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Devonshire Park Theatre

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Important events

(detail)1884 | opening

(detail)1903 | alteration



The Devonshire Park Theatre, Compton Street and Hardwick Road, Eastbourne The Devonshire Park Theatre was originally built by Henry Currey who was also the architect who designed St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, and the seventh Duke of Devonshire's own architect. The Theatre was built in 1884 on land which was given by the Duke of Devonshire and formed part of a complex of buildings which would not be completed until 1891. The first building constructed on this land was the Wintergarden which was built in 1876, then came the Theatre in 1884, and finally the Indian Pavilion in 1891, all constructed by the Devonshire Park and Baths Company. The Devonshire Park Theatre opened on Whit Monday, 1884 and the ERA published a review of the Theatre in their 7th of June edition saying: 'For some time the want of a theatre or dramatic hall in connection with Devonshire Park, Eastbourne, has been a source of considerable inconvenience. t is true that the Pavilion has been utilised, but this building was never intended for such a purpose, and its acoustic defects have considerably marred the attractiveness of the entertainments from time to time given therein. The directors have therefore erected at the south eastern corner of the grounds, adjoining Hardwick-road, a suitable theatre, complete in every detail, which was duly licensed on Monday, the 26th ult., and was brought into use on Whit Monday.

The new dramatic hall is approached by a carriage drive from Hardwick-road. Ascending two or three steps we reach the entrance hall, which has a domed roof; in the centre is a small sunlight, which illuminates the whole area. On each side of the hall, which we may herto mention is handsomely carpeted, are one or two small retiring rooms, and on one side the ticket office. Ascending another short flight of steps, the corridor branches of in two directions, one leading to the orchestra stalls and the other to the balcony stalls. All fear of draughts is avoided by portiere draperies. We notice just within the draperies a handsomely-fitted buffet and restaurant, and in another part a snug smoking-room for gentlemen, handsomely furnished with lounges and settees.On the ground-floor are the orchestra stalls, 211 in number, while above are the first circle seats. Each seat is a comfortable arm-chair, covered with damask in cream and old gold, with cushioned arm rests and moveable seats. The pit is behind the orchestra stalls, and is somewhat contracted. It will only accommodate about 150 persons. The seats are separated from each other by iron partitions. Above the first balcony is a second, which will serve as an amphitheatre or gallery, and is a most commodious and extremely comfortable part of the house.Owing to the excellent arrangement of the interior, the whole of the stage will be visible from every seat in the house. There are no side galleries, customary in most theatres. In the centre of the roof is a sunlight, from which pear-shaped medallions radiate, bordered with gold. The ground is a light silver grey, enlivened by light crimson or lake. The front of the balconies are decorated in the same style, and the whole building has a most chaste and elegant appearance.

There is a handsome buffet for the pit and amphitheatre, quite distinct from the stall buffet. The pit and amphitheatre have separate entrances at the sides of the building, and every arrangement has been made to enable the house to be cleared in a few minutes in case of fire. All the staircases and approaches are fireproof, and water is laid on in every part, which can be made available at a moment's notice. In fact, every precaution has been adopted to make the hall in all respects as safe from danger as possible. Leaving the front of the stage, we pass through some fire-proof doors to the mysterious regions below. Here we find ourselves in a perfect labyrinth of peculiar machinery, used for dramatic purposes - traps to send sprites flying into the air, or to raise fairies to earthly regions.

The building is lit with gas, and both the sun and foot lights are constructed on the flash principle, so that in an instant the theatre can be bathed in light or shrouded in darkness. Behind the stage is a spacious green-room, and a number of commodious dressing-rooms, all carpeted, and properly furnished, for the convenience of the ladies and gentlemen engaged on the stage. Under the most brilliant auspices the new Thespian temple was opened on Monday evening. The house may literally be said to have been crowded from floor to ceiling with a fashionable and critical audience. The honour of giving the opening performances had been accorded to Mr G. M. Wood's Garrick Comedy company, and the selection turned out a very happy one. The programme opened with a comedietta entitled The Day After the Wedding, and next came "An Original Address," which was spoken by the author, Mr G. M. Wood. This gentleman performed the duty imposed upon him in an admirable manner, the address being well written and exceedingly appropriate to the occasion. After this followed the play of the evening, Mr G. M. Wood's version of David Garrick, which was well gone through and cordially approved.'



Text: ERA, 7th of June 1884.



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