Building record MYO941 - Theatre Royal


A theatre was first built on the present sitre in 1765, and a Royal Patent was granted in 1769. The building was often reconstructed but never at any time totally demolished, so that it is now an extraordinary complex of many periods. This history is further heightened by the fact that the theatre also incorporates part of a 12th century undercroft of the former St Leonard's Hospital in the basement. The present main facade dates from 1880 (George Styan) , and the present auditorium and stage from a major rebuilding of 1902 by rank Tugwell. The stone facade is in a Victorian Gothic style comprising three-storeys under a wide gable flanked by corbelled turrets. A big oriel window projects from the centre of the first floor and at ground level there is an open arcade of five pointed arches. In 1967 the stonework was cleaned, and the arcade opened up. The 1902 auditorium comprises stall, dress circle, upper circle and gallery. Flanking the stage are ranges of superimposed bow-fronted boxes - two on either side at the levels of the 1st and 2nd balconies and a single, wide box at the top. The proscenium has a segmentally arched top and a deep curving sounding board. In 1967 the stalls were reseated with continuous rows and the seating capacity was reduced from 1300 to 950. This, inturn, reduced the theatre's viability for touring productions of opera, ballet, etc. Also in 1967 a new entrance foyer, restaurant and bars were added to the left of the theatre in a glass-walled pavilion by Patrick Gwynne. As part of the same project, the dressing rooms, offices, etc., were modernised and partly rebuilt. In 1994 the auditorium was refurbished with new seating, carpeting and a chandelier.


Grid reference SE 6011 5213 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (7)

Full Description

Formerly known as: Remains of St Peter's Hospital ST LEONARD'S PLACE. Theatre, incorporating part of an undercroft of former St Leonard's Hospital in basement. Undercroft C12; original theatre on site 1744; theatre rebuilt 1879-80, interior remodelled 1901-2, extended 1967; refurbished in late C20. Rebuild of 1879 by G Styan, City Engineer; 1902 interior by FA Tugwell of Scarborough; extension by Patrick Gwynne and RA Sefton.

MATERIALS: rock-faced sandstone with slate roofs; extension of reinforced concrete and glass. STYLE: Gothic Revival.

EXTERIOR: 3 storeys and attic; 3-bay gabled front projects over 5-bay buttressed arcade between set back 3-storey bay to left, two similar 2-storey bays to right: further left is 2-storied extension. Entrance in extension which has full height curtain walls of glass carried on hexagonal concrete columns rising into vaulted canopies. Arcade is of 2-centred arches of 2 orders, inner order chamfered, on responds and shafts with stiff-leaf capitals; arches beneath hoodmoulds on head or foliate stops, with spandrels containing roundels, some carved in low relief with female heads. Above is corbel cornice and parapet incorporating band of heraldic shields set in sunk panels, blank except for one at each end carved with cross of St George. In centre of first floor is a canted oriel window with four 2-centred arched lights between clustered shafts: steep roof is half hexagonal with gargoyles and blind trefoiled band at the base.

On first and second floors, windows flanking oriel are narrow paired 1-pane sashes; on first floor, in 2-centred arches of 2 orders with sunk quatrefoils in the tympana, on second floor, beneath lintels carved in relief with stiff leaf foliage. Foliate capitals on first floor are extended to form full-width carved impost band returned at both ends: second floor windows have sillstring. Attic window is of 2 square-headed louvred lights in blind 2-centred arches on coupled shafts within single 2-centred arch with blind sunk quatrefoil in tympanum. Gable has bartizan at each side and is edged with blind trefoiled band over corbelled eaves string. Each side has steeply gabled dormer with plain bargeboards and windows of paired trefoil-headed lights, 1-pane sashes to left, louvred to right. Gable is crowned with a standing figure in cross-gabled niche with crockets and finials. End left bay has two blind window arches on first floor, blank second floor, and pierced parapet. Right end bays have two square-headed sash windows in 2-centred arches of 2 orders with waterleaf capitals, blind tympanum containing sunk quatrefoil and hoodmoulds on head or grotesque stops on ground floor. On first floor, windows repeat those of gabled front. Coved impost band on ground floor returns at right end carved with stiff leaf.

INTERIOR: Rear of stage is formed by length of medieval wall incorporating towards left end springing of 4-centred gate arch of voussoirs; above is flat cornice and high wall pierced by two cruciform arrow slits. At right end of building semi-basement is located in two visible bays of vaulted undercroft with groined semicircular arches springing from squat cylindrical columns and square piers or responds with scalloped capitals. 1901-2 auditorium with stalls, dress circle, upper circle and gallery. Proscenium arch with shield motof flanked by three tiers of bowed boxes set beneath segmental arches. Columns on dress circle box fronts, the others with scallop and shell decoration.

1967 foyer formed of two storeys of mushroom columns, those to upper floor oversailing to permit full-height glazing. Concrete with exposed aggregate finish. Serpentine cantilevered staircase with marble edging to sides and metal handrail. Slate rear wall. Mosaic walling to upper floors. Workshop added behind foyer.

HISTORICAL NOTE: the first theatre on the site was opened in 1744. This was rebuilt, reorientated and enlarged at various dates before the present building was constructed. It was granted the Royal patent in 1769 when Tate Wilkinson was manager and lessee. The theatre was first listed 24/06/83.

(Bartholomew City Guides: Hutchinson J and Palliser DM: York: Edinburgh: 1980-: 163; Murray H: Nathaniel Whittock's Bird's-eye View of the City of York in 1850: York: 1988-: 11; The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: Yorkshire: York and the East Riding: Harmondsworth: 1972-: 139; City of York: RCHME: The Central Area: HMSO: 1981-: 94; 103). Listing NGR: SE6013452120

Derived from English Heritage LB download dated: 22/08/2005

Theatre Royal, on the E. side of St. Leonard's Place, is mostly of the late 19th century but incorporates fragments of St. Leonard's Hospital and remains of theatre buildings of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The first theatre on the site was built in 1744 over a 12th-century undercroft but was altered or rebuilt in 1763–5 by Joseph Baker, the manager and lessee; it was then entered from Duncombe Place and had a pit backed by a tier of boxes and two galleries (VCH, York, 533–4). It became the Theatre Royal by royal patent in 1769 when Tate Wilkinson was manager. In 1822 the interior was altered and a new entry to the gallery was made from Mint Yard. When St. Leonard's Place was created in 1834–5, the W. elevation of the theatre, which faced directly onto the new street, was improved to designs by John Harper, who added details in the Elizabethan style and built a stone arcade to provide shelter for the new main entrance on that side. Alterations were made internally in 1866 and 1875, and in c. 1880 the N. and E. elevations were rebuilt or faced in sandstone in Gothic style; the W. arcade was removed to Fulford Road (York IV, Monument (31), 53). The interior was again altered in 1901, when most of the surviving 12th-century undercroft of the hospital was destroyed. An addition containing a new entrance and foyers was built on the N. side in 1967. The only old wall now visible is the S. elevation, which is of 18th and 19th-century brick and has two hung-sash windows, but more 18th-century walls probably survive encased by later work.

Attached to the S. side of the theatre is a three-storey house, formerly occupied by the manager and now used as theatre offices. It was built in the late 18th century, incorporating the remains of a 13th-century stone building which had formed part of St. Leonard's Hospital and had been altered c. 1700. The three-bay S. elevation, of common brick, has hung-sash windows with red brick dressings and flat arches, a timber eaves cornice, and a tiled, hipped roof. Inside, there is a late 18th-century staircase leading up to the first floor and, between first and second floors, a staircase of c. 1700 with bulbous balusters.

Monument 47. City of York: RCHME: The Central Area: HMSO: 1981-: 94; 103

NMR Information

Full description

(SE 60125214) Theatre Royal (NAT)

ST LEONARD'S PLACE (east side)

14.6.54 Theatre Royal and undercroft (formerly listed as the remains of St Peter's Hospital)

SE 6052 SW 27/760

2. Originally built circa 1821 but with much later remodelling and alteration. The facade of 1877-9 by Styan, the City Surveyor, is of coursed rubble in flamboyant early Gothic style with a 2 1/2- storeyed gabled bay surmounting an open arcade of pointed arches. On the left-hand side is a modern extension of reinforced concrete and glass containing the entrance foyers, restaurants and bars. The richly decorated anditorium dates largely from 1901-2 and is the work of F A Tugwell. It has tiered boxes flanking the procenium and 3 horseshoe galleries.

Beneath the southern end of the building is a small barrel-vaulted chamber, partly restored but with original piers. The stonework is now gloss-painted and the undercroft, which is used as a theatre club, is a scheduled Ancient Monument. The building which would otherwise be added to the present list at Grade II is star-graded on account of the underlying remains of St Peter's Hospital. (RCHM Vol V, Monument 47).

1 Ordnance Survey Map. OS 1:2500 1962.
2 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. p.290 vol.1112 York, June 1983.
3 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Vol.1112-1 York, 14-MAR-1997
4 The Theatres Trust Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950 A Gazetteer 2000 John Earl and Michael Sell 232-3

BF060282 THEATRE ROYAL, YORK File of material relating to a site or building. This material has not yet been fully catalogued.

BF061080 THE THEATRE ROYAL, YORK File of material relating to a site or building. This material has not yet been fully catalogued.

VF000147 Post-War Buildings (English Architecture: 1945-1975) Items in this file were created digitally and have not been printed.

People and Organisations
Architect Allen Tod Architecture
Architect FRANK A TUGWELL 1902 Architect
Architect GEORGE STYAN 1880
Architect JOHN HARPER 1835
Architect PARTRICK GWYNNE 1967

NMR, NMR data (Unassigned). SYO2214.

RCHME, 1981, City of York Volume V: The Central Area (Monograph). SYO65.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unassigned: NMR. NMR data.
  • --- Monograph: RCHME. 1981. City of York Volume V: The Central Area.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Record last edited

May 29 2020 7:21PM


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