History of the Theatre Royal St Helens

There has been a theatre on the present site in Corporation Street since 1890. The first building on the site was built in 1885 and was called the Theatre Royal and Opera House.

imgThe building was destroyed by fire in the 1890’s and had to be demolished. The present Theatre Royal building, designed by the well known Victorian and Edwardian theatre architect, Frank Matcham, was opened on 20 May 1901.  In those days the theatre had a circle and an upper circle as well as private boxes and seated 1400 persons. 

Many of Frank Matcham’s theatres are still in use around the country to-day.   Following a period of closure in the 1960’s, the Theatre Royal building was acquired by Pilkington Brothers, as they were known at that time, for use by their own employees and local amateur societies.  Pilkington Bros carried out extensive refurbishment works, including stripping out the upper circle and the private boxes and providing the building with a new frontage.   To-day the seating capacity of the theatre is 702 persons.  In the mid 1980’s the company decided it was no longer appropriate for it to own a theatre and it donated the building to the former Merseyside County Council in 1986.   At the same time the County Council decided to establish a trust to continue to operate the theatre for the benefit of the townspeople and local societies.

Ownership of the theatre building was transferred to the County Council and then to the trust early in 1986 together with working capital comprising a one off grant of £75,000 from the former County Council and four annual payments of £40,000 from Pilkington Bros.  The Trust formally acknowledges its grateful thanks for those contributions.