The Devonshire Park Theatre is a Grade II Listed Building built in 1884 and widely considered to be one of the best surviving small Victorian theatres in the country. It was named after the seventh Duke of Devonshire who, with ownership of considerable land in Eastbourne, was involved with the major development of the town in the nineteenth century. The theatre was originally designed by the Duke’s architect, Henry Currey, responsible for many of the significant buildings in Eastbourne – including the original College House at Eastbourne College and the Queen’s Hotel. The Italianate style of the exterior of the theatre was undoubtedly influenced by Currey’s travels to Italy in the 1860s.
Major improvements were made to the theatre in 1903 by the celebrated theatre architect, Frank Matcham – probably the most prolific theatre architect of all times. In all, Matcham built 82 theatres as original architect and was involved in minor and major rebuilds of 79 more in the forty years between 1873 and 1913 – the London Palladium, the London Coliseum, the Victoria Palace and the Hackney Empire among them.
The building has remained unaltered since 1903. It provides an auditorium with a gallery and grand tier and is decorated with ornate plasterwork by Schmidt of Holloway, including scrolls and caryatids (a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support, taking the place of a column or a pillar, supporting an entablature on her head).
With a capacity of 930, the theatre provides an intimate atmosphere enjoyed by audiences and artistes alike and it has won the Martini/TMS Regional Theatre award for Most Welcoming Theatre. The Devonshire Park Theatre has been host to many of the illustrious stars of the theatre world. Whilst great actors such as Henry Irving and Ellen Terry graced its stage in the past, in more recent times it is the stars of the TV and film world that draw the audiences.
Playhouse on the Park
If you want to find out more about the colourful history of this wonderful theatre, you can do no better than read The Playhouse on the Park by Edward Thomas. This informative book is priced at £5.00 plus postage and packing. To obtain a copy, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Friends are pleased to organise guided tours of the theatre for groups of interested people. There is a small charge per person, but this does include refreshments of tea/coffee and homemade cake! To find out more please email email@example.com.