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Stanford Hall Theatre


A small, well-equipped private theatre which has been used by professional companies. Stanford Hall theatre is a little Glyndebourne in the Midlands in that it is a purpose built, fully equipped playhouse in the middle of the Nottinghamshire countryside. Stanford Hall itself was built between 1711 & 1714. In 1938 Sir Julian Cahn, then owner of the Hall, responsible for a successful furnishing empire and, as it happened, an expert conjuror, erected a private theatre to the east of the hall for the purpose of staging his own shows of magic.

The exterior wall is of unrelieved red brick except for a series of square windows just below the roof level. The original entrance to the auditorium was via a large and sumptuously decorated foyer (now converted into a dining room) off the Hall. The public entrance, consisting of double doors, stands to the right of the facade whilst at the extreme left is the stage door entrance with dock doors above at the first floor level. The auditorium and stage run along the same axis as the Hall.

The foyer is small. Two ascending stairways, one on either side of the foyer, with a small box office to the extreme right, lead to the auditorium. The right hand staircase enters the single floor auditorium at the rear whilst that on the left enters at front stalls level. Sightlines are excellent. Above the rear of the auditorium is a projection box capable of showing films.

The Art Deco interior is in its original condition except for the addition of speakers and spotlights. Lighting is entirely concealed in the vertical and horizontal coving of walls and ceiling. Most of these lights point towards the stage except for those surrounding two ornamental plaster vases.

The lower parts of the walls are panelled in mahogany veneer topped with a wide band of ebony. The entrance doors are also mahogany veneered. The large mural and ceiling panels are by Beatrice MacDermott. MacDermott also decorated a series of screens, in similar style, which slotted across the proscenium opening so as to complete the decorative effect. Two of these survive, one situated on each side of the stage.

There is an orchestra pit, the centre of which is taken up with the console of a Wurlitzer organ. This was built for the New Theatre Madeleine, Paris in 1926 and was brought to Stanford Hall for the opening of the Theatre in 1938. The front of the stage is bowed and conceals a curved row of three circuit functioning footlights.

Deep beneath the auditorium Cahn built a substantial 'bomb shelter'. Below the stage are a large green room, six small dressing rooms, toilets and a bathroom.

The framework of the counterweight flying gear of 30 lines remains – a novelty for 1938, especially in a private theatre.

Sir Julian died in 1944 and the whole estate was purchased by the Co-operative Society in 1945. Shortly afterwards the theatre was used by The Midland Theatre Company before their move to Coventry Belgrade and then by the Lincoln Repertory Company for a number of years but all professional productions ceased around the 1960s. It was then used for many years by a number of dramatic and operatic societies within a wide area each putting on two or three productions in the year.

Stanford Hall passed to private ownership and the theatre closed. In 2011 the Hall was purchased by the 6th Duke of Westminster. The building will now be repaired and restored by the Black Stork Charity as part of a Defence and Rehabilitation Facility for armed service personnel.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1938 : continuing
Current state
Current use
Stanford Hall, Melton Road, Stanford on Soar, Nottinghamshire, LE12 5QW, England
Further details
Other names
  • 1938 Use: continuing
  • 1938 Design/Construction:
    Cecil Aubrey Masey
    - Architect
  • 1938 Design/Construction:
    Beatrice MacDermott
    - Consultant
    murals and safety curtain decoration
  • 1938 Owner/Management: Sir Julian Cahn (d.1944)
  • 1945 Owner/Management: Cooperative Society
  • 2011 Owner/Management: Stanford Hall purchased by 6th Duke of Westminster.
  • Capacity
  • Capacity
  • Listing
Stage type
4% rake
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 29ft Width: 51ft 8in
Proscenium width: 24ft x 17ft high
Height to grid: 37ft
Inside proscenium: No circle
Orchestra pit: Original