Gaiety Theatre, Manchester

Gaiety Theatre
Comedy Theatre (until 1908)
Architect's drawing of the proposed theatre
Address Peter Street
Owner United Theatres Co. Ltd.
Annie Horniman
Samuel Fitton & Associates
Type Repertory
Capacity 2,500 (later 1,300, then 1,029)
Opened 1884
Closed 1957
Demolished 1959
Rebuilt 1908
Years active 1884–1922, 1945–47
Architect Alfred Darbyshire
Frank Matcham (rebuilding)

The Gaiety Theatre, Manchester was a theatre in Manchester, England. It was opened in 1884 and demolished in 1959.[1] It replaced a previous Gaiety Theatre on the site which had been destroyed by fire.[2] The old Gaiety Theatre, under the management of John Hollingshead in 1878, was the world's first theatre to use electric lights for the stage.

The new theatre was designed by Alfred Darbyshire for United Theatres Co. Ltd. and built on a plot of land near to the corner of Peter Street and Mount Street.[3] It opened as the Comedy Theatre in 1884. On 9 November 1908 it was bought by Annie Horniman for £25,000 and reconstructed to plans by Frank Matcham, reducing its capacity from 2,500 to 1,300.[1] The theatre reopened as the Gaiety Theatre in 1912.[3] It was Britain's first regional repertory theatre.[4] In 1920 the theatre was taken over by Samuel Fitton & Associates but closed in 1922. It was in use again between 1945 and 1947 but was demolished in 1959.[1]

During the time the theatre was being run by Annie Horniman, a wide variety of types of plays was produced. Anne Horniman also encouraged local writers, who became known as the Manchester School of playwrights. They included Harold Brighouse, writer of Hobson's Choice, and Stanley Houghton, who wrote Hindle Wakes. Actors who performed at the Gaiety early in their careers include Sybil Thorndike and Basil Dean.[5]

In 2008 Annie Horniman's centenary was celebrated by a performance of Houghton's play Independent Means, which had been recently "rediscovered" in the British Library by Chris Honer, the theatre's artistic director.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "Gaiety Theatre, Midland Hotel, Manchester". Retrieved 14 November 2008. 
  2. ^ "Fires in Theatres - The Gaiety Theatre, Manchester". Hansard. 14 June 1883. pp. vol 280 c552. Retrieved 15 November 2008. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b Murray, Andy (3–9 November 2008). "Means of production".  
  5. ^ Murphy, Michelle. "Annie Horniman". History features.  

Further reading

  • Pogson, Rex (1952). Miss Horniman and the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester. Rockliff. 

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