Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Architect: Frank Matcham (1894)
Photograph: E. de Mare (1952)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
To attract its many millions of visitors, Blackpool had to have spectacular entertainment venues. One of the most glorious is the Grand Theatre (1894), designed by Frank Matcham, seating over 1,200 people.
Matcham (1854-1920) has been called ‘the most prolific theatre architect of all time.’ His lavish work can be found throughout the country, his masterpiece being the London Coliseum (1904). However, he also designed pubs, cinemas and hotels, and the glittering County Arcade, Leeds. It seems remarkable, therefore, with such a successful practice that Matcham never actually qualified as an architect.
This photograph displays Matcham’s signature plasterwork. He aimed to create theatres where the audience would be transported by their surroundings as much as the performance itself. This journey began on the exterior, his jolly theatre façades more like confectionary than architecture. Inside this ostentation continued, his plush interiors covered with finely modelled plaster, paintings and mosaics, the climax being the proscenium arch. However, this view also reveals his genius in theatre planning: the Grand has three tiers of shallow raked seating, with unimpeded views, ensuring that the large audience feels close to the stage, making the show more thrilling and immediate.