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Century Theatre


This unique mobile theatre was conceived in 1948 by John Ridley and finally took to the road in 1952. It was a self-contained unit with the cast performing in different locations, but within the same theatre. Based on a mobile auditorium and stage the theatre (stage, dressing rooms, auditorium with fixed seating and entrances) was composed of four large ex-RAF tractors, each pulling a 30ft trailer with a 10ft trailer hitched on behind. The rest of the convoy consisted of support services comprising six living quarters trailers, a dining car, kitchen, scenery van, booking office, double decker bus, an office and bathroom and a conventional caravan and jeep. The Century Theatre toured for 23 years before becoming a permanent fixture at Keswick, where it gained the nickname the ‘Blue Box’. It remained in Keswick until 1996. One of the impacts of touring was to raise interest in theatre and no less than 17 of the towns visited eventually built permanent theatres of their own. The eighteenth, Keswick, received such impetus from this extraordinary venue that the local community eventually undertook the fundraising and political will to build the Theatre by the Lake. The theatre made its final journey as a mobile structure in December 1996 to its county of origin to become a museum exhibit (the largest one in the County’s collection) and performance space at Snibston Discovery Museum. A new two storey front of house addition was added in 2011 providing a mezzanine lounge bar, toilet facilities and better access. Snibston Discovery Museum was closed in July 2015 due to local Council budget cuts and demolished in April 2016. The Century Theatre is currently operating as a receiving theatre. Proposals for a new masterplan for the entire Snibston Colliery site published by Leicestershire County Council in 2016 revealed improved access to the Century and listed headstocks that sit adjacent, with new heritage trails and facilities linking to the country park. A revised masterplan for the site released in spring 2018 further strengthened integration of the theatre in the proposals, therefore giving it improved future protection. Building work on the ambitious masterplan proposals began in February 2020 the physical improvements for the Century include a new adjoining café. Now that Snibston Colliery Park has opened and the theatre is better integrated with the local area, we hope it will be able to play an even more prominent role in its local community.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1952 - 1974: Theatre (mobile)
  • 1975 - 1996: Theatre (Keswick)
  • 1997 : Theatre (Coalville); continuing
Current state
Current use
Theatre (currently at risk)
Former Snibston Colliery Site, Ashby Road, Coalville, Leicestershire, LE67 3LN, England
Further details
Other names
Snibston Century Theatre
  • 1948 - 1952 Design/Construction: Theatre (mobile)
    John Ridley
    - Architect
  • 1952 - 1974 Use: Theatre (mobile)
  • 1975 - 1996 Use: Theatre (Keswick)
  • 1997 Use: Theatre (Coalville); continuing
  • 1997 Owner/Management: Leicestershire County Council
  • Capacity
  • Listing
    Not listed
Stage type
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: -
Proscenium width: -
Height to grid: -
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: -