The Robin Hood Theatre, Averham

Photo:Robin Hood Theatre building

Robin Hood Theatre building

Photo:St Michael's Church, Averham

St Michael's Church, Averham

Reflections on a cultural heritage between Newark and Southwell


Cyril Walker, a priest in the Church of England, was Rector of St Michael's, Averham, within the Riverside group of parishes, from 1907 until 1942. Since 1897, he had served at that church as curate to his father, Rev. Joseph Walker, whom he succeeded as incumbent. He was seemingly a man of talent, held in some esteem in the parish, but is remembered chiefly for his theatrical prowess. In 1913, he organized the building of the 150-seat Robin Hood Opera House behind the church, within the rectory precincts. Previously to this, productions had been staged in The Rectory or Averham Village Hall. Though erected with the local operatic society in mind,the edifice went on to provide for comedy, farce, pantomime, one-man shows, musicals and serious plays before its closure in 1061. Having its auditorium at the front of the building, the theatre presented its chosen narrations in traditional manner. Its facilities also included changing-rooms, backstage space and seating for 150, headed by ‘the Walker stalls’ for the better-off in the audience. However, a viable fire escape, and for this reason had to be closed throughout the '50s. The venture was financially unstable; in c1990 it was closed again, this time owing to its having no wheelchair access. It currently anticipates reopening by January, 2011, During the first half of the C20 th , it yielded a number of talented amateur players, including Old Magnusian Sir Donald Wolfit of Shakespearian renown. Robert Lee, the village carpenter, was his builder, assisted by local volunteers. Though Mr Walker had in mind his operatic society, he went on to form a theatre company, The Country Bumpkins , performing also plays and pantomimes. Jessie Bond, of Gilbert-and-Sullivan fame, and Old Magnusian Sir Donald Wolfit, a renowned Shakespearian actor who was knighted in 1957, were amongst his number. The rector, who had trained with Oxford University drama group, was also creative in writing his own productions, designing and making all scenery, directing, and acting. The auditorium was always full during the theatre's summer and winter openings, each of one month's duration. However, the building, now the Robin Hood Theatre, has faced safety hazards since Rev. Cyril's death in 1942, and has been closed down on two occasions, despite its widespread professional success. The Robin Hood Theatre Company are currently having to stage productions in various local village halls, but an imminent reopening is anticipated.

© Roger Peacock 23 rd February 2013

researched for temporary exhibition at Mill Gate Museum: 1 st June 2010

This page was added by ROGER PEACOCK on 24/02/2013.
Comments about this page

UPDATE: Robin Hood Theatre set to re-open April 2014 after 7 years closure Visit

By Martin Balance
On 26/02/2014

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