centenary

1994

A Centenary Appeal was launched to raise money to re-instate a Victorian style canopy in place of the 1950s design. This was in place for the visit of HM The Queen and HRH Prince Philip

Grand Theatre Blackpool Twin Towers icon

2001

Terrorist attack on World Trade Center

2001

The Glorious Grand Appeal was planned in two phases. The First Stage was to restore The Grand to its pristine 19th Century condition with extensive work to the artwork, plasterwork and domed ceiling. Phase II now known as the Sam Lee Appeal commenced in 2004 with an emphasis on improving public facilities

Grand Theatre Blackpool cross icon

1997

Princess of Wales dies

1994

Wrought iron and glass canopy erected at rear of Blackpool’s Grand in Matcham Court

2002

January 18, A Gala Celebration with Carl Rosa Opera Co. with ‘The Mikado’ unveiled the restoration work

Reach for the stars

2006

Blackpool’s Grand named as Equity’s National Theatre of Variety

Grand Theatre Blackpool facebook icon

2004

A group of friends at college created a new social online community. Now, Facebook is one of the most influential social networks in the world, with 2.2 billion monthly users

Grand Theatre Blackpool iPhone icon

2007

iPhone (first generation) was born, the device that would change the world (29 Jun)

Grand Theatre Blackpool voting box icon

2008

Election of Barack Obama

2012

Blackpool Grand became an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation. Blackpool’s Grand Theatre has set the standard for heritage theatres and has been featured in the ACE environment report, Sustaining Great Art

2009

The purchase of 43/45 Church Street gave the theatre a flow through the building at all levels as well as providing open plan office space meeting rooms improved box office facilities and improved wheelchair access and chair lift

2016

The Friends of The Grand purchased the shops which were not included in the first 1980 purchase from EMI and returned the theatre back to Matcham’s original footprint

2018

Blackpool’s Grand becomes Arts Council England Sustainability Champion for touring arts

Grand Theatre Blackpool voting box icon

2016

Election of Donald Trump

Grand Theatre Blackpool 125 years icon

2019

The Grand Theatre Blackpool celebrates it’s 125th Anniversary (23 Jul)

Celebrating 125 years

As we celebrate this important milestone, our mission is to secure the theatre for the next generation, starting with a campaign to raise £125,000 to repair the storm damage to the dome at the front of the building.

Donate Today
Our Story

The Story Begins

Grand Theatre Blackpool crown icon

1837

Queen Victoria becomes Queen

Grand Theatre Blackpool pier icon

1863

Opening of the new Blackpool Pier

1872

Parcels of land for sale on Church Street indicate that the site is ripe for development

Grand Theatre Blackpool telephone icon

1876

Alexander Bell invented the telephone and Primary Education was made compulsory

Grand Theatre Blackpool lightbulb icon

1879

The Illuminations were first shown in 1879 when they were described as 'Artificial sunshine'. The first display, similar to the modern-day displays, was held in May 1912 to mark the first British Royal family visit to Blackpool, which was the first town in the world to have electric street lighting

Grand Theatre Blackpool tram in 1887 Grand Theatre Blackpool tram icon

1885

Electric Tramway - The line dates back to 1885 and is one of the oldest electric tramways in the world. It carried 5.2 million passengers in 2017/18

Grand Theatre Blackpool in 1887

1887

The local impresario known as the 'People's Showman' Thomas Sergenson, purchased a row of old cottages and shops on the corner site

1888

After the opening of the Opera House, the 'Grand Project' was shelved and Sergenson built a make-shift circus to wow audiences

The Birth of an Icon

Blackpool tower under construction in 1891

1891

Foundation stone for Blackpool’s new Tower is laid

1893

The Theatre was built in nine months at a cost of £20,000. It has been said that any problem can be solved with Matcham’s confidence and a riot of fibrous plasterwork.

Architect Frank Matcham commissioned to design Blackpool’s Grand Theatre

Wilson Barrett starring in Hamlet in 1894

1894

The theatre opened with a production of Hamlet, Wilson Barrett in the starring role. The Theatre was hailed as Matcham’s Masterpiece

Frank Matcham, Architect

Built 1894

Architect, Frank Matcham

Grand Theatre Blackpool microphone icon

1897

Guglielmo Marconi awarded Radio Communication Patent

1901

Sergenson buys out his investors and becomes sole owner of Blackpool's Grand

Edward VII image Grand Theatre Blackpool crown icon

1901

Victoria dies and is succeeded by Edward VII

Winston Churchill image

1902

Winston Churchill held a lecture at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre before becoming Prime Minister (1940-45)

So This Is Show Business

Sarah Bernhardt performs in Pella set Melinsandre at Blackpool Grand Theatre in 1905

1905

Sarah Bernhardt performed in Pellea set Melisande for just one afternoon known as a Flying Matinee

1909

Blackpool’s Grand is sold to The Tower Co. (23 Dec) for £47,500

Grand Theatre Blackpool fernery grotto in 1910

1910

The Grand Theatre foyer housed a fernery grotto

Grand Theatre Blackpool crown icon

1910

Edward VII dies and is succeeded by George V

Grand Theatre Blackpool titanic ship icon

1912

'Titanic' sinks with the loss of 1,503 lives

Grand Theatre Blackpool World War helmet icon

1914 - 1918

World War I

Image of Jack Buchanan

1923

Jack Buchanan visited The Grand 10 times spanning five decades. He was a song and dance man who also appeared in light comedy

1926

Thomas Sergenson Died (Apr) in Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Grand Theatre Blackpool microphone icon

1927

British Broadcasting Corporation is created

Grand Theatre Blackpool lightbulb icon

1932

Animated tableaux were erected running along Blackpool's promenade from the cliffs at North Shore to Bispham, and the Illuminations were extended to its current length running from Starr Gate to Red Bank Road at Bispham

Image of Sir John Gielgud

1939

This was Sir John Gielgud’s first visit to The Grand in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde directing a cast of star players. He returned in 1941 with Dear Brutus

Grand Theatre Blackpool World War helmet icon

1939 - 1945

World War II

Image of Noel Coward in 1942

1942

Noel Coward toured three shows in his ‘Play Parade’ Present Laughter and This Happy Breed were World War Premiers and Blithe Spirit was a current West End success

Grand Theatre Blackpool NHS icon

1948

Introduction of the NHS

Image of the Grand Theatre, Blackpool

1953

Arthur Askey in The Love Match reflects the popularity of northern comedy which played to packed houses every summer for two decades

Grand Theatre Blackpool crown icon

1953

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Grand Theatre Blackpool motorway icon

1958

The first Motorway, the M6 Preston bypass, opens

Grand Theatre Blackpool film camera icon

1959

Hollywood film star Jane Mansfield switched on the world famous Blackpool illuminations for the Trades Union congress

1963

Jimmy Clitheroe in We’re Frying Tonight

1963

Margaret Lockwood with a star-studded cast presented an Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. This was a rare gem amid a decade of declining audiences and winter closures

Grand Theatre Blackpool Concorde icon

1969

Concorde, makes it maiden flight

Grand Theatre Blackpool currency icon

1971

Decimalised currency replaces 'pounds, shillings and pence' (15 Feb)

The Epic Struggle

1972

Historic England logo

Grade II listed building status achieved by Jeffrey Finestone. Closure by current owners EMI Company Notice of proposed demolition

1972

Public enquiry held at the Town Hall to decide theatre’s fate. Peter Boydell QC. fought the case on behalf of the Friends of The Grand and the Theatre was saved

1974

Public outcry as Blackpool’s Grand remained closed

Grand Theatre Blackpool theatre masks icon

1976

The Theatres Trust a National Advisory Public Body for Theatres in the UK. Founded in 1976 by an Act of Parliament to "promote the better protection of theatres for the benefit of the nation"

1977

£250,000 refurbishment by EMI prior to opening the Grand as a Bingo Hall.

The Grand Theatre Trust Company was formed, as a charity, from the original ‘Friends of The Grand’

1978

The whole town was involved in fundraising to reach the purchase price of £350,000. Owing to the lack of support for Bingo the theatre was acquired in 1980 for £250,000

1979

Blackpool’s Carter Street closed off for M&S build - re-christened Matcham Court

Grand Theatre Blackpool vote box icon

1979

Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain's first female prime minister

Royal Gala

1981

The Grand re-opened with the Old Vic Company Tour of A Merchant of Venice starring Timothy West and Prunella Scales. There follows the ultimate honour of a Royal Gala in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales. However, much work needed to be done to the aging building

1981

Sir Edward Richard George Heath KG MBE, Conservative Conference (19 Oct) delivering a speech from Blackpool Grand’s stage. Heath remained in Parliament until 2001, becoming Father of the House, the title given to the Commons’ longest-serving MP

Grand Theatre Blackpool World War icon

1982

Falklands War

1983

First visit of the National Theatre with Hiawatha and the theatre was upgraded to a Grade II* status

Grand Theatre Blackpool lantern icon

1984

12-month 'Miners Strike' over pit closures begins

Grand Theatre Blackpool shuttle icon

1986

Space shuttle 'Challenger' explodes (28 Jan)

1988

A 5-year programme of refurbishment involving stonework, copper dome, windows, re-seating and carpeting. The biggest addition to theatre’s portfolio was the building of a Studio Theatre

Grand Theatre Blackpool internet icon

1989

Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web

Grand Theatre Blackpool theatre masks icon

1994

Arts Council England is formed a non-departmental public body of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The Centenary

1994

A Centenary Appeal was launched to raise money to re-instate a Victorian style canopy in place of the 1950s design. This was in place for the visit of HM The Queen and HRH Prince Philip

1994

Wrought iron and glass canopy erected at rear of Blackpool’s Grand in Matcham Court

Grand Theatre Blackpool cross icon

1997

Princess of Wales dies

Grand Theatre Blackpool Twin Towers icon

2001

Terrorist attack on World Trade Center

2001

The Glorious Grand Appeal was planned in two phases. The First Stage was to restore The Grand to its pristine 19th Century condition with extensive work to the artwork, plasterwork and domed ceiling. Phase II now known as the Sam Lee Appeal commenced in 2004 with an emphasis on improving public facilities

Reach for the stars

2002

January 18, A Gala Celebration with Carl Rosa Opera Co. with ‘The Mikado’ unveiled the restoration work

Grand Theatre Blackpool facebook icon

2004

A group of friends at college created a new social online community. Now, Facebook is one of the most influential social networks in the world, with 2.2 billion monthly users

2006

Blackpool’s Grand named as Equity’s National Theatre of Variety

Grand Theatre Blackpool iPhone icon

2007

iPhone (first generation) was born, the device that would change the world (29 Jun)

Grand Theatre Blackpool voting box icon

2008

Election of Barack Obama

2009

The purchase of 43/45 Church Street gave the theatre a flow through the building at all levels as well as providing open plan office space meeting rooms improved box office facilities and improved wheelchair access and chair lift

2012

Blackpool Grand became an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation. Blackpool’s Grand Theatre has set the standard for heritage theatres and has been featured in the ACE environment report, Sustaining Great Art

2016

The Friends of The Grand purchased the shops which were not included in the first 1980 purchase from EMI and returned the theatre back to Matcham’s original footprint

Grand Theatre Blackpool voting box icon

2016

Election of Donald Trump

2018

Blackpool’s Grand becomes Arts Council England Sustainability Champion for touring arts

Grand Theatre Blackpool 125 years icon

2019

The Grand Theatre Blackpool celebrates it’s 125th Anniversary (23 Jul)

Celebrating 125 years

As we celebrate this important milestone, our mission is to secure the theatre for the next generation, starting with a campaign to raise £125,000 to repair the storm damage to the dome at the front of the building.

Donate Today