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W.G.R. Sprague (1863–1933) was a theatre designer in the grand age.

Born in Australia, the son of actress Dolores Drummond who returned with acclaim to London in 1874. Sprague was articled to Frank Matcham for four years, then in 1880 to Walter Emden for three years; and then in partnershp with Bertie Crewe until 1895. He went on to design a large number of theatres and music halls, almost all of them in London. At the height of his career he showed a productivity worthy of mentor Frank Matcham, producing six theatres in Westminstermarker in less than four years. Unlike Matcham and Emden, Sprague studied architectural forms and conventions and used his knowledge in his designs, saying of himself that he "liked the Italian Renaissance" as a style for his frontages, but would take liberties when needed "to get the best effects" In 1902, the theatre newspaper The Era was describing him as "Britain’s youngest theatrical designer, with more London houses to his credit than any other man in the same profession."

Sprague died in Maidenheadmarker. None of his music halls have survived, but several of his theatres still stand.

Theatres

Theatre Location Build Date Original Seating Capacity Screens Status Notes
Theatre Royal Lincoln, Lincolnshiremarker 1889 with Bertie Crewe
Olympicmarker Londonmarker 1890 Demolished with Bertie Crewe
Lyceummarker Sheffieldmarker 1897 1,068 Listed building Traditional proscenium arch theatre, this 1068-seat listed building is Sprague's only surviving design outside London. Following closure in 1968, the Lyceum endured spells as a bingo hall and a rock venue before undergoing a £12 million renovation and reopening as a Number One Touring Venue in 1991
Wyndham's Theatremarker Londonmarker 1899
Camden Palacemarker Camden Townmarker, Londonmarker 26 December 1900 2,434 Grade II Listed status in 1991
Noel Coward Theatremarker West Endmarker, Londonmarker 1903 Originally the "New Theatre", then the "Albery" from January 1973 to May 2006
Aldwych Theatremarker Londonmarker December 1905 1,092 1,176 seats. Currently operated by Michael Codron Plays Built for Seymour Hicks and Charles Frohmann, as one of a pair of a similar, though not identical theatres to each side of the not yet built Waldorf Hotel - the other being the "Waldorf Theatre", 1909 renamed "Strand Theatre"). Opened Dec 1905 with Seymour Hicks's musical comedy "Bluebell in Fairyland"
Novello Theatremarker Londonmarker 22 May, 1905 Built as one of a pair with the Aldwych Theatremarker on either side of the Waldorf Hotel. Opened as the Waldorf Theatre on 22 May, 1905, renamed the Strand Theatre in 1909. It was again renamed as the Whitney Theatre in 1911 before again becoming the Strand Theatre in 1913. In 2005 was renamed by its owners Delfont Mackintosh Theatres the Novello Theatre in honour of Ivor Novello.
Gielgud Theatremarker Londonmarker 1906 Opened in 1907 as the Hicks Theatre, paired with the Queens Theatre, then became the Globe, before becoming the Gielgud Theatre to allow the reconstructon of Wlliam Shakespeare's Globe Theatremarker on the Southbank to be named the Globe Theatre
Queen's Theatremarker Londonmarker 1907 One of a pair, the other part being what is now called the Gielgud Theatre. The front of the theatre was blown off during World War II, restored and opened again in 1959. The building had been given a new façade and front, which was designed by Brian Westwood and Sir Hugh Casson
Ambassadors Theatremarker Londonmarker 1913 Grade II listed 1973. First home of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap"
St Martin's Theatremarker Londonmarker 1916 Present home of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap"


References

  1. LMA Learning Zone > Theatrelands > Architects > W.G.R. Sprague 1863-1933
  2. Sheffield Theatres - Inside the Theatres
  3. Carthalia - London: Aldwych Theatre
  4. Plate 37 - THEATRES | British History Online


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