The Grand Theatre & Opera House, Halifax

The Halifax music hall and variety theatre stood at the south-east end of North Bridge.

It replaced the earlier wooden Gaiety Theatre which burnt down in 1888.

It was owned by the Halifax New Grand Theatre & Opera House Company Limited [1889].

It was designed by Frank Matcham, a great theatre architect of his day.

Wilson Barrett laid the foundation stone for the Theatre [27th November 1888].

Others involved in the design and construction were Jonas Binns (decorator) and Dean & Sons (upholstery).

It had a capacity of 1700 seats and room for 300 standing. It was built at a cost of £16,000. Opened on 5th August 1889 – with a series of plays starring Wilson Barrett.

The musical director, Arthur Grimmett, worked at the Gaiety Theatre and the Grand Theatre, Halifax until the Northern Theatres Company bought the Grand in 1897.

It always lagged behind the more central Theatre Royal as the town's primary theatre and was closed for long periods.

In 1902, it became a music hall.

In March 1903, Sir Henry Irving gave 4 performances at the theatre.

It was converted for cinema use by blocking off boxes, and opened as the Grand Picture House on 30th May 1925, with a capacity of 1100.

The last cinema show was on 30th March 1940. It then became a theatre once again, and switched to variety, becoming the venue for visiting repertory companies but it was in financial trouble by the early 1950s.

Charles Denville was lessee in the 1940s.

In 1954, a group of enthusiasts called the Halifax Repertory Theatre Club was formed and spent the next few years desperately trying to save the Grand. The Club leased the Grand from the Northern Theatres Company. They found that Eric Portman was a good ally, generous with his time and money. In January 1956, he donated £100 to start a fighting fund. In March 1956, Eric Portman was starring in a hit West End production of Terence Rattigan's play Separate Tables, and he brought the entire production to Halifax for one night – on Sunday, 11th March – to raise funds for the theatre fund. The Repertory Club replicated the London set and lighting effects. The actors gave their services free and their accommodation costs were met by Eric Portman himself. All 800 seats sold out, and the sum of £400 was raised for the theatre.

In May 1956, the Theatre Club held a meeting to discuss their failing attempts to keep the theatre open, and Charles Holdsworth offered to buy the building and let the Theatre Club have it free for 6 months; hours later.

On 24th May 1956, a considerable amount of ornamental plaster fell from the ceiling down into the stalls.

The theatre closed in 1956 and never reopened.

The council declined to buy the building from the owners, Northern Theatres Limited. The building was demolished in May 1957.

Dews Garage bought the site and demolition contractor Francis Fascione removed 2,000 tons of stone and brickwork to be resold

See Otto C. Culling, Tyrone Guthrie and William Robinson

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:13 / 15th May 2021 / 6118

Page Ref: MMG178

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