In our Guild Meeting we learn about Harrogate Theatre

On Thursday May 14th I had busy day. I did my shopping first in Waitrose and then I had an appointment with my optician to check my eye sight. I found that I was more short sighted in my right eye than my left so my next pair of glasses will be adjusted to improve the sight of my right eye. I will go to choose my new glasses with one of my daughters as they will see which pair suits me.

That afternoon I gave a couple of ladies from church a lift to the chapel for the Guild Meeting. It was the first time I had gone to that meeting and I was asked to do a reading, not a Bible reading, but a famous speech from ‘As you like it,’ by William Shakespeare by Jaques from Act 2 Scene 7; ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.’ It is a lovely speech to read and I enjoyed reading it with expression. That speech was chosen because, Anne our speaker was going to talk about the history of Harrogate Theatre. She explained that it was founded in 1900, when those who were in cheaper seats in the theatre, then known as the ‘Grand Opera House,’ had a separate entrance and box office from the wealthier patrons. Apparently the theatre was sprayed with perfume to disguise the aroma of the hoi polloi! Some of the wealthier patrons even had subscriptions to particular seats; smartly dressed waitresses would bring cups of tea to their seats!!

The theatre kept reinventing itself as the years go by after periods when it had to close but was soon in business again with a regular rep called the White Rose Players. I was fascinated by the talk. Of course no reputable theatre could be without its ghost. Harrogate Theatre is no exception and its ghost is ‘Alice’. There are a few stories about who she was, a cleaner, an actress, in some way involved in the theatre, but all the stories agree that she was probably disappointed in love and jumped to her death in the theatre! People have seen this ghost and most people don’t like to go up alone to the room where costumes are made. A play has been written and performed about Alice.

Originally there were 1000 seats but now there are 500; the theatre has recently been refurbished to restore its original splendour and looks magnificent. The highest balcony seats have been removed and made into Wardrobe rooms and offices. The former office of the owner of the theatre has become a studio theatre now for an intimate audience experience. I really enjoyed the talk and time I spent there at the Guild meeting. Unfortunately I will miss the Guild Anniversary service at our chapel on Sunday as I am preaching at Kirk Hammerton, but I will be joining them for Sunday lunch at a local hotel, which I am looking forward to.

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2 Responses to In our Guild Meeting we learn about Harrogate Theatre

  1. selwyngoodacre says:

    I well remember the Theatre – back in 1958 – there was one brilliant actor – Frank Tregear – wonderful as ‘Charlie’s Aunt’ and also as an ugly sister in Cinderella – I wonder what became of him? Then Sonia Dresdell was the star for a while.

  2. helenbeech says:

    I am glad you have such good memories of it. I am not sure about those actors. I was only 6 at that time.

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