Skip to main content



This is amongst the most important of Phipps’s remaining theatres and he himself regarded it as one of his most successful designs. The auditorium has a remarkable degree of intimacy for its size. This is achieved largely by two means. First: the width is greater than the maximum depth. Second: the rows of the balconies, especially the first one, are very fully curved and come around close to the stage to the detriment, it must be admitted, of sightlines at the extreme sides. This drawback, however, is a small price to pay for the superbly vibrant atmosphere which this auditorium possesses.

The balconies are partly cantilevered and partly supported on iron columns, and have plasterwork of early Renaissance character. The ends of the balconies are separated from the stage by a single box on each side at dress circle level. These are framed by fluted Corinthian columns which carry curly broken pediments. The design of the beautiful ceiling follows a pattern frequently used by Phipps - a flat, circular centre, divided into richly decorated radiating panels supported at the sides, above the upper balcony slips, by high, panelled coves. The proscenium is well related in width, 10.4m (34ft), to the scale of the auditorium. The design of its reticent rectangular frame, decorated with filigree plasterwork and surmounted by a pedimental tablet, has much in common with the proscenium which existed at Nottingham Theatre Royal prior to its removal in 1978. There was a splendid contemporary painted act-drop which is still on site but recent inspection suggests it was heavily repainted between the Wars (compare e.g. Gaiety Theatre, Douglas where the original drop is still in use). It depicted a classical landscape with dancing nymphs, hung about with elaborately swagged and tasselled draperies (the present drop is a 1997 copy of the original). The façade to Lichfield Street is of considerable width, more than 30.5m (100ft). It is in brick with painted stone dressings and the design is very French in character. In the centre is a tall, arcaded loggia, set in front of the first and second floor saloons. This is flanked at end of the façade by two-bay pavilions with steep dormered mansard roofs.

Following a threat of closure in 1969 the theatre was promptly acquired by Wolverhampton Corporation. At that time some unfortunate alterations were made (e.g. in auditorium and dress circle saloon) and the delicate arabesques on the auditorium cove were painted out, but in 1997-8 major improvements were carried out. The auditorium was restored and redecorated, additional bar and foyer spaces were created, air conditioning installed, the fly tower raised and the stage re-engineered.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1894 : continuing
Current state
Current use
Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, WV1 1DE, England
Further details
Other names
  • 1894 Design/Construction:
    Jackson & Sons (London)
    - Consultant
    circle and box front fibrous plaster
    - Consultant
    interior decorations
  • 1894 Owner/Management: E H Bull (real name Beresford), lessee
  • 1894 Use: continuing
  • 1894 Design/Construction:
    C J Phipps
    - Architect
  • 1895 Alteration: foyer decorated with framed portraits of Thorne, Summers, Crellin and Irving
    - Architect
  • 1895 Alteration: & electric light introduced; other minor works
    - Architect
  • 1898 Design/Construction:
    A R Dean
    - Consultant
    interior decorations
    Walter Johnstone (Haymarket
    - Consultant
    London) act-drop
  • 1898 Alteration: renovated
    Messrs A R Dean
    - Architect
  • 1899 Alteration: seating reconfigured
    - Architect
  • 1900 Owner/Management: E H Bull & Milton Bode, lessees
  • 1912 Owner/Management: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Co
  • 1946 Owner/Management: Wolverhampton News Theatre Co Ltd
  • 1969 Alteration: auditorium and front of house altered
    - Architect
  • 1983 Alteration: refurbished
    Tarmac Refurb Ltd
    - Architect
  • 1983 Design/Construction:
    Pauline Searancke
    - Consultant
    interior design
  • 1987 Alteration: new canopy
    - Architect
  • 1994 Owner/Management: Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council, owners
  • 1998 Alteration: major refurbishment, extensive improvements
    - Architect
  • 1998 Design/Construction:
  • Capacity
    1908: 2550
    1946: 1332 + 68 standing
    1972: 1410
  • Capacity
  • Listing
Stage type
Proscenium Rake 1:26
Building dimensions: 107ft (façade)
Stage dimensions: Depth: 11.9m (42ft) Width SL: 8.8m SR: 9.4m
Proscenium width: 10.42m (35ft)
Height to grid: 19m
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: Enlarged with elevators and rostra