History of the Sleaford Playhouse

The Playhouse was restored to a working Theatre in 2000 and has had a varied history. Originally built as a theatre, it was subsequently adapted for a variety of other uses to meet the demands of the time, and is now once more being used for its original purpose.

The Playhouse History

The Playhouse was built in 1825 for Joseph Smedley (bookbinder, printer and stationer - and comedian), who had purchased the land and surrounding tenements for £700. Smedley successfully managed the Playhouse as a theatre for several years. He owned a string of theatres from Kings Lynn around the Wash to Sleaford and ran a small touring company, which toured around the Lincolnshire and Norfolk area.

In January 1841, after a relatively quiet time with poor attendances at the theatre, Smedley sold the Playhouse to John Hyde (watchmaker) of Sleaford. Hyde managed the Playhouse and succeeded in attracting a variety of acts to Sleaford, including magicians, comic singers and touring theatre companies.

Hyde died in June 1853, but by then he had sold the Playhouse to Jane Hill of Sleaford and William Pidd-Fischer (Miller at Money's Mill). After a short closure, they re-opened the theatre in 1855 under the management of Mr R.A. Douglas. Attendances, however, were miserably small. The taste for drama had all but disappeared in Sleaford and closure loomed again.

The executors of Hill and Fisher sold the Playhouse, including fixtures and fittings, in August 1856 to Thomas Parry for the bargain price of £380. In 1857, the building was bought by the Church of England, who elected Parry, together with his business partner William Kirk, to convert it into a school at the cost of £1,085 paid for by subscription. Thus, the Playhouse became Sleaford's first infant school.

Subsequently, the Playhouse has served as a library, an emergency shelter during both world wars and a government benefits office.

Sleaford Little Theatre bought the Playhouse in 1994 with intent to restore the building to its original use. A nucleus of enthusiastic members worked hard on the project to provide the town once more with its very own theatre venue.

While SLT had sufficient funds to purchase the building and carry out a certain amount of work, additional funding came from various sources, including the Foundation for Sports and Arts, Wren Recycling, local benefactors and sponsors, thus enabling the renovation to be completed.

The newly restored Playhouse opened its doors to the public in October 2000, thus once more becoming a working Georgian Theatre, one of only six remaining in the country and out of those six two are with a small, rectangular auditorium. Sleaford Little Theatre now had the 'home' they'd dreamt of, and the town had an invaluable venue for all sorts of events.

As the Playhouse celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2010, a refurbishment project saw the initial restoration improved to include new racked seating for the downstairs seats, new carpet downstairs making the wooden floors seem more comfortable and many more much-needed improvements.

Since re-opening the Playhouse, Sleaford Little Theatre, owners of the theatre, has entertained audiences with a wide variety of productions. Classics such as J.B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls', Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca' and Charles Dickens' 'David Copperfield', to comedies such as Lloyd & Croft's hit 'Allo Allo' and Alan Ayckbourn's 'Communicating Doors', plus much more.

The Playhouse is proving to be a favourite venue for a wide variety of other entertainment too, from local bands and solo artists to professional touring theatre companies and musicians.

The aim is to continue to provide an attractive range of events at the Playhouse to appeal to a wide variety of tastes, hopefully attracting new audiences as well as satisfying our existing patrons.