St George’s Theatre in Great Yarmouth is an absolutely stunning, newly refurbished arts venue presenting a variety of shows and events year round. Perfectly located just a short walk from the seafront and town centre, this Grade I listed landmark theatre venue has an exciting and diverse programme for the coming months.
A short history of this newly renovated theatre reveals a fascinating past – in 1711 the Borough of Great Yarmouth petitioned Parliament for an additional place of worship for the town. A site called ‘The Mount’ on King Street was selected and the large mound, on which a defensive cannon had been placed in 1569, was levelled.
Commissioned in 1714 by the Borough Council, the architects John Price of Richmond were instructed to model the church on St Clement Dames by Sir Christopher Wren. The result when completed in 1721 was a monumental baroque design which went far beyond imitation of St Clement Dames, and is now recognised as one of the finest examples of Baroque Church architecture outside of London. St George’s Chapel was used until 1959, with the first evening service being held in October 1858 when gas was laid on,
After its deconsecrating in 1959, the chapel fell into disrepair, despite being listed Grade I in 1953. It is reported to have narrowly escaped demolition after being official deemed as redundant in 1971.
In the early 1970’s a group of dedicated local people and the amateur dramatic society The Masquers, worked very hard to establish the redundant Chapel as a centre for the arts, converting it into a theatre. A range of performances were given in the centre from the 1970’s right up until 2006, with both local groups and professional companies.
In 2006 the building was forced to close due to severe structural defects, including an unstable tower. For the next 3 years it was fenced off and shrouded in scaffolding. Its deteriorating state resulted in the chapel being declared ‘at risk’ by English Heritage and the Local Authorities until funds were found from the Sea Change programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Norfolk County Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council in 2009 for its restoration.
Works began in 2010 and included a complete restoration of the theatre as well as a project to enhance St George’s Plain and part of historic King Street.
St George’s Theatre opened in November 2012 and plans a huge variety of performances and shows – see the events listing for more details.