The Theatre Royal, Bristol. For Sale by Auction, 1942

Here are some more treats from the archive.  A 1942 plan of the theatre when it was up for auction.  Note that this was before Cooper’s Hall had been incorporated, and when there appeared to be a school on Queen Charlotte Street, where there is now student accommodation. 

Up until 1941, the theatre was owned by two fantastically named men Milton Bode and Robert Courtneidge, but after some slight damage to the building during World War II (which is miraculous in itself considering the damage to nearby Broadmead), and the deaths of both men, the theatre closed temporarily and many thought that it would never re-open.

In January 1942 the theatre was put up for auction (here’s the ‘for sale’ poster). 

It was feared that it might be converted into storage or some other industrial use, before the grandly named The Council for the Preservation of Ancient Bristol stepped up and launched a campaign to save the building. Some generous philanthropists stumped up the cash, and it was bought for the princely sum of £10,500.

A fundraising campaign was immediately launched, but with limited success.  Perhaps sensibly, people were unwilling to donate money while there was a war on, as there was every chance it might still be reduced to rubble.  However, later in 1942, The Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA – a forerunner of Arts Council England) offered to lease the building from the Trustees. So on 31 January 1942 the theatre became the first State theatre in the country, and it re-opened on 11 May 1943 with She Stoops to Conquer.


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