102 High Street,
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The Theatre Royal was opened on 31st July 1899 as a theatre and variety house with seating provided for 2,840. The opening production was the play “The Lairs”. It was designed by local Rochester architect G.E. Bond in a French Renaissance style. It was destroyed by a fire soon after opening, and was rebuilt in 1900, again to the plans of G.E. Bond. Seating for 1,500 was provided in orchestra stalls, dress circle and gallery levels. The proscenium was 31 feet wide, the stage 40 feet deep, and there were eight dressing rooms.
In 1938, the theatre was re-decorated to the plans of architect Andrew Mather, and was re-named Royal Hippodrome Theatre. By 1940, it had reverted back to the Theatre Royal name.
The Theatre Royal was closed in 1953, and was converted into a furniture store and the orchestra stalls floor was leveled and filled in with concrete. In the 1960’s, a fire in the stage house led to the proscenium opening being bricked in, and the side boxes were removed. The furniture store moved out of the building in the 1970’s, and the auditorium fell into a state of dereliction, with holes in the roof and plaster falling off. The foyer began use as a tile retailer. There was hope of saving the theatre in the 1980’s when a ‘Save the Theatre Royal’ group was set up. With the local Council owning the theatre stage house part of the building, there was little hope of it ever re-opening, but teams of volunteer cleaned up the auditorium and did repairs. The introduction of the National Lottery brought new hope that funding would become available to restore the theatre, but hopes were eventually dashed, and the derelict building lingered on until March 2009 when the auditorium was demolished, and housing was built on the site. The façade and foyer was retained as an entrance to the flats.
The Theatre Royal was a Grade II Listed building.
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