Memorial Theatre on fire

Memorial Theatre on fire

Stratford-upon-Avon is famous the world over as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. In 1879 William Frederick Unsworth built the first Shakespeare Memorial Theatre on the banks of the Avon. It was a large Gothic building, after designs by W F Cusworth, including a theatre wing, a library, and a museum wing, linked by a galleried bridge. In this picture you can also see its distinctive central tower.

Disaster struck on March 6th, 1926 when the theatre was almost completely destroyed by fire, leaving only a shell. Festival productions went ahead in a local cinema. A worldwide fundraising campaign was launched as well as an architectural competition and in 1932 the new building, designed by Elisabeth Scott, was opened by the Prince of Wales. Scott incorporated the remaining shell as a conference centre and rehearsal rooms, but in 1986 it was rebuilt as a theatre by Michael Reardon. It reopened as the Swan Theatre, a smaller house to complement the main theatre.