Entertaining theatre since 1894
The Grand Theatre first opened its doors in 1894. Designed by prestigious theatre architect Charles J. Phipps and Wolverhampton native builder Henry Gough, the ten thousand pound construction began June 28th 1894 when Mayoress C.T. Mander unveiled foundation stone.
Even today, the Grand remains held in high regard as one of Phipps’ crowning achievements, so much so that the facade of the building has remained virtually unchanged during both of its major refurbishments. Many would agree that it is one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the city of Wolverhampton today.
Its debut production was ‘Utopia Limited’ by the world-renowned D’Oyly Carte Opera company, performed to the staggering two thousand, one hundred and fifty-one capacity of the original auditorium layout.
In those days, seating in the auditorium was segregated by class, with the Dress Circle set aside for members of the gentry. People like you and I waited for hours to grab a place in the ‘sixpenny gallery,’ where there was no advance booking and queues reaching around the building. One such lucky theatregoer on the opening night was nine-year-old Tom Latham, so impressed by the grandiose beauty and elegance of the building, that he would later go on to become the Grand’s stage manager for thirty-five years.
During the opening years of the twentieth century, the Grand played host to icons of stage, screen and the political arena, both established and yet to leave their mark on the world. One such character was Charlie Chaplin, who made the most of his role as a pageboy in the 1902 production of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ through a series of elaborate practical jokes at the expense of the cast and crew!
The great Victorian actor Sir Henry Irving appeared in four plays during 1903, and future Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed a male-only audience as president of the Board of Trade in 1909, though his speech was interrupted by an enthusiastic group of suffragettes who threw stink bombs and damaged seating before being ejected by the police.
Nine years later at the end of World War One, the victorious PM David Lloyd George launched his election campaign to a packed auditorium, famously declaring ‘homes fit for heroes.’ The Grand continued to pack in the audiences throughout the Twenties and Thirties.
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre (1982) Ltd. A company limited by guarantee
Registered in England No. 1731876.
Registered Office: Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1DE. Charity No, 515154.